“FAST X”
Starring Vin Diesel, Jason Statham, John Cena, Sung Kang, Michelle Rodriguez, Nathalie Emmanuel, Scott Eastwood, Jordana Brewster, Daniela Melchior, Alan Ritchson, Jason Momoa, Rita Moreno, Helen Mirren, Charlize Theron, Brie Larson, Pete Davidson
Written by Dan Mazeau and Justin Lin
Story by Dan Mazeau, Justin Lin and Zach Dean
Based on characters created by Gary Scott Thompson
Directed by Louis Leterrier
Produced by Neal H. Moritz, Vin Diesel, Justin Lin, Jeff Kirschenbaum and Samantha Vincent

By Matt Neufeld
May 18, 2023

It’s unbelievably, distressingly, depressingly horrifying that in 2023–as if the world didn’t have enough problems already–we’re being tortured with the release of yet another lunkheaded, dunderheaded, moronic, clunky, flat-out dumb and crazily amateurish “Fast and Furious” movie, this time with the amazingly unimaginative moniker “Fast X.”

This is horrifying because, like the majority of film series throughout film history, most of the nauseating nine sequels in the “Fast and Furious” series are either average-to-bad or just plain bad. Additionally, also like the majority of film series, literally none–as in nada, as in zero–of the “Fast…” sequels should have been made. And “Fast X” certainly did not need to be made—this dumb, idiotic average-to-bad flop of a big-budget movie is excruciatingly moronic, and nearly–nearly, not quite completely–a complete waste of any sane, rational, intelligent moviegoer’s time, money and energy.

Too harsh, you say? Not really. “Fast X” miserably fails on just about every level–writing, directing, acting, timing, pacing, camera work, plot, story, dialogue, costuming, casting, and, yes, this dumb grade-D bad-popcorn movie even fails with some of the action scenes. The only thing saving the movie from being a complete waste of time is the admittedly entertaining spectacle of several of the better high-intensity, elaborately choreographed and blocked action scenes, chases, stunts, fights and, yes, explosions. These action scenes do stand out, do entertain and they do even get the blood flowing and the heart pumping. And even with the obvious generous assistance of a monstrous CGI, computer effects, visual effects and special effects budget, some of the action sequences still manage to remain thrilling and effective.

However–and it’s a huge however–this movie, like most action-adventure movies throughout film history and very much like most of the thirty-two Disney-Marvel comic book superhero movies equally-crazily released during the past fifteen years, a movie’s success cannot stand on special effects and big action sequences alone. Thus, beyond those handful of dazzling action and special effects scenes in “Fast X,” as noted, there’s just not much left in the rest of this mess of a movie to enjoy, marvel at or be impressed by in this movie. The filmmakers–and the wayward, greedy executives at Universal Pictures–have only themselves to blame.

Director Louis Leterrier took over from a frustrated Justin Lin, who somehow left this project due to “creative differences,” according to several reports, although it’s difficult to see what the creative aspects were that anyone could have differences about because there is absolutely nothing remotely originally creative, new, original or inventive about this movie. It’s laughable to read that anyone would leave a “Fast and Furious” sequel due to “creative differences.” What did they think, that this was going to be “Citizen Kane?”

So Leterrier directs”Fast X” as if he just swallowed a bottle of No-Doz, three Supersized Espresso Deluxe orders from the local neighborhood over-priced coffee shop and a case of Monster energy drinks. Leterrier must have thought that the world was about to end while he directed this thing, because he directed every shot, every moment, every take, every scene, every camera angle, every edit, as if the world’s doomsday clock was ticking quickly down to zero and he, the movie, the world, the universe and everything WAS ABOUT TO END ANY SECOND NOW. Everything is rushed, done far too quickly, and everything is filmed and edited in such a literal blur of quick-cut and close-up edits, with a maddeningly extensive number of edits and attendant overall impatience, the movie just simply ends up being equivalent to one long series of over-done, over-loud, over-loaded and over-everything chaotic scenes that result in overall over-rushed pacing and timing that never pauses for subtlety, breathing room, insight or even anything resembling style class or substance. And, yes, watching the movie is exactly like reading that over-long sentence.

It’s all just a mad rush on a seemingly neverending road to nowhere. And highway to hell.

The writing, credited to Dan Mazeau and, yes, Justin Lin, seems to have been written by Mazeau and Lin on substances with the complete opposite effects of the stimulants Leterrier allegedly figuratively used. Mazeau and Lin seems to have taken black market Brain Numbing Pills, several bottles of Mad Dog and some Prozac, because their script, story, plot and dialogue is leaden, dead-in-the-water, cliched, tired, sleepy, unoriginal and so incredibly borrowed and stolen from just about every other bad action-adventure movie from the past sixty or a hundred years, it’s a wonder they managed to finish the script at all. The script is just one over-long, overly-familiar, extended cliche.

All of these cliches are in this movie: A bomb is pursued through the streets of a major city, with the threat of everything in said city being blown up real good by said bomb. The bomb explodes at just the right time, just in time, with just seconds left, in water, saving the city from being destroyed. There is not one, but two–or maybe even three–action scenes on a bridge, with mayhem destroying much of the bridge. There is not one, but what appears to be a thousand, fistfight scenes that make absolutely no sense. This includes people on the same side and people actually helping each other suddenly having fistfights–again, for no real, clear reason. Cars crash into each other at high speeds, resulting in big fiery car explosions. Someone sneakily busts someone else else out of what appears to be the world’s most insanely escape-proof prison. A geeky computer hacker uses their computer to hack into a door passcode security thing. A geeky computer hacker seemingly uses their computer to find someone halfway around the world in seconds. A geeky computer hacker hacks into secretive financial accounts and drains all of the financial accounts. A geeky computer hacker hacks into something else. More people get into more fistfights. There are more car chases. Enemies settle differences through a car race. There are more fistfights. Hordes of dumb people draw guns on hordes of other dumb people. There is a helicopter chase. Helicopters crash into each other. Bad, nonsensical and unmelodic music substitutes for a real musical score. There are more explosions. There are more gun fights. Gadgety electronic tracers are placed on what appears to be everything–people, cars, other things. There is a bar fight. Cars fly out of the back of a plane. People escape from a big plane in another smaller plane hidden on the bigger plane. There is a crazy villain who has lost his mind and is seeking revenge on his enemies. The crazy villain kidnaps his enemies’ kids. People fight amid laser machines that are out of control. Obviously brain-damaged, dangerously insecure men over-compensate their testosterone-fueled masculinity and misled machoness every second that the camera is on. Obviously brain-damaged insecure women over-compensate their tough-gal, tough-broad look-at-me femininity
every second that the camera is on. And a submarine dramatically appears at just the right time.

And just for good measure, there are a few more fistfights, gunfights, car chases and explosions. Michael Bay isn’t credited, but it feels like he was some type of mystical, spiritual presence on the set.

The previous two paragraphs could very well have been an early draft outline for “Fast X.”

And the acting—lawd have mercy on all of us in regards to the acting. The acting in “Fast X” and all of the previous “Fast and Furious” movies have never really, truly, honestly risen above average. And while no one wants to say it, it needs to be said: Vin Diesel, who plays the lead character, is not a good actor. He grunts, mumbles, slurs his lines, has difficulty conveying anything more than macho tough-dude rage, anger and fury, and he just doesn’t display authentic, deep thespian or dramatic energy, presence, emotion or depth. And, sadly, the rest of the cast of “Fast X” follows Diesel’s lead.

And what in holy heaven and earth are the great Helen Mirren, Rita Moreno and Charlize Theron doing in this movie? They barely have any real extensive line-readings, shots and scenes, and their appearances are wholly wasted. Mirren, Moreno and Theron are so far above all of this, and it’s just embarrassing to see them slumming along in this bombastic, bloated movie.

And the camera work, foreign locations and production design are wasted in “Fast X,” also. The movie actually filmed on location in London, Rome, Turin, Lisbon and Los Angeles, but those usually exotic, beautiful locales are wasted, due to the aforementioned rushed directing and due to cinematography that never properly displays these beautiful cities’ charms, moods and atmospheres. Everything’s shot in a bland, over-lit palette that somehow fails to capitalize on what could have been some incredibly beautiful establishing and action shots.

“Fast X” also never establishes a consistently solid over-arching, overall tone. The movie, and all of the other ones in the “Fast” series, suffers from an identity crisis, and the film never settles comfortably in what it wants to be. Is it an action-adventure movie? Is it a spy intrigue suspense thriller movie? Is it an urban car culture and car fetish and car obsession movie? Is it a gangster movie? Is it some bizarro psychological male and female macho reassurance booster movie for insecure men and women? The problem is, “Fast X” tries desperately to be all of the above–but the movie ends up failing to be any of these things on a prolonged, successful level. “Fast X” just ends up being a failed mish-mash mash-up hash of attempted genres without a solid, core foundation.

The story, and there really isn’t much of one, centers on drag racer/spy/operative/agent/rogue fixer contractor Dominic Toretto, the leader of a cliched group of insecure, nearly-illiterate, overly-violent and over-compensating tough-dude and tough-broad operatives who work on inexplicable intelligence missions for some shady government spy agency known by the wildly inventive name The Agency. Years ago, Dom’s team killed a psycho drug mob boss and now, years later, the mob thug’s son is hell-bent on revenge toward the Agency operatives, to the point where he tries to kill every one of them, to make their lives hell, to steal all of their money, and to even go kidnap Dom’s preteen son. And that’s the story.

The villian out for revenge, Dante Reyes, is unevenly, cringily and even embarrassingly disappointedly played by an in-way-over-his-head and terribly-costumed Jason Momoa. Momoa tries his best, but he is just miscast for this role in this movie. Reyes should have been played by Nicholas Cage, Gary Oldman, Malcolm McDowell or John Travolta—all of whom would have easily shined and excelled in this role. As it is, Momoa was just the wrong actor for this particular role. And the movie dressed Momoa in some of the absolute worst costumes in any action-adventure movie. Talk about insecurities and over-compensating.

The Wrap reports that “Fast X” is the eighth most expensive film in film history, with an estimated whopping production budget of $340 million. If that causes the brain to go berzerker, that’s completely understandable. But here’s something else to scramble those neurons, which is the full list of all of the “Fast and Furious” movies, and the following is indeed very real: “The Fast and the Furious,” 2001; “2 Fast 2 Furious,” 2003; “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift,” 2006; “Fast and Furious,” 2009; “Fast Five,” 2011; “Fast and Furious 6,” 2013; “Furious 7,” 2015; ” The Fate of the Furious,” 2017; “F9,” 2021; and “Fast X,” 2023.

Here, here, come over to the couch, sit down, relax, have a shot of whiskey, take some deep breaths, and, yes, ponder the fate of the moviegoing universe as we know it. If your brain hurts even more, it’s still entirely understandable. Just wait there, we’ll get you an ice pack and we’ll put on “Citizen Kane.”

The crazed madmen at Universal Pictures and the wayward, wildly delusional Diesel are threatening to unleash two more “Fast and Furious” movies upon an already-beseiged, trembling and stressed-out moviegoing public. Let us all pray to the movie gods that, in a shocking twist, the last two films in this long-suffering series are low-budget, introspective, thought-provoking dramatic films focusing seriously on the more serious aspects of life, and that they are written by Steven Zaillian and directed by Steven Spielberg.

Hope springs eternal.

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Matt Neufeld

Matt Neufeld

Matt Neufeld is a longtime journalist, actor and film critic in the Washington and Baltimore areas. He has participated in many local film events and projects in the region, and he has appeared as an actor, supporting actor and extra in more than 45 films projects, at all levels, during the past 20 years.