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  • Writer's pictureCollin Souter

"Fast X" stays in neutral

I guess I should first qualify this review by letting you know where I stand with the “Fast and the Furious” saga as a whole: I’ve seen each film once, with the exception of “Furious 7” (seen twice), clearly the best of the bunch. I admire some of the stupidity of the series, but not all of it. I quite enjoy it most when it’s trying to top itself in the action department, but grow quite bored with everything else. Most films have too much of everything else, but “Furious 7” manages to strike the right balance while delivering some of the best action sequences of the last ten years. If “Mad Max: Fury Road” and “Mission:Impossible: Rogue Nation” hadn’t come out the same summer, there’s no question which film would reign as the best action film of 2015. The rest of the films are a blur. My colleagues and I had to try and remind ourselves of what happened when. Which was the film where they ended up in Antarctica? When did Charlize Theron show up? Which film had the endless airfield runway? (they all do, really)

So, maybe I’m not always the target audience for these films, but I found “Fast X” to be nothing more than part of the big blur. I guess this one will be most notable for when Jason Mamoa, as drug kingpin Hernan Reyes, shows up to be the token bad guy, so bad that even Theron’s character fears him and warns Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel) that he should be very afraid this time around, even though “the devil” she has seen basically cracks wise a lot just like every other scene-stealing bad guy. The film flashes back to the big heist of the fifth film to fill in the blank that Hernan’s dad had been killed in the crossfire and now he wants revenge against Toretto and his team. There are bigger international implications here, one involving a mission to stop a gigantic boulder bomb from exploding in Rome, the film's most exciting set piece. The rest is filled in with typical tropes of government agencies also trying to stop Toretto’s gang, Toretto “family” members helping out just in the knick of time and good guys/bad guys double crossing when the script demands it, even if it makes no logical sense in the previous scenes.

Big question, of course: how are the car crashes and fight scenes? Well, it depends on how much originality you crave. Director Louis Leterrier (new to the franchise) does what he can to help “Fast X” go through the motions, which, for many, will be enough. The overall familiarity of the execution and payoff will be hard to ignore for everyone else. It feels like the franchise forgot how to surprise its audience. Big boulder bomb sequence aside, “Fast X” does what we’ve seen before with helicopters, canyons, airplanes, hand-to-hand combat and gunfire. At this point, it’s stupid to expect any of these characters to end up in a hospital after going end-over-end in a three-car, two-copter pile-up, but therein lies another problem: there’s no suspense to any of this, just mayhem for the sake of mayhem.

After ten movies, though, it’s hard to top what’s come before. “Fast X” does at least try to have a memorable villain in Mamoa, who strives for flamboyance and camp, with a tinge of Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow-like swagger, but once you see all of what Momoa has to offer, it loses whatever charm it might have had. True, at least he’s not boring, but he’s also not doing anything particularly original. The one stand-out scene has to do with him and two dead bodies, the franchise’s first attempt at all-out weirdness. It’s an admirable attempt to push for another tone, but it ultimately doesn’t belong here.

Calling out this movie for its general stupidity and lack of logic makes little sense, but I found myself amused by one particular scene, in which an agent (Alan Richson) explains to his colleague all about Toretto’s past and how he wants to nail Toretto and put him behind bars once and for all. He explains this with a multimedia presentation in an empty room made up of nothing but a platform and a half-dozen monitors, artfully surrounding them in a circle while we see video images of Toretto on the news, in security footage and home movies. What I want to know is: How did this room in the FBI (or whatever it is, i don’t remember) headquarters come to be designed? Is this where all the agents go to explain their reasonings to one another? Do they have to have a multimedia specialist on-site who edits all this B-roll into a free-flowing, interactive experience? Did simple walk-and-talks in the agency become too cumbersome and soooo last century?

Anyway, we’re not done here. We have at least two more films in what is supposed to be the winding down of this series of films before the spin-offs and re-boots come down the line sometime before 2030 (just a guess). For now, we’re left with a mostly forgettable entry in a series that should’ve ended two or three movies ago and one that still hasn’t come to grips on how it wants to deal with Paul Walker’s death. Considering nobody is ever supposed to actually die in these movies, it makes sense that a character or actor’s demise only confuses things for the writers. Confusion also seems inevitable when all is said and done, as people talk about the only thing the films will be remembered for in the first place: the action scenes. “Which is the one where they go deep into the canyon?” one might ask. “I think it’s part six? Or maybe I’m thinking of ‘Fast X’”, the other person will reply. “It was in both,” a third person will say, with a slight tinge of disappointment in their voice.

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