Fast X, Review: Vin some, lose some
Weapons and vehicles are the twin jet propellers on which Fast X rides. Weapons come in all potencies and sizes, including IT software/hardware and a (nuclear?) bomb that could blow up a whole city. Vehicles too, come in all shapes, sizes and models, including a container and a mini-aeroplane. All these are transported across continents, with the ease of greased lightning. There are two more twin jet-propellers that help the film cruise along, and these are family and gang. With these four elements in place, you have your basics right. Now you need a super villain and a two-faced betrayer. Here you are. In the sequel to F9 (2021), the tenth main instalment, and the eleventh instalment totally in the Fast & Furious franchise, the ‘Furious’ has been dropped in favour of ‘X’. Maybe somebody out there believes that X will bring in the X factor, proving lucky, 22 years after the franchise was launched. It doesn’t hurt that Vin Diesel, who starred in the first foray, is still around to fuel the pack.
In the past, Dominic Torreto had caused the death and destruction of Hernan Reyes, a Brazilian drug lord. Herman had only one son, Dante, who was a despicable character, but Herman indulged him so that he could protect and avenge Hernan. But Dominic took away a container full of Reyes’s fortune from right under the nose of Dante. Dante swore revenge. Soon afterwards, Dom attended a family reunion, along with his ‘partners in crime’. His bonding with his eight-year-old son, Brian, whom he calls B, has become stronger. B, and his wife Letty, mean the world to Dom. There, he and his crew receive a fresh assignment, in Rome. Dom decides that he need not go there, and only half of his crew is deputed.
After the team has left, Dom and the remaining crew learn that the Rome assignment is a trap, and that the team will face certain death there. They try to contact the Rome contingent, but find that all avenues have been jammed. The only option is to go there themselves, and they leave immediately. Locating their partners in Rome city without any clue is a tough task, but they somehow manage. To their horror, they find that the loot that they were sent to steal from a truck is no loot, but a bomb. It can go off any moment and will raze Rome to the ground. They somehow dislodge the bomb but it rolls down the road, hurtling across. Dom asks his scientific expert what can be done, and she tells him that if it is submerged in water, the damage could be reduced to 10% of its potential. At great risk, Dom manages to push the bomb into a river, even as it explodes. Watching all this is Dante Reyes, who has engineered the whole plan. And he has a Plan B in place, just in case.
If you break down the screenplay by Dan Mazeau (Wrath of the Titans, Damsel) and Justin Lin (writing, co-directing debut with Shopping for Fangs; The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, Fast & Furious, Fast Five, Fast & Furious 6, Star Trek Beyond, F9) based on a story by Mazeau, Lin, and Zach Dean (Deadfall, 24 Hours to Live, The Tomorrow War), you will find familiar ingredients like vendetta and betrayal. Any writer would be hard-pressed to cook-up something different in the action genre. To provide relief and bring in human values, you have comedy (often of the two black guys’ variety) and threats to the protagonist and his crew, and the first family of the film. So, there is nothing new in the plot. Ah, yes, there is a cross with a chain that is believed to protect the clan. Seriously! Coming to the screenplay, we have some exciting moments, as the giant globe of a bomb (I am assuming it was nuclear) keeps hurtling across half of Rome city, though the logic behind destroying a city to get even with an enemy is rather tenuous; the emergence of a mini-aeroplane from a regular aircraft; the giant leap sideways that rescues B; endless car and bike chases; the humour of the deadpan one-liners; the attempted and aborted escape through a manhole that, it turns out, opens in a mountain of ice and snow, and more.
Of course, you have to be under total suspension of disbelief, in a state of local anaesthesia, to swallow and digest most of the goings on. Moreover, proceedings move at such pace that, frequently, before you have registered one shot, the next one flashes across. Okay, so this is fandom film for the teens and twenties, so why are all the actors, except one young boy, in their forties and fifties? Mark Sinclair (Vin Diesel) is 56. Even Jason Momoa, the ‘baby’ of the cast, is 44. There is no problem in making a film fast; my point is that a shot should register before the next one comes on. The ‘make him suffer’ premise is not very credible. With the resources at his command, Dante could have made Dom suffer ten times over, but he chooses to slow down and space out his moves. Incidentally, where did he get all the money he spends? The tech-wiz lady is able to hack into or disable any IT or Hi-Tech system anywhere, including the ultimate security HQ of the Agency. The ‘now on now off’ disposition of the new Agency Chief, Aimes confuses, in an attempt to instill some suspense.
French director Louis Leterrier (49) is known for such films as The Incredible Hulk and Clash of the Titans (remake), and he replaced Justin Lin in Fast X. In actual terms, he has to direct only the non-action scenes. One particular non-action track that is well-handled is the Uncle Jacob-B bonding. Of course, the plentiful VFX that are the backbone of the film have to be imagined by him and fit in his vision. And they fit pretty well. The philosophy propounded by Dom to his son B seems vague and prosaic, and when the time comes, B’s use of that philosophy is weird, though it gets him out of deep trouble. There are cars, motorcycles, planes, helicopters, detonators and all kinds of gadgets on display, including one called God’s Eye, as should be expected in a film of this nature. It seems shocking that Dom’s home is not built like a fortress, considering how many men, on either side of the law, might want to get even with him and his family. There are some references to previous editions, as can be expected in a franchise, and those who have been following F & F will enjoy it better than first time viewers. An ensemble cast helps give the movie weightage. Perhaps lowering the suspension of disbelief element, and making the narrative a little more realistic would have made the film more watchable.
Vin Diesel as Dominic Toretto is a former criminal and professional street racer who has semi-retired and settled down with his wife, Letty Ortiz, and his son, Brian Marcos (B). He speaks in his trade-mark style, half mumble, and is identified as Mr. Fast and Furious, in command, and fearing no one and nothing. Here, he has some tender moments with his son and the rest of his family. Jason Momoa (Baywatch, Batman vs Superman: The Dawn of Justice, Aquaman) as Dante Reyes, the son of drug lord Hernan Reyes, who has waited 12 years and is now seeking revenge against Dom and his crew for the death of his father and loss of his family’s fortune during the events of Fast Five (2011), recapped here for good continuity. Momoa performed his own stunts in the film, though he has put on some weight after 2018’s Aquaman. He does not look evil personified, rather, he looks like a kid with toys who gets upset when the toys don’t work, and marvels when they do. Michelle Rodriguez as Letty Ortiz: Dom’s wife and a former criminal and professional street racer has some raw emotions going with her role.
You have a powerhouse in the shape of Jason Statham, who has his own fan following, even in India, as Deckard Shaw, an arms dealer who initially seems to be on the opposite side but later joins hands with Dom. Also starring Tyrese Gibson as Roman Pearce, a member of Dom’s team, Ludacris as Tej (Tej? How Indian a name is that?) Parker, a member of Dom’s team, John Cena as Jakob Toretto, the brother of Dom and Mia, and a master thief, assassin, and high-performance driver, Nathalie Emmanuel as Ramsey, a computer hacktivist and a member of Dom’s team, Sung Kang as Han Lue, an expert drifter and member of Dom’s team, who is given a relatively small part, Brie Larson as Tess, the daughter of Mr. Nobody, the former Head of the Agency, who allies with Dom and his crew, Alan Ritchson as Aimes, the new leader of Mr. Nobody’s Agency, who does not think too fondly of Dom and his crew, Daniela Melchior as Isabel Neves, a Brazilian street racer, with a powerful tie to Dom’s past, who is revealed to be Dom’s former girlfriend Elena Neves’ sister, Helen Mirren as Magdalene “Queenie” Ellmanson-Shaw, the leader of a female militia and mother of Dom’s former enemies Deckard and Owen, Charlize Theron as Cipher, a criminal mastermind and cyberterrorist who is an enemy of Dom’s team and is working with Dante.
Then there are Rita Moreno as Abuelita Toretto, the grandmother of Dom, Jakob, and Mia, who delivers a speech at the only family reunion shown in the film, and hugs everybody, Luis Da Silva is Diogo, a Brazilian street racer who allies with Dom and his crew, reprising his role from Fast Five (2011), Leo Abelo Perry gets a meaty part, and a lot of sympathy+plus whistles, as Brian Marcos, Dom’s son, Dwayne Johnson reprises his role as Luke Hobbs, during the mid/end-credits scene and Gal Gadot reprises her role as Gisele Yashar.
It is interesting that it took as many as four editors to cut the film and give us a perfectly serviceable length of 1 hour 41 minutes, though one would not grudge 2-3 minutes more, if that helped make more sense of the scenario. They are also responsible for the breakneck speed of the film, and as Dom says in the film, “buckle-up”. True to its name, it’s Fast, & Furious too. The four gentlemen and ladies are Dylan Highsmith, Kelly Matsumoto, Laura Yanovich, Corbin Mehl. Cinematography by Stephen F. Windon is breath-taking, often making you wonder whether the camera did it or was the VFX team. Music by Brian Tyler is in tune with the visuals.
This is about as close as you can get to a super-hero movie, with ‘normal’ human beings doing abnormal and ‘superhuman’ things. The car chases, the air encounters, fisticuffs, the rolling bomb, are all well executed. If anything, the makers have gone over-board, especially in the bomb scenes, which go on forever. Maybe there are not enough ‘bangs’ for the bucks, but there are thrills and excitements by the dozen. However, somewhere down the line, you feel that the soul is missing, not that movies of this legacy have souls.
Fans of Fast & Furious, this is a must see. Others, take a call.
Vin some, lose some.
Rating: ** ½
(With Inputs from moviesfoundonline and filmfestivals)
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