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It’s like a cult, with cars.


Fast X


It looks as if the only thing capable of killing this franchise are the absurd price tags, rather than the deaths of its stars. It’s difficult to see how Fast X can break even if that $340m is accurate (a third as much again as its nearest series competitor). It would be ironic if Universal calls it a day here, given Fast X ends on a cliffhanger. At very least, they’re sure to nix the suggested extension of Furious XI to XI and XII. Aren’t they? But see the final paragraph. This one is more of the same, of course, nominally led by big, bald, impassively gravelly Vin but finding what engagement it has in the supporting roles. And also, this time, Jason Momoa, evidently having a whale of a time as the main villain.

Tess: They’ve driven to the gates of hell and back for this agency.

Momoa’s Dante is the son of the villain from Fast Five, the stage where this franchise started showing legs, and there’s a choppily presented drop-in prologue sequence to show he was at the scene of the crime(s) all along that time around. This part also provides a chance to keep the Paul Walker legend alive, something that only really gained currency after he bowed out (Donald Marshall had his take on what went on there). 

If you take the 2020 arrest list doing the rounds as accurate – and it seems it is, although, confusingly, some of the names on it apparently relate to clones that have been executed, rather than the original deals – Walker isn’t the only one still showing up in the F&F franchise in no more than avatar form (of course, there’s also the converse suggestion that Walker is very much alive and went into protection when he knew his number was up). That list gives Vin, Dwayne Johnson (seen here in a mid-credits cameo) and Gal Gadot (appearing in the final scene as Gisele Yashar and, like any franchise returnee worth their salt, conclusively killed in an earlier instalment, in this case Fast & Furious 6). Charlize Theron isn’t thereon, but there are likely a good few further contenders among the cast.

Is the burgeoning cost of Fast movies partly based on the keeping various clones and/or CGI variants programmed and ticking over? Officially, this one went insane in the overspend department because Justin Lin bowed out over creative differences with the untiringly egocentric Vin (or his untiringly egocentric clone; one or the other “purportedly arrived out of shape, was often late, and did not remember his lines”). Louis Letterier came in, his star having waned significantly since he first gained attention for his inventively OTT Transporter 2 (so he has past form working with the Stath, also seen here, in what living-or-dead form is unconfirmed, although he was pals with the former Guy Ritchie). 

Letterier’s actually a seamless fit for F&F movies, then, much more so than The Fate of the Furious’ F Gary Gray, embracing the side that goes for a certain sense of flamboyant fun. Diesel’s curt and dour demeanour is the opposite of this, of course, as if he has something to hide. Indeed, it’s almost as if Momoa is simply there to take the rise out of such posturing, since his own posturing is six shades of campery, a riot of colourful costumery, preening and affectation, along with a capacity for bursting out of his outfits as if he’s eaten too many pies between bouts of Aquaman. Perhaps he’s actually eaten too many (fish) pies between bouts of Aquaman.

Dante: Do you like surprises, Domy? I adore them.

Dante persistently punctures any appetite Fast X has for sincerity, and he does so with aplomb. His mission is, ostensibly, to “Make Toretto suffer”, but more frequently, he’s simply taking the piss out of him. No sooner has Jakob (John Cena) sacrificed himself in a car wreck than Dante’s mocking Dom Jr (Abelo Perry’s Little B): “Looks like Uncle Muscle won’t be coming to the next barbecue… I mean, it’s very horrible”. Later, gloating over how Aimes (Alan Ritchson) has always been on the Reyes payroll, he asks Dom “You think everyone’s going to end up on your side?” I mean, yeah, it had occurred to me.

There are usually some vaguely amusing antics between Roman (Tyrese Gibson) and Tej (Ludacris), although nothing can quite equal going into orbit last time (Pete Davidson cameos to remind us “Come on, you’re an astronaut”). There’s a vague “journey” arc of Roman being put in charge of the Rome heist, only for it to turn out to be a con (it’s a Dante fix-up rather than an Agency mission). Mostly, though, there’s a The Dead Pool (as in, the fifth Dirty Harry) inspired sequence with remote-controlled cars (“Tiny Tej”), the reveal that Roman carries all his cash around strapped to him – handy, given the team have their accounts hacked and all their money spirited away – and is soon demanding receipts from anyone who borrows his funds.

Jakob: Swearing is for… song lyrics only, and stubbed toes.

 Cena, a new-found brother of Dom last time, has gone from antagonist to protagonist – that “everyone’s going to end up on your side” thing – and with it gets to spend much of the proceedings goofing off. Indeed, he’s granted more of the comedy side previously reserved for the Stath, who’s confined to one scene with Han, notable mainly for Roman’s girly scream and “What the hell was that?” on witnessing a guy crawling out of Deckard’s punching bag. 

Jakob drives a shitty car, listens to Marky Mark and generally makes being hideously uncool cool during his nephew-protecting subplot. There’s a fun airplane escape (not coincidentally, the best part of Fate of the Furious was also set on an airplane, revolving around Deckard), during which Jakob requests alcohol, for fuel, and must inform Little B “That’s rosé. Not going to work. Long story. Good initiative”. Since we don’t see a body, I suspect Jackob will rise again, in the style of Hudson Hawk and Danny Aiello (“Airbags, can you fucking believe it?” causing Dom to intone “Yeah, that’s probably what happened”).

Speaking of Little B, Dom’s recast as Yoda at the outset, giving his son driving lessons (“Feel the line, feel the car”). There also simply has to be a Fast XI, at very least, as he avowed to him “Son, you and I will finish our driving lesson. That’s a promise”. Significantly more alarmingly to Jr’s future prospects, while pursued by Dante’s demon hordes, Jakob allows him to fire projectiles that destroy multiple cars and – unless they are somehow driven remotely – with them the bad guy drivers. So Little B has blood on his hands. Nice.

Also in the cast are a returning mockney Helen Mirren (“I’ve got a message for you, ducky”), Alison Brie showing all the personality of piece of duct tape as Kurt Russell’s daughter (maybe her agent told her that, after The Marvels dive bombs, she’ll need any work she can get), and various other regular returnees who aren’t terribly interesting (Nathalie Emmanuel, Jordana Brewster, Sung Kang, Scott Eastwood and Michelle Rodriguez). 

The plot kicks off with a fake mission to steal a quantum computer chip, revealed as a truck containing a “neutron mine”. Which, to be fair to all concerned, celebrates the absurdity of the nuke lie* by visualising it in a cartoonish approximation – but larger – of the “bomb” Batman is trying to get rid of in The Batman Movie. Further mockery comes later as Dante, impressed and bemused that Dom managed to deflect it into the Tiber before it detonated, comments “He saved the Vatican. Who does that?” I mean, exactly. One of the world’s premiere hotbeds of evil. The picture concludes in Antarctica – it’s revealed Cipher and Letty are imprisoned there – as a sub manned by Gisele breaks surface. Now that would be good for Furious XI; crossing the Ice Wall is surely no less unreasonable for the franchise than heading into space.

One might also note a subtle warning here about the ephemerality of non-material currency, given how suddenly everyone but Roman’s hard-stolens are spirited away. That might be as predictive as Fast X is getting, though. This isn’t a franchise particularly recognised for anything, let alone programming. Well, protecting the non-blood fam aside. As Dom tells Dante, “Without family, you got nothing”. 

The post-X announcement of a Fast X.5 is baffling. Does Universal know something we don’t, something that eludes every other Hollywood studio? Is their accounting wildly creative? How else to figure there’s enough juice in the increasingly expensive but dwindling in grosses franchise’s tank to justify three more instalments (and possibly Vin’s Furious Femmes too)? Couldn’t they just programme Vin’s clone to get on with Dwayne? This series’ respectable end – if you can call it that – would have been Furious 7. How long the fuse is on revealing the dark heart of Hollywood to the unwashed and oblivious is debateable, but if the clock is still ticking in 2025, something is seriously up with the timer.

*Addendum 24/06/23: So, I’ve been chasing the wrong conspiracy with this one, it seems. It’s almost inevitable that, when you think you’ve grasped the nettle of some subjects, you instead get stung to blue blazes. There’s long-standing theorising concerning the legitimacy of the nuke threat, and of nuclear technology generally, it took me a while to warm to it (probably in the last three or four years). Warm to it I did, though, and it seemed Q & A answers were confirming the counterfeit nature of the subject (this, however, as tends to be the case, was based on misconception of the parameters of the response). 

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