What else is possibly left to say about the Fast & Furiouses? Fans excitedly devour each new installment with an oxymoronic combination of total earnestness and eye-rolling ironic detachment, laughing heartily at every invocation of “family” even while claiming to be moved. Every reality-defying action gag or nonsensical plot twist draws applause specifically because it’s hitting their pleasure centers dead on. It’s no fun to have to deny the cinematic joy that these movies are allegedly mainlining, but that doesn’t change the fact that, even by the standards of this endless franchise, Fast X is possibly the worst entry yet. Whether or not one thought F9’s journey into space represented some kind of shark-jump, this is the first one to not seriously up the fantastical or logistical ante, even while it sinks deeper and deeper into insisting that you care about these people who longer have any real character dimensions to speak of.
Anyways, let’s reorient a bit. At the end of Fast Five, Dom (Vin Diesel, you remember) and the gang stole a giant bank vault filled with drug cartel cash and dragged it through the streets of Rio. Now, the son of the cartel boss, Dante (Jason Momoa), is out for revenge, and for some reason that means stealing the private mercenary army of Cypher (Charlize Theron), the baddie from Fate of the Furious, and framing the crew for attempting to detonate what’s described as a 20-kiloton neutron bomb at the Vatican (don’t worry, it explodes harmlessly in a river, somehow not wiping out the entire city of Rome). Now, they’re being chased by Aimes (Alan Ritchson), the head of “The Agency,” while getting a little help from Tess (Brie Larson), the daughter of Kurt Russell’s supposedly gone super–spy, Mr. Nobody (part of this cinematic world since part seven).
Sure, fine — obligatory convoluted setup complete. But what follows is truly, depressingly perfunctory: endless exposition followed by the hollowest of allegedly comic scenes, characters with absolutely nothing to do but constantly beat their chests at each other for no reason, constant ADR-ed dialogue “spoken” by the backs of people’s heads, and lots and lots of crushed cars. At one point, a group of our pals wonder aloud, “How are we going to get [insert tech gibberish] in London?” despite having done exactly that in multiple previous movies, and then they just wander into a random scene involving a Pete Davidson cameo, a pissing contest between two of the characters, and someone eating a “special muffin.” To top it off, all of that is entirely forgotten, and they don’t get what they came for.
It’s obviously a fool’s errand to ding the Fast & Furious movies for being too silly or too underwritten. The problem is that underwritten stupidity would be just fine if there was anything the least bit thrilling otherwise going on. The action sequences in Fast X are sub-Marvel levels of generic — just a mess of cruddy CGI, pointless cutting, and undercranked shots of caravans of cars driving in a straight line. There’s absolutely nothing compelling to be found, just endless franchise-established visual motifs of the laziest quality. Worse, the hand-to-hand combat sequences saddle really talented and overqualified performers like Michelle Rodriguez and Theron with the worst kind of poorly-covered, second-unit dogshit. It’s frankly embarrassing. Director Louis Leterrier — a second choice after exasperated franchise maestro Justin Lin ankled the project a week into shooting… wonder why? — is usually a sturdy if not particularly gifted craftsman of action, but it’s clear that these films aren’t actually so much directed as they are assembled. In fact, this latest entry seems to be cobbled together entirely out of spare parts, perhaps the first instance of something that could have realistically been generated entirely by AI. Fast X marks a depressing nadir for the monolithic franchise.