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A fascinating case study in the huge and profitable landscape of the intellectual property franchise system is the Fast films. No other series commands this level of bulletproof resistance in the face of logic, the laws of physics, basic storytelling, and perhaps, even death itself. Its most prominent leading man, Vin Diesel, has built a product that has immunized itself against conventional wisdom, and asks in each succeeding installment: “How can we make this more unbelievable?” instead of the opposite.
Crazy inhuman feats, gravity-defying car stunts, bald muscular heroes in their 50s punching each other with contracts stipulating they cannot lose a fight — and lest we forget — beer chugging and burger-flipping in the backyard while Pastor Dom gives his homily about family. The Fast movies have built a religion through its unexpectedly long tenure, and each one of them has pushed the mythos around the idea that family plus cars equals mindless adrenaline-fueled spectacle.
It has gone on for so long, in fact, that it even reached the final frontier in its ninth film through Roman (Tyrese Gibson) and Tej’s (Ludacris) outlandish trip to space in no less than a car. Now, the Fast films are set to end, and what once was supposed to be a two-parter has recently been revealed to actually be a trilogy. This marks Fast X as the first of three concluding chapters, which should already tell you that coming into this one expecting a complete story will not really be smart. But, also, this is the franchise that tells you cars can jump over three buildings. When has it ever begged its audience to be smart?
Starting off with an opening that plays through the franchise’s most inspired action set piece, the bank vault heist from Fast Five, it becomes crystal clear in the first few minutes that Fast X is about honoring itself. Each story beat, choice of location, and action set piece is inspired by, or in other cases, a complete recreation of a previous installment’s creative decision. No other aspect of the film best reflects this than the film’s villain, Dante (Jason Momoa), who is retroactively inserted into the fifth film to artificially generate years’ worth of resentment towards our lead characters. His motivation for revenge? Dom wronged his family. Cool. And also, he’s kind of a crazy terrorist who’s obsessed with blowing up national landmarks and creating some biting philosophical quandaries for Dom to make him doubt his family-coded morality. Nice.
Asking the question “Why?” seems to always be a futile and rhetorical question when directed towards this franchise, because far too often the answer is just “Yes.” Lots of questions can be made like, why did Dante wait for this long? Why isn’t he obsessively mad at Brian too? How can he just hack money with a couple of keyboard clicks? Or, what’s the point of creating a global terrorist rampage over your vendetta against one man? But I realize that asking these questions is like trying to catch the wind in a net.
So, instead, I wanna ask: What is the piece that Jason Momoa is conducting in this film? Is it a chaotic symphony? Drawing from the psychopathic tendencies of the Joker and Green Goblin? Or, is it a tormented, misunderstood sonata? A character study of someone who actually hides behind humor to shield himself from insecurities (I was reminded of Noho Hank from the HBO series Barry for some weird reason). Or, maybe it’s just Momoa doing a carefree acting gig that screams “I’m going to get paid a huge bag so I’ll do whatever makes me happy.”
No answer is truly going to satisfy me, except for the fact that I am 100% certain Momoa saw the 2022 Netflix film The Gray Man, and instead of forgetting about it a week later like the rest of the general population, he used Chris Evans’ uneven, slapstick joke of a villain performance as his bread and butter. It’s safe to say that my annoyance at Momoa’s character will only grow from here on out.
It’s tough to really mention anything groundbreaking about the characters of Fast X because they are given barebones development and have reached the point where the jokes are doing much of the heavy lifting. Everyone is motivated by family and it does not get any deeper than that. Honestly, that’s fine by me. Jason Statham shows up in the film and is reluctant to join the crossfire, but when his family suddenly enters the picture, *gasp*, the horses have been set loose. In fairness to the Fast family, John Cena’s portrayal of Jakob and the reformed, good uncle side of himself that he shows Dom’s son was a welcome spinoff film inside this bloated mess. I would’ve loved to see more of that if only for Cena’s pure and uncynical performance.
There’s too many characters in the film, and they are all over the place — literally. There are people we should take note of in Los Angeles, Brazil, Paris, Rome, and even goddamn Antarctica. And it isn’t simply that they go from one place to another; it’s that they are all in these places at the exact same time, creating huge disconnects from one scene to the next. For instance, a simple, classic street race in Rio de Janeiro is then quickly upended a few seconds later by an action scene in a futuristic robotic prison with James Bond-like lasers and advanced technology. An explosion in a highly populated city is then followed by a secret The Incredibles-looking lair, introducing us to Brie Larson and Alan Ritchson, agents whose sole purpose is to give us exposition while footage of (better) Fast films play in the background.
With all of these in mind, I still think there’s a lot to enjoy about Fast X. In fact, a little rewiring of expectations and having an open-mindedness to absurdity is crucial in having a good time with these types of films. But I’ve found it increasingly hard to find genuine interest for this one because the stakes have been severely hampered, to the point wherein seeing someone die means absolutely nothing, after seeing plenty of characters from the grave making their return in subsequent sequels.
Fast X’s focus is action, loads of it. Many of which you’ve seen from Mission Impossible, DC, James Bond, and even past Fast films. It’s like listening to a band’s greatest hits album, but only to realize that they are running out of original ideas. And so Fast X is not really a film about anything new. It’s a film about ideas that work and ideas that are crafted to please the broadest consumer base. Unsurprising, coming from the franchise whose first film basically ripped off Point Break. – Rappler.com
‘Fast X’ is now showing in Philippine cinemas nationwide.