CHICAGO – A lot of blockbusters require you to check your brain at the door. “Fast X” requires a full scale lobotomy. To the uninitiated, Vin Diesel’s blatant disregard for the laws of gravity and physics represents a full scale assault on the senses, reason, and logic in its effort to bring audiences down to its star’s lunkheaded level.
I attended this film with my 11 year old twins, and this was the first Fast and Furious movie they’d ever seen. My son in particular was aghast at what was unfolding on screen. He kept leaning over to me and saying things like, you can’t pull down a helicopter with a car, or that defies the law of gravity.
Photo credit: Universal Pictures
We begin with an extended flashback to what is generally regarded as this motor-head franchise’s high point with the Bank Vault chase from Fast Five. Dante (Jason Momoa) is revealed to be the son of the drug lord Herman Reyes, whose money Dom (Vin Diesel) and company stole, and who died at the end of that movie.Turns out Dante has spent the ensuing decade, and the next four films, plotting his revenge and studying Dom and his extended family to make them suffer for the death of his father.
Director Louis Leterrier is clearly aiming to find a way into the F&F highlight reel, and he comes closest with the opening chase … which finds Dom and company trying to stop a truck carrying a neutron bomb from turning Rome to rubble. And then he lights the bomb on fire as it rolls down the Spanish steps heading straight for the Vatican. Along the way Dom drives a muscle car out of a plane landing virtually unscathed on another car on a freeway, In a later instance, Dom’s brother Jakob (John Cena) makes an escape to protect Dom’s son by turning a kayak into a tiny plane and ejecting at 20 thousand feet, and a car drives down the Hoover dam and somehow lands in one piece.
If there is a high point in this film (and that’s certainly up for debate), it’s Momoa’s Dante. Dressed like a magician at an off-the-Strip Vegas casino, Momoa is gleefully over the top in such a way that he manages to jolt the movie occasionally to life, and rescues it from Diesel’s grim-faced, mealy mouthed non acting. Dante is an unpredictable force who is setting off a neutron bomb to blow up the Vatican one minute, and giving mani-pedis to the corpses of two victims the next.
Jason Momoa in ‘Fast X’
Photo credit: Universal Pictures
No one is ever really dead in these movies, and there’s so many characters – including two roles portrayed by Oscar winners Rita Moreno and Helen Mirren – who pop in for a scene and then pop right out again, making it hard to keep track and remember who’s who in F&F land. I haven’t even gotten to the returning of villain Cipher (Charlize Theron), or an agency handler played by Brie Larson. Not that it really matters much because the story isn’t worth that kind of work. The beats basically boil down to car chase, explosion and family, with Dom and a variety of supporting players slotted into the formula.
I spent much of the movie with my head in my hands, wondering how much more I could take, as every chase, fight scene, and yes even the family backyard barbecue seems to go on at least two sequences longer than it should. The film ends abruptly on a cliffhanger with lives hanging in the balance … setting up what we have been promised is the series finale. The film at least fully embraces its ludicrousness, daring your brain to wake from an intellectual coma to reject what you are witnessing. For example, Momoa’s energy manages to almost yank the enterprise into the realm of self parody at times. And with my twins offering their own running commentary about the idiocy onscreen, at least it was a good bad movie for us.