‘Fast X’ Goes Full Throttle Into Grand Absurdity and Tired Car Wrecks

Where else can this franchise possibly go? After two decades of endless freeways, detours, crashes, and the most ridiculous character evolutions ever put on screen, the “Fast and Furious” franchise is now just going in circles. To be sure, “Fast X,” reportedly the third to last in the series, still blows up plenty of vehicles and has a lot of fun inventing the kind of stunts no one could possibly pull off in the real world. Fans might just be delighted once more. But this one truly has the feel of if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. At this point, the casual viewer could be intrigued by watching top dollar stars consciously being ridiculous, as if letting loose after being in heavier projects. Jason Momoa certainly looks like he’s having a good time as the latest villain targeting our fast-driving “family.”

Momoa is Dante (of course he is), the son of underworld figure, Hernan Reyes (Joaquim de Almeida), who was killed a decade ago, way back in “Fast Five.” If you didn’t have time to catch up on that entry, the movie opens with a recap of the famous heist scene set in Brazil, where a safe is stolen and dragged across a freeway. Dante nearly dying when splashing into the ocean is an added detail. Fast forward to today and crew leader Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) is back to living in Los Angeles with his young son and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez). The rest of the crew including Tej (Ludacris), Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) and Han (Sung Kang) are off to Rome to snatch some valuable computer chips. But when old enemy Cipher (Charlize Theron) appears bloodied on Dominic’s doorstep, he learns the latest heist is a trap set by the vengeful Dante, who wants to burn down everything dear to the man he blames for his father’s demise. 

If the plotting sounds familiar that’s because director Louis Leterrier and writers Dan Mazeau and Justin Lin are now borrowing from countless sources while concocting what is supposedly the final, big adventure of Dominic and crew. While the last entry, “F9: The Fast Saga” was silly popcorn fun that managed to finally get the characters into space, this one more openly takes from plotlines familiar in comic book movies. Momoa’s flamboyant Dante is a cackling, nearly childish douchebag that feels like a cross between Jared Leto’s Joker from “Suicide Squad” and Javier Bardem’s vengeful terrorist in “Skyfall.” He nearly skips around with glee at the carnage he unleashes, makes inappropriate jokes and sticks his tongue out during chases. At the same time, his mission is all about avenging dad, who by now we almost forgot after all the subsequent movies. 

While Dante’s drive makes sense in terms of some basic logic, the rest of the movie is pure celebration of how absurd you can get when the sole purpose of your franchise is to make fast objects explode. The dialogue isn’t even trying this time with lines like, “I saw the devil tonight.” Absolutely nothing about this movie can be believed, which is the usual case with a “Fast and Furious” movie, except the big stunts are barely trying. The gang chases a big bomb bouncing towards the Vatican. Dominic can outdrive a shockwave. Charlize Theron beats up a whole room of backstabbing henchmen and Jason Momoa always has a helicopter on standby. Everyone is a tech wizard who can figure out that Dante has hacked the crew’s accounts, thus channeling the money into his gadgets to create chaos. Somehow the military, FBI or any actual governments never get involved because the only agency referenced is the “Agency” Dominic and team work for since “Fast Five.”

To be sure there are a few guilty pleasures. Dominic and Dante stare each other down in Brazil amid a crowd of racers before reggaeton music kicks in and they get in their big, shiny sports cars to burn rubber. Why this happens amid such high stakes and destruction is up to us to ponder. Everyone in the family become wanted terrorists after the villain frames them for the Rome bomb, so someone like Letty finds herself imprisoned in one of those mythical, ultra-secret black sites where prisoners receive futuristic healthcare after a stabbing. Pete Davidson makes a hilarious cameo as a vintage internet café worker in Italy and fans will surely cheer two surprise returns right before the end credits. John Cena also returns as Dominic’s long lost brother from the last movie, Jakob, no longer an adversary but a ripped uncle who vows to keep his brother’s family safe until needed to crash a few more big cars. To its credit, the movie does have some funny self-awareness in scenes where Agency operative Aimes (Alan Ritchson) declares with a straight face how our heroes are all about barbecues and get-togethers, when not saving the world.

“Fast X” isn’t a “good” movie, but how much one gets into it will probably depend on devotion to the franchise and tolerance of disbelief. We know that it’s impossible for Dante to choreograph an airplane being shot down by a surprise villain, helicopter strikes and two trucks appearing at the exact right moment to cage in Dominic as he drives over a dam. Because of the high budget and skilled filmmakers involved, it all looks well-made. As hard as good taste sensors resist, it’s always absurdly exciting when Vin Diesel digitally speeds down some impossibly high structure as flames and debris follow behind. Yet everyone senses there are few turns left, so “Fast X” goes for the series’ own version of “Avengers: Infinity War,” setting up a ludicrously big villain to threaten everything and ending with a scene that just needed “To Be Continued” announced after a big line. 

The great flaw overall is that we’ve seen this franchise’s tricks so often now since the series really went big in the mid-2000s. The original 2001 movie by Rob Cohen still has charm because of its gritty, drive-in feel. “Fast X” announces a crossroads that is hard to move past. Reportedly there are still two movies left to go, which should finally end a saga that began when many audience members were in high school, and is acknowledging its peak when quite a few of them have kids who are at least freshmen by now. Like its predecessors, this entry has great talents, notable faces, top tier special effects and Vin Diesel’s growling stare. But the end of the line is becoming much more glaring as the tank truly starts running out of gas.

Fast X” releases May 19 in theaters nationwide.