But that would mean overlooking the simple, nagging truth that these stupid movies still manage to entertain, even if the moments of pure popcorn enjoyment come fewer and farther between than they did, say, five movies and 12 years ago.
The reality is that the best this franchise has ever offered arrived with “Fast Five” in 2011, and the movies since have been hit (“Furious 7”) and mostly miss (“Fast & Furious 6,” “The Fate of the Furious,” “F9 – The Fast Saga”).
2 out of 5 stars
It’s fitting then that “Fast X” goes back in time for its cold open, repurposing the end of “Fast Five” to insert two new characters, including Jason Momoa’s flamboyant big bad, Dante, that weren’t in the original film.
Momoa is both the best thing about “Fast X,” and further proof that this franchise has literally, ahem, run out of gas.
It’s like someone, whether him as an actor or one of the producers or even Vin Diesel, said here’s how you should play this guy to make him memorable, and then they just let Momoa rip away at the scenery like a shark that’s been starved on purpose.
From his vibrant and at times confounding fashion choices to his painted nails and snarky quips, it’s like Momoa’s Dante is trying to be so over-the-top as to distract from the fact that much of the action has been done before, in other "Fast" movies, and done better.
Still, whenever he’s on screen, you can’t look away, for better or worse.
And there are definitely moments when you want to look away, not because the movie is bad, per se, but because it feels so carefully calibrated that there’s zero room for any surprise.
I lost count of how many times a character in “Fast X” talked about the importance of family, but I know that Mr. Diesel personally said the word "family" at least 50 fucking times, which if you’re keeping score at home is 49 times more than necessary, so much so that it ends up undermining the impact and intent.
His character, Dominic Toretto, has gone from badass anti-hero bad boy in the first film to that friend from college you hate to catch up with because everything he says sounds like greeting card bullshit.
“No one starts at the finish line,” Mr. Diesel says early on.
“Pass it down the line, each generation better than the last. That’s fatherhood,” he says shortly thereafter.
Sometimes I found myself thinking deep thoughts while listening to Diesel string together a bunch of these motivational poster platitudes.
Deep thoughts like, "How many sleeveless shirts does Dominic Toretto own?"
Deep thoughts like, "How is it possible that Dominic and his team went from Los Angeles to Rome, Italy in a matter of hours, and secured a bunch of cars and weapons, and somehow managed to arrive just in the nick of time to save the day?"
Spoiler alert: It’s not possible without time travel.
Deep thoughts like, "Holy shit, how is it possible that there are four Oscar winners in 'Fast X,' including Charlize Theron, Helen Mirren, Rita Moreno and Brie Larson."
All that went through my head before the unnecessary Pete Davidson cameo.
I cannot understand why that guy…hold on, hold up, I’m being told we have more platitudes incoming from Mr. Diesel:
“Nothing’s impossible. You just have to have faith.”
Um, OK, I guess, but the reality is that there are things that are in fact impossible, kind of like using a car to play whack-a-mole with a giant bomb thingee through the streets of Rome, narrowly avoiding the Vatican, or flying from Los Angeles to Rome in less than 11 hours and 50 minutes.
“Your sister smiled with her eyes and led with her heart.”
I got nothing. I actually had to kickstart my memory to recall whose sister he was talking about so I could figure out exactly who he was talking to. Spoiler alert: It’s another callback to “Fast Five.”
If nothing else, “Fast X” speeds along fairly quickly for a two-and-a-half hour placeholder that ends on a cliffhanger with a mid-credits scene that re-introduces a fan-favorite character whom I never thought would return to the team.
But what’s the point, exactly? Why does “Fast X” matter if we know there are still TWO MORE installments yet to come?
The answer is simple. It doesn’t matter. Nothing gets resolved. A major character gets killed, but not mourned, which means the next movie will have yet another big family moment packed with more platitudes from Mr. Diesel.
And for those reasons and more, I’m not sure this was the start of the sprint to the finish that everyone likely envisioned.