Sunday, 14 July 2024

‘Fast X’ delivers the high-octane action expected by fans

‘FAST X’ Rated PG-13

The “Fast and Furious” franchise has been a global sensation for more than two decades, and has shown no signs of abating, because in Hollywood there’s no such truism as too much of a good thing.

In case you have lost count of the number of installments of this high-octane saga, the Roman numeral in “Fast X” should be the clue that this is a milestone anniversary for the fan base to celebrate.

Does “X” mark the spot for a conclusion to the adventures of wheelman Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his extended family that is now threatened by a lethal adversary emerging from the shadows of the past?

The answer to that question may be found in the closing credits which seem almost interminable. Or the sign may point to the anticipated box office success of this chapter, which nobody wants to leave behind.

As a refresher on the series, 2001’s “The Fast and The Furious” was a regional story about the subculture of street racers in Los Angeles who dabbled in crime on the side, and since then the franchise has morphed into international intrigue.

The global plots have allowed the transition from muscle-car racing to ever more preposterous plots of scheming in exotic foreign locales, and here it is a rather extensive chase through the streets of Rome to stop a runaway bomb from destroying the city center.

But first, there is a flashback to 2011’s “Fast Five,” in which Dom and his crew took out nefarious Brazilian drug kingpin Hernan Reyes (Joaquim del Almeida) and decimated his empire on a bridge in Rio de Janeiro.

What the racing enthusiasts didn’t know was that Reyes’s son, Dante (the hulky Jason Momoa), witnessed it all and has spent the last 12 years festering in a revenge plot to make Dom pay the ultimate price.

For the Roman sequence, Dom and his loyal compatriots, Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), and the bickering and bantering duo of Roman (Tyrese Gibson) and Tej (Chris “Ludacris” Bridges), end up getting played by Dante, the puppet master masterminding their wild ride.

When the action subsides only briefly, Dom takes the occasions to talk solemnly about the importance of family, which takes on new meaning as he enlists his formerly estranged brother Jakob (John Cena) to protect his young son Brian (Lio Abelo Perry).

Of course, Dom has also been protective of Letty, who in her own right is a fierce and fiery warrior, a talent on full display in a tough battle with Cipher (Charlize Theron), until they realize having a common enemy.

Kurt Russell is missed as Mr. Nobody, the secretive Agency honcho, but his daughter Tess (Brie Larson) is a helpful rogue agent, because Mr. Nobody’s replacement, Aimes (Alan Ritchson) does not have the backs of Dom’s crew.

Dom’s sister Mia (Jordana Brewster) plays the familiar role of den mother. Jason Statham’s Deckard Shaw crosses paths with the group when they encounter a common enemy. Blink and you might miss Helen Mirren’s Queenie and Scott Eastwood’s ambitious government agent Little Nobody.

“Fast X” is arguably designed mostly, if not exclusively, for its rabid fan base, with nostalgia creeping in through the flashbacks to the fifth chapter, in which the late Paul Walker is still part of the Toretto universe.

If you happen to drift into a showing of this tenth chapter, a scorecard would be needed to keep track of all the characters, both old and new. How did Rita Moreno get into the act, as the grandmother of the Toretto siblings no less?

Frankly, even if you’ve kept up with many, if not all, of the films, the proceedings have become so convoluted with an excess of high-speed chases, detonations, and death-defying stunts that a sense of bewilderment may set in.

While Vin Diesel and company don’t disappoint as time has allowed them to slip so comfortably confident into their characters, a flamboyant Jason Momoa is so amusingly unhinged as the vengeful villain that he practically steals every scene when he revels in his merciless taunts.

Action junkies of all stripes, even if only vaguely familiar with this franchise, may get a kick out of Dom dropping out of the back of plane in his muscle car, and then there’s the excitement of drag racing in Rio. For some, this never gets old.

The bloated plot spreads the heroes across the diverse locations of Los Angeles, London, Rome, Portugal, and Brazil. Antarctica is in the picture, but for reasons not entirely clear. In any event, the excess is in keeping with how things have to move fast.

“Fast X” has a lot in common with superhero films, such as those in the Marvel universe, in that the hardcore fans will not be deterred by even the slightest doubt expressed by any critics, choosing to undoubtedly enjoy the chaos and mayhem.

Tim Riley writes film and television reviews for Lake County News.

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