Fast X (2023)
By: Adam Freed
What determines when it is time to say goodbye to a multi billion dollar film franchise that has touched its third decade in existence? Decreasing box office response juxtaposed with increasing levels of ridiculousness is a good place to start. Fast X, the franchise's tenth installment, and first for French director Louis Leterrier, is either the worst film of 2023 or the funniest.
Somewhere inside the DNA of Fast X there still exists the heart of The Fast and the Furious (2001) that injected audiences with a turbo shot of NOS and catapulted stars Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez and the late Paul Walker into stardom. The problem is that recovering the simplicity and joy of the original story feels impossible when audiences are assaulted by this two and a half hour panic attack of a film that spans 4 continents and utilizes no less than a baker's dozen of bankable actors. The anxiety-inducing rapid-fire machine gun editing of this film disregards logic and restraint. Leterrier’s iteration of the Fast franchise is proof that there can indeed be too much of a good thing.
Enter Aquaman star and gravitational presence Jason Momoa as Dante, the franchises newest big bad. With early nods to Heath Ledger’s Joker and Jack Nicholson’s Jack Torrence, Momoa begs audiences to lean in to every second of his screen time in which early promise devolves into cheap camp. It is clear that either Momoa had no idea what film he was making or that there was simply nobody available on set willing or able to tell him no. The biggest issue with the deterioration of this once mighty franchise isn’t that it keeps cycling villains, it is that it does so without saying goodbye to anyone. Fast X treats actors like Pokemon cards, collecting past villains ad nauseam. Jason Statham, Hellen Mirren, Charlize Theron, Scott Eastwood and John Cena, all one time antagonists, sensibly should be left in the franchise’s rearview, still occupy meaningless plot space far beneath their pay grade. The overwhelming nature of character collection by this franchise only adds to the more is less feel of it all.
Fast X is not without its highlights. Laugh out loud hilarity waits around every hairpin turn, intended or otherwise, it matters not. The eventual appearance of Cena, is a welcome comedic and tonal 180 for his character but a fun addition to this installment. An unapologetic dissolution of physics, time, space, and geographic considerations will frustrate sensible viewers but only add to the lovable camp of it all for the rest. Fast X is at its best when it takes itself less seriously, which unfortunately does not happen enough. Saying goodbye can be hard, but it’s time for audiences to exit the vehicle and watch the Fast franchise’s tail lights slowly shrink into this distance.