Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Men in cars blowing things up


    First off, Roman Numeral fans: It's Fast Ten, not Fast "X," which sounds like the name of a quick-acting laxative. 
    Fast X, the latest in the Fast & Furious series, goes all in on preposterous over-stated action while acknowledging a trio of virtues: family, honor and faith.
    These virtues, and just about everything else, play second fiddle to blasts of fiery action. Let's be real, though. When a round, Volkswagen-sized bomb rolls through the streets of Rome, it's unlikely anyone will be pondering the qualities that define moral excellence.
   Fast X, by the way, is the first of two movies. It's no spoiler to report that director Louis Leterrier (The Incredible Hulk) concludes his two-hour and 21-minute collection of explosions, gunfire, and insanely reckless driving with a cliffhanger. 
   Less fun than the best efforts of the franchise (take your pick), Fast X includes familiar characters, pays homage to past favorites (even offering a glimpse of Paul Walker) and drops cameos like breadcrumbs along its destructive path.
   Early on, Dom and Letty (Vin Diesel and Michelle Rodriguez) are happily raising their son Little Brian (Leo Abelo Perry) in Los Angeles. Grandma Toretto (Rita Moreno) presides while the Fast family (Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, Sung Kang, and Nathalie Emmanuel) gather to hoist a few brews.
    It doesn't take long for the team to encounter this edition's villain. Dante (Jason Momoa), a Brazilian maniac, wants to avenge his father's death at the hands of the Fast team more than a decade ago.
    Credit Momoa with upping the movie's silliness quotient. Dante displays a mincing quality when it suits him. The most eye-catching scene occurs when Dante, his hair tied in schoolgirlish top knots, paints the toes of a corpse. 
    Other characters elbow their way into a fragmented plot, some with larger roles than others. Charlize Theron gets significant screen time as Cipher, a brilliant hacker and martial arts maven of variable loyalties.
    Michael Cena reprises his role as Jakob Toretto. In this outing, Jakob tales flight with Little Brian, who becomes a prime target in Dante's revenge plot.
    Blink and you'll miss Helen Mirren, who shows up as Queenie Shaw. Her son Deckard (Jason Staham) has a bigger presence in the movie, which adds Brie Larson as Tess, a rogue agent who works with Dom against the Agency's chief (Alan Ritchson).
    Ah yes, The Agency. Having once enlisted the Fast team's help, The Agency wants to corral Dom and his cohorts, giving them double trouble. Both Dante and the Agency are out for blood.
     Leterrier takes the action global, offering set pieces in Rome, Turin, London, Brazil, and at Hoover Dam. Cars drop from planes, fly off cliffs, and rumble up stairways. Downshifting earns a supporting role.
       Is any of this believable? Of course not. 
       But we've stopped expecting credibility from a franchise that has grown increasingly massive, including more paraphernalia, and turning itself into a mixture of demolition derby and Mission Impossible.
       Your job, should you choose to accept it. Sit through a movie that batters as much as at buoys and which has gotten so stuffed, it barely has room to accommodate the characters that once gave it a bit of humanity.


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