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Exhausted by Trying to Top Itself

The Pitch: When last we left la familia, the sprawling multiracial ensemble that bops in and out of the Fast and the Furious franchise, things were relatively calm, with most of them on good terms with the law (despite their occasional extra-legal operations) and wealthy (thanks to said extra-legal operations). Dom (Vin Diesel) and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) are even talking about the possibility of a potential younger sibling for their son Little B (Leo Abelo Perry). Then, of course, a bloody Cipher (Charlize Theron) shows up on their doorstep with a warning: Someone arguably even more evil than her is coming for them.

That someone is Dante (Jason Momoa), the flamboyantly-dressed son of Hernan Reyes, who Fast scholars will recall was the drug lord from whom the gang stole that big-ass safe in Fast Five. Dante’s out not just for blood, but for the complete ruination of the entire family, setting up the team as terrorists in the world’s eye and threatening everyone they love. Split up around the world and on the run, it’ll take a pack of unexpected allies to help them survive Dante’s plan, though even that might not be enough…

Take Your Fast Car and Keep on Driving: At this point, every new installment of the Fast saga feels less like an actual film and more like an episode of a TV show — a TV show with at least eight series regulars, and countless recurring stars as well. And as sprawling as that cast already is, the film adds even more newcomers to the mix, like Daniela Melchior as a young street racer from Brazil and Brie Larson as the daughter of the long-missing Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell).

While Dante’s revenge quest at least keeps everyone on the same page narratively, the team is split up across multiple storylines, with Dom largely on his own as he jets around the world trying to stop Dante, and the film’s focus taking a slapdash approach to checking in on him as well as other big and small players from the franchise’s history.

This devotion to franchise continuity might be fan-pleasing, but it also means that Fast X never really coalesces as a stand-alone film, even before ending on an epic cliffhanger. Director Louis Leterrier steps in here for Justin Lin, who abruptly left the production last year after two weeks of filming, and does a commendable job of mimicking what’s come before. He does such a good job, in fact, that it ends up feeling like just more of the same, even while trying to top the spectacle of the previous films. It’s all competently done, but fails to feel fresh.

The Gang’s All Here: So Jason Momoa has never been accused of giving a subtle performance, but he’s perhaps his most unhinged yet here, literally twirling and jetee-ing through the carnage he causes around the world. Some might argue that “genderqueer Bugs Bunny” is redundant, but it’s a combination of words that got stuck in my head during his time on screen, aided and abetted by his gleeful sartorial choices and delicious scene-chewing. It’s honestly just nice to see someone having fun in these movies, which are otherwise a masterclass in deadpan asides and grumbling monologues.

Fast X (Universal)

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