Hollywood writers are on strike, partly, over fears A.I. might replace them.
Even an ’80s-era Commodore 64 could write dialogue better than what’s heard in “Fast X.”
Those moments, as wince-inducing as any of the saga’s car crashes, find the “Fast and Furious” franchise reeling under the weight of our expectations.
And then Jason Momoa, cast as the villain eager to wipe out Dom and his “family,” appears. Suddenly the saga feels as good as new.
If only he could stay on screen for the film’s entire, bloated run time.
We reunite with Dom (Vin Diesel) and his extended brood in a rare moment of bliss. He’s teaching his adorable son Brian (Leo Abelo Perry) how to drive like Daddy (buckle IN!) and fearing some unseen threat may interrupt their bond.
He’s right, natch.
Dante (Momoa) is out for more than just blood and vengeance. He’s part of the clan’s complicated past, and he’s set on destroying Dom and everything he holds dear.
He’s a Bond villain on steroids, and Momoa gives the role everything an actor can summon.
He’s giddy and gregarious, mincing but masculine, a one-man wrecking crew who has considered every angle before he strikes. He sports painted nails and pastel clothes, but he’s all business when it counts.
He’s ridiculous and over the top, which means he’s a perfect fit here. Plus, as tin-eared and exposition-heavy as the dialogue is elsewhere, Momoa gets all the film’s rich lines.
Some “Fast X” scenes feel ripped from generic VOD thrillers you stumble into and shut off a third of the way through. One exchange, between “Reacher” standout Alan Ritchson and franchise newbie Brie Larson playing Mr. Nobody’s daughter, is so poorly acted you’ll think it was the first take after a long, liquid lunch.
Can they retroactively take Larson’s Oscar back? Be better, Brie.
Yet the film’s relentless action, and big-budgeted stunt work, almost always draw you back in. And there’s a new bone-crunching scene lurking around every corner.
- Any time Momoa opens his mouth
- A sublime slugfest between Michelle Rodriguez and Charlize Theron as the mysterious Cipher
- The ever-expanding cast, brings charisma to scenes that are deadly dull on the surface
- We even get a cameo from Helen Mirren, who must have been biting her tongue while reading her ghastly lines
Anyone new to the franchise will be utterly lost. Even casual fans may need to re-read the Wikipedia breakdowns of recent episodes to stay abreast of all the various characters and angles.
Some action sequences, like the numbing prologue, are just visual noise. Director Louis Leterrier (“The Transporter”) does better later, staging elaborate chases that mesmerize.
Sure, some of the chaos is CGI-generated, but it plays out realistically enough to trick our senses.
Once again, family is the driving (get it?) force behind the saga. We briefly see Rita Moreno as Abuela Toretto and Dom’s brother Jakob (John Cena) is forced into babysitting mode to protect Brian from Dante’s minions.
That subplot feels like it’s air-lifted from another, whimsical movie before you-know-what gets real.
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Faith even gets a close-up, a reminder of how the saga has stayed grounded despite how it mocks the rules of physics.
“Fast X” is an improvement over the previous installment thanks to Momoa’s presence and the lack of space exploration (if that’s a spoiler alert it’s a welcome one, no?). You’ll still roll your eyes, hard, and chuckle at moments that aren’t meant to be funny.
There’s at least one more “Fast” coming our way … or perhaps two if Diesel’s recent comments can be believed.
Even at its best, “Fast X” reminds us film franchises should know when to call it a day, or at the very least keep charismatic stars like Momoa on speed dial.
HiT or Miss: “Fast X” is big, loud, dumb and way too long. And, when Jason Momoa is chewing the scenery, it’s perfect summer escapism.