The most emotional part of my trip to the cinema to see Fast X, or whatever it is called, came during the commercials before it started. Olay has been running an advertisement featuring a young woman at different stages in her thus far short life. You see her as a beaming, happy child, and then somewhere around her pre-teen years she gets a cell phone. This is the beginning of her foray into social media. It seems that it makes her image conscious, showing clips of her doing different things to her body to make her appear slimmer. The ugliness continues with self-deprecating journal entries and eventually landing in the hospital and therapy because of an eating disorder. You then see her as an early twenty something with her mother. As this unfolds, playing in the background is “You Are So Beautiful,” originally written by Joe Cocker. By the end, it is the woman’s mother singing it to her. I get choked up thinking about it now, and it makes me think about my nieces growing up and potentially being exposed to the toxic side of social media. They are real family. Everything you see in the film is a bunch of nonsense.
Every Monday (most, anyway), I go to a gym nearby that has an ice bath. As I submerge myself up to the neck in the thirty-six-degree water, I take deep breaths in order to control my soon-to-be racing heart and the pain to come. Picture me doing this as I begin to relate to you the events of Fast X. If only it could have lasted the six minutes I spend in the cold tank and not the two plus hours of boredom it brought me, I would have been a happier camper. Anyway, it starts with a flashback to whatever film came before this one, which happened ten years before in Rio de Janeiro. My suspicion is that this is done to remind you that Paul Walker was once a part of this franchise as Brian O’Conner before his untimely death in 2013. Brian and his best friend Dominic “Dom” Toretto (Vin Diesel) steal a bunch of money from a Brazilian gangster (I guess) named Hernan Reyes (Joaquim de Almeida). They do so by yanking an entire vault full of money out of a building and dragging it down the road. Hernan and company give chase, leading to his death. Also involved is his son, Dante Reyes (Jason Mamoa), who is knocked into the water. He survives and predictably seeks revenge. In the present time, everything is hunky dory with Dom and the seemingly countless people he refers to as family. He and his wife, Letty Ortiz (Michelle Rodriguez), are taking the time to raise their son, Little Brian (Leo Abelo Perry). Dom puts Roman (Tyrese Gibson) in charge of the crew, or whatever you want to call it, for their next ridiculous mission, all of which involve exotic locations and fast cars. This time they are going to Rome to hijack a shipment of sensitive computer equipment before the bag guys can get them. What brings Dom and Letty into the fray is the appearance of their old arch nemesis, Cipher (Charlize Theron), wounded on their doorstep. This is because Dante decided to attack her and steal some of her equipment to use against Dom and the gang. Hence, what is an obvious trap in Rome to the audience now dawns on Dom and Letty. They get there in time for the good guys to realize that the truck they have commandeered contains a large bomb, and that Dante is controlling its route in order blow up the city. Through yet another series of logic and physics defying maneuvers, Dom manages to divert the explosive before it gets to the Vatican, the only moment of relief in this trainwreck for this practicing Catholic. Despite numerous chances, Dante does not kill everyone because he wants to punish them. Always a good tactic to leave your enemy alive, right? The first phase of this is to get Dom and company to be labeled terrorists for the detonation in Rome, which Dante accomplishes swimmingly. He also does computer stuff to take away their money and turn the Agency or whatever it is called against them. Further, everyone is scattered to the four corners of the globe. I do not feel any of this is really relevant because no matter where they go, it is going to involve one of two things, usually both: driving and fighting. Each time, either Dante or some of his henchmen show up, and you think he might be trying to kill our long list of protagonists. In every instance, though, they get away and Dante claims it is all part of his nebulous plan. Thus, skipping ahead a bit because this is my review and I do not care about this movie, the goal of all parties involved is to make it to a pre-arranged meeting spot in Portugal. Why Portugal? Why not? This includes Little Brian and his uncle, Jakob Toretto (John Cena), who had come to save his nephew when Dante sent his henchmen after the boy. There follows car chase number 593,872,469,210,444,395,892 of the entire franchise. Explosions, helicopters yanked out of the sky by cars, Jakob sacrificing himself to save Dom and Little Brian, planes shot out of the air, and, best of all, Dom driving down the sheer face of a dam to avoid a blast at the top, all feature into this climactic moment. And there is me looking at my watch waiting for it to be over. Most infuriatingly, they end this one with a cliff-hanger, leaving Dom and Little Brian at the bottom of the dam that is about to give way with bombs implanted on it. This means there are going to be more of these, which just means additional suffering for me, not for the main characters, but me. There is also a mid-credits scene with Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), one of the inexhaustible supply of people who have appeared in this franchise, but who cares?
I would like to share with you some of the notes I took while watching Fast X that had me laughing for all the wrong reasons. The first comes with the opening credits when you see the name of one of the production companies involved in this mishegoss: Original Film. This alone is chuckle worthy considering how many of these movies there are in the franchise, and all of them being roughly the same! There are a number of lines that are said during the proceedings that had me wondering whether anyone was listening on set when they were said, including the actors and actresses themselves. Mainly, these involve things that are a clear give away to what is going to happen, like Dom talking about his fears of losing his family. Guess what happens? He loses his family. Another one that caught my attention is when somebody wonders aloud how they have let things go on for so long. This is something I have been asking myself about these movies, too, my friend. My favorite is when the Agency leader, Aimes (Alan Ritchson), is talking about the feats performed by Dom and his so-called family. Aimes says that if they violate the laws of God and gravity, they have done it. I am not sure I understand what he means by the “laws of God,” at least not as I would put it, but violating the laws of gravity should not be possible. This line alone invalidates pretty much the entire franchise. It implies that such laws do exist, and so do rules governing physics, by extension. Since this is the case, the overwhelming majority of the things you see them do with cars and other vehicles should not happen. Yet, because these films are a cynical cash grab by people who just want to show fast cars and explosions, you can have a key character utter these words and nobody thinks the less of it.
There is one other interesting line spoken in Fast X. When talking about how Dom had prevented catastrophic destruction in Rome, he says something to the effect that if Rome falls, so does the rest of the world. Keep in mind that this comes on the heels of a giant bomb being deflected into the Tiber River just before it reaches the Vatican. In reality, the Vatican is a separate country from Rome, though who knows if anyone on set was aware of this fact. Between this, and a few other clues in the Rome sequence, it is suggested that the Vatican is Dante’s target the entire time. He even makes jokes later about why anyone would want to save where the gross pope lives. I do not get as mad about such barbs as you might expect. Anti-Catholicism is nothing new to me, and this is a rather mild form of it. Make no mistake, though, it is not good. This is why I was so intrigued by Dom’s statement. There is never any explicit connection between the main character and Catholicism, though it would make some sense. Oh, gosh, did I just write that about this movie? Well, more surprisingly, Dom is right: the world falls if Rome does. The writers, I think, probably meant this in a vaguely historical way. I look at it spiritually, though history is on my side, too. If nothing else, look at the role St. John Paul II had in the fall of the Soviet Union. Despite its warts, it is overwhelmingly a force for good in this world, much more so that Dom and his make-believe family.
It does not look like I am going to get my Christmas wish: that Fast X be the last of these turkeys. One day, though, there will be one of these movies that will be the last one. I just pray that I live to see that day.