HOLLYWOOD—I have been a fan of the “The Fast and the Furious” franchise since its debut back in 2000. It was unlike anything seen before because it involved racing and it was just magic. That was the first installment with Vin Diesel and Paul Walker. God rest his soul on Walker who died unexpectedly in a car crash in 2013 that left so many fans of the franchise and of the actor stunned. After nine movies, we are nearing the end with “Fast X” which is the first time the franchise ends on a cliffhanger of sorts.

It has been rumored the next installment which is slated for 2025 is expected to be the end of the franchise, but if the box-office says anything I could see another sequel or two in the near future. With that said, is “Fast X” one of the best in the franchise? Simply put: no, but it does entertain. I will be blunt out of all the films in the franchise I found “Fast and Furious” in 2009 to be sensational, soon followed by “Fast & Furious 6” and “The Fate of the Furious” was one of my favorite flicks of all the sequels.

I thought “F9” was ok, but if I’m being honest I don’t recall it too much and when the stunts start to bend the rules of reality you start to lose me. I thought the bridge scene was great, but far-fetched, but taking a car into space, c’mon what the hell was that?! It was just too much and I was over it at that point.

This time around Dom (Diesel) and company, and trust me it’s a lot of them people including Michelle Rodriguez, Ludacris, Tyrese Gibson, Jordana Brewster, Nathalie Emanuel, John Cena, Sung Kang, Scott Eastwood, Helen Mirren, Jason Statham, Charlize Theron and Rita Moreno battle a new threat to their family. That does not include the new additions that include Brie Larson, Alan Ritchson and Jason Momoa. This cast just continues to grow and grow and it raises the question is there a thing known as too much?

For this movie the answer is yes. We see Dom and company tackle  new villain, Dante Reyes (Momoa), who happens to the son of drug lord Hernan Reyes from “Fast Five.” What’s the problem? We never saw or even heard about this character before this latest installment. Some would call this a bit of revisionist history. Look, I sort of liked Momoa as the villain, but at times it was so laughable and cringe-worthy, I’m not sure if that was what the writers were going for.

When it comes to a hero and villain doing battle I want to feel a significant threat to our protagonist; they have to suffer in a way that strikes the viewer to the core, and I didn’t sense that too much with this latest sequel. I think the best villains the series witnessed was Jason Statham’s Deckard Shaw and Charlize Theron as Cipher. They made the characters realize there was a real threat to the mayhem, and that is not happening here. Some of Dante’s antics are just so over-the-top they are a bit annoying.

Also I don’t love how everyone who are initially villains to our heroes ultimately become allies. I mean if someone kills a loved one of mine, I’m not about to become best buddies with them. This franchise doesn’t seem to care about that. Dom is in Dante’s crosshairs, as he wants revenge for Dom killing his father and stealing all those funds he father had in that safe. Side note: might not be a bad idea to watch “Fast Five” before you see this movie as a slight refresher. Tyrese Gibson who portrays Roman, was always a scene stealer in previous flicks for his comedic timing, is missing that element this time around. It felt like so many of the characters were just there to be there; there wasn’t much fleshed out with them.

To be honest the characters I identified the most with while watching were Jakob (Cena) and Dom’s son, Brian (Leo Abelo Perry). These two have a fun relationship that builds throughout the movie and they deliver the laughs and the heart. Everyone else, not so much. Cipher (Theron) who was so fantastic in “The Fate of The Furious” feels underutilized this time around. Larson and Ritchson as allies apart of Mr. Nobody’s (Kurt Russell) agency, feel like underutilized characters that are slight thorns in our heroes and villains mission.

“Fast X” needed to trim the fat a bit if this is the beginning of the end, instead things are growing and when you have too many characters, not everyone gets ample screen time and it hurts the overall narrative of the flick which clocks in over 2 hours and 30 minutes, and drags slightly at points. This franchise is known for its explosive action-sequences, and the deft-tying stunts involving vehicles. FYI many of you have already seen the video of a vehicle taking out two helicopters (yes helicopters) people, show you that a vehicle could do almost anything if you can weave it into a script.

Cars in space was one thing, the other shoe I’m waiting to see drop is some sort of stunt that involves a vehicle driving into or through the ocean. Beyond that the only other thing that might amaze me is a vehicle and something involving a volcano. I should be careful I might get my wish. The car scenes are amazing, the fight sequences are a ton of fun, the explosions are epic, but the story just falls flat. This movie is missing director Justin Lin who helmed multiple flicks in the franchise including the most recent “F9.” Lin serves as a producer and writer this time around, but as a fan of the franchise you can tell Lin’s touch as a director is absent. He knows this franchise better than anyone considering he directed five entries.

“Fast X” is showing signs that a franchise can run out of steam after so many movies. The end credits have a scene that is a teaser that will surprise and tantalize fans, but without spoiling it does raise the question: really? I will leave you with that teaser to make the best of it.