Fast X (2023): A Disappointing and Bloated Sequel
As a longtime fan of the Fast and Furious franchise, it pains me to say this: The series should have ended with the seventh movie. The eighth installment, The Fate of the Furious (2017), appeared to have only the most superficial grasp of the series’ characters, but I had high hopes when director and writer Justin Lin returned to course correct with F9: The Fast Saga (2021). Unfortunately, those hopes dwindled with the news that Lin stepped down from the project just days into shooting Fast X. But going into this movie with low expectations still didn’t prepare me for the messy slogfest that doesn’t seem to know what to do with its large, talented ensemble or the camaraderie the series has built over the past two decades.
Dom’s (Vin Diesel) usage of the word “family” has been a long-running joke for the Fast series, and although the word is apparently uttered 56 times in Fast X, I still can’t tell you what the film was actually trying to say. Fast X is bloated with empty platitudes and plotlines that lead nowhere, except to ostensibly make excuses for pointless cameos, such as one with Pete Davidson. In another, the aptly named Little Nobody (Scott Eastwood) from Furious 7 (2015) appears for about five minutes, has no impact, and then disappears without a trace.
On that note, Fast X seems determined to bring every single character from the series back along with its new talents, including Brie Larson and Jason Momoa. One of the Fast series’ strengths has been the joy of getting to know its eclectic crew, but in Fast X this core team has to jockey for screen time. They’re mostly shunted to the side so that Dom gets to shine even more than usual. This is a pity for several reasons, primarily because time slows to a glutinous pace when Dom takes over the screen. And yet, he’s the savior of the story: No one can do anything without him, and everyone worships him.
These flaws would be somewhat forgivable if the action was entertaining. But you become numb to the explosions within the first thirty minutes. The driving scenes consist of dull cuts between drivers stiffly wrestling with the gearshift or the wheel. The triteness is surprising from director Louis Leterrier, who has previously directed action flicks like The Transporter (2002). It doesn’t bother me that everyone somehow can throw fists like a UFC contender; it bothers me that the ceaseless fighting gets boring.
Ultimately, Fast X limps along, relying on the strength of its previous films. In one supposedly emotional scene, the soundtrack plays a piano version of the song from the end of Furious 7, which marked Brian’s (Paul Walker) departure from the series. The Fast X scene has nothing to do with Brian at all, but my tear ducts welled at the memory even though what was on screen was devoid of genuine feeling. I find it telling, too, that the opening sequence—which rehashes the infamous vault heist from Fast Five (2011)—was probably the most thrilling part of the film. Fast X wants to run its victory lap, acknowledging what has made it great, but it fails to create something worthwhile of its own.
In terms of gender representation, Fast X is a mixed bag. Cypher (Charlize Theron) finally gets a fight sequence of her own, which is a welcome change from her previous outings. However, the other women in the film are not given much to do. Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), who was previously Dom’s equal, is barely seen in the movie. Mia (Jordana Brewster) and Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) fare even worse. They’re mostly relegated to their roles from previous movies, with little development or screen time.
Fast X’s insistence on making Dom the savior also leads to a problematic representation of women. They’re allowed to throw a fist here and there, but they never get to save themselves. Even when Letty teams up with Cypher to leave their prison, Dom has to send Tess in there first to instigate the escape. And while Mia picking up the frying pan during her fight scene is a nice callback to her F9 duel, she’s quickly rescued by Jakob (John Cena).
Finally, in terms of race representation, Fast X is still one of the most racially diverse franchises in Hollywood. However, the diversity is mostly in numbers than in action in this film. The other characters appear much less and are pale caricatures of their former selves, given shallow development if any. Han’s criminally underused, and the stinger at the end of F9 hinted there’d be restitution for Deckard Shaw’s (Jason Statham) attempted murder of Han. Instead, Fast X decides that the best way to make amends is to have Shaw save Han’s life. Shaw then retorts that they’re even now, while Han looks at him with surprise and gratitude.
In conclusion, Fast X is a disappointing and bloated sequel that fails to capture the magic and energy of the previous films. The film’s insistence on making Dom the savior and sidelining the other characters is a major flaw. The action is uninspired, and the cameos and plotlines lead nowhere. Although the series’ racial diversity is still a strength, it’s mostly in numbers than in action in this film. Fast X is a joyless venture that relies on the strength of its previous films, and it’s a sad end to a franchise that has brought so much joy to its fans.
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