Review – Fast X

fastx poster

Overview

Synopsis The Toretto family finds themselves under attack from the son of a past enemy and chased around the world on a revenge quest.

Length 2 hours, 21 minutes

Release Date May 19, 2023

 

Rating PG-13

Distribution Universal Pictures

Directing Louis Leterrier

Writing Dan Mazeau, Justin Lin

Composition Brian Tyler

Starring Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, Jason Statham, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, Jason Momoa, John Cena, Jordana Brewster, Nathalie Emmanuel, Sung Kang, Brie Larson, Alan Ritchson, Daniela Melchior, Scott Eastwood, Helen Mirren, Charlize Theron, Rita Moreno

The Fast and Furious movies have evolved tremendously since the launch of the franchise in 2001. The first movie captured a very specific energy and built a strange evolving franchise based on a rotating cast of street punk characters and diverse personalities, transitioning into a critically acclaimed, fully realized blockbuster with 2011’s Fast Five. Now with the stars aging and the somewhat successful Hobbs and Shaw spin-off waiting in the wings, the original crew is back with the first of a three-part series finale trilogy.

Content Guide

Violence/Scary Images: PG-13 action and cartoonish violence. Characters constantly crash cars and survive death-defying stunts. Several characters get caught in shootouts and are killed; little blood or gore is depicted.
Language/Crude Humor: Severe language throughout the film.
Drug/Alcohol References: Characters casually drink beer. One character becomes briefly high on a hallucinogen.
Sexual Content: Nothing is depicted, but female characters are frequently dressed in tight and revealing clothing. There is a montage of women that focuses on their bodies and rear-ends.
Spiritual Content: Some brief discussions of eternity and honor. The majority of these characters are implied to be nominally Christian and say grace before they eat.
Other Negative Content: Most of the characters are morally dubious, operating on an “honor among thieves” ethic where these scrappy street characters become world-saving superheroes.
Positive Content: Themes of family, sacrifice, honor, love, and protecting the people who matter.

Review

The Fast and Furious movies hardly need a stamp of approval anymore, having transformed from a scrappy Point Break rip-off into a laudable and beloved Hollywood mainstay under the direction of Justin Lin, who directed the third, fourth, fifth, sixth, and ninth films in the saga.

To borrow a cliche, these are movies about family and they capture a very specific energy in modern cinema—with a diverse cast, hip-hop soundtrack, objectifying images of female bottoms, and fast cars. These movies are their own aesthetic at this point, carried seamlessly by Vin Diesel in his career-defining performance as Dominic Toretto (although he was probably better in Pitch Black).

That said, we are reaching a point where this magic trick is close to ending. The cast of these films have hit middle age and the tragic 2013 death of Paul Walker has left a hole in the franchise it hasn’t managed to overcome. Fast X is very much an attempt to start bringing that narrative to a close, drawing on 22 years of these films to try and string together one more (technically three more) stories about the importance of love, family, honor, and fast cars.

The story picks up after the events of F9. The main characters are living a happy life in Los Angeles when suddenly cyberterrorist Cipher appears and warns them that bad things are coming. The son of the mob boss dispatched in Fast Five is on a revenge quest, and now Dom’s entire family is in danger. When a mission in Rome nearly leads to the Vatican being nuked on live television, the team goes on the run while Dom attempts to track down the man determined to destroy his life and family.

If there were ever a film that highlighted the pulpy nature of this franchise, Fast X does so with an energy few films do, capturing the soap-opera-by-way-of-hip-hop energy of these movies, filled with constant crazy character resurrections, deaths, and physics-defying stunts. I was not particularly impressed with Fate of the Furious or F9, which felt like thematic retreads, uninterested in taking serious risks, and happy to undo massive character moments in the name of fan service. Thankfully, Fast X is a pleasant return to form for my personal taste. It’s probably my third favorite film in the franchise overall (behind Fast Five and Furious 7).

Curiously, it does so without Justin Lin in the driver’s seat (pun), with him having departed over creative differences in production and leaving the film to director Louis Leterrier. Curiously, this proved to be a match made in heaven. Having previously directed Transporter 2, The Incredible Hulk, and Now You See Me, he confidently takes the lead with a film that shows us some of the largest set pieces and action sequences depicted within the franchise.

Diesel has already said this is just the first part of a goodbye trilogy and that the next two movies will wrap up the story, which does lead to the problem that the film ends on an aggressive cliffhanger. Several characters from previous films in the franchise show up for five-minute cameos to tease a large role in the sequels, which leaves the ending feeling a bit abrupt.

Normally that would bother me but Fast X manages to keep the fun and action in the centerpiece, focusing its story efficiently on Dom’s central character’s fear of losing his family. Even while I’m not a huge fan of some of the story structure or hand-to-hand action, it’s funny and compelling enough that I was able to sit back and enjoy the film. Personal taste may vary but this film happens to be one of my favorites of this strange franchise!

Positives

+ Themes of loyalty, family, and love
+ Fun action and massive set pieces
+ Fun soundtrack and performances

Negatives

- Cliffhanger ending
- Mild romanticization of immoral characters
- Some iffy CGI moments

The Bottom Line

Fast X is the beginning of the end, and marks one of the best entries in a beloved franchise. If parts 2 and 3 are this energetic and fun then the Fast and Furious movies will go out on a bang!

 

8

Tyler Hummel

Born into the unexplored residential backwater of Chicago, Tyler Hummel is a graduate of Tribeca Flashpoint College where he studied Sound Design for Film and Interactive Media. When he isn't hosting his public access talk show The Fox Valley Film Critics or collecting DragonBall Z figurines, he enjoys writing and directing short films. As with Rick from Casablanca, "he's a man like any other man, just more so!"

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