Bad news/good news time.
Bad news, Justin Lin finally decided the high price of (Vin) Diesel was reason enough to bail out of the “Fast and Furious” franchise. He quit “Fast X.”
Good news, Louis Leterrier, director of the tighter, meaner and occasionally more realistic car chase “Transporter” movies, has been signed to take over.
Bad news, “The Takedown,” Leterrier’s latest cars and cutesy cop buddy picture, made for Netflix, pretty much sucks.
Good and bad news? “Fast 9: The Fast Saga,” and most of the recent of the Lin-helmed car cartoons kind of sucked, too. So the early take on “Fast X” is kind of a (car) wash. Lin or Leterrier, how good could it be?
“Takedown” reteams Omar Sy , French star of “The Intouchables,” who’s turned up in the “Jurassic World” and “X-Men” franchises, with Laurent Lafitte, whose French films (“Tell No One”) have rarely made it to North America.
They played cute and mismatched cops in “On the Other Side of the Tracks” ten years ago. Now, they’re still mismatched but re-teamed for a big case involving murder, drugs and guns and racist French fascists, because they have those, too.
Ousmane Diakité (Sy) rose to become a star of French policing, a two-fisted tough-guy criminal division chief whom the force wants to use in recruiting films as the “face” of French law enforcement. Their first TV ad is a cartoon using him, which irks him no end as they’re plainly using him to pretend they’re more diverse than they are.
François Monge (Lafitte) is a dashing, to-the-manner-born elitist and womanizer whose family connections could only get him to the level of “captain.” Nobody wants to work with him, and he’s so unscrupulously on-the-make that he beds his assigned department psychotherapist in his opening scene.
Ousmane’s introductory scene has him trying to single-handedly bring down a criminally violent “monster” street fighter in an underground (literally) prize fight.
Finding half a corpse dangling from a high speed train entitles Monge to a share of the case, when it turns out he was A) shot first and B) on some new hyped-up drug that makes its addicts relentless and almost impossible to bring down.
So Monge and his superior, Diakité, set out for the provinces from when this decapitated corpse came, to mingle with the “traditional” local “patriots” who are fans of this white nationalist mayor (Dmitri Storoge) who just might be France’s fascist future.
Monge insists that the lovelorn single-dad Diakité hit on the female local cop (Izïa Higelin) they’re assigned to work with, with awkward consequences.
The banter (in French, or dubbed into English) is of the “That was SMALL of you,” “That was small of YOU” put-downs exchanged over public restroom urinals, “barbeque” jokes about the state of a (full frontal nude) half-corpse and the like.
The comedy comes from the rich and tactless Monge’s inability to question people without creating a scene (“Hey, I can be SENSITIVE.”) and the two-fisted Diakité having to try and punch his way out of messy situations.
The leads are engaging, but not nearly as much as they and the film they’re in assume they are.
There’s one big and showy cross country car chase and a bunch of brawls, generally involving the mouthy, prove-how-tough-I-am Diakité. The best effect in this is reconstructing — in 3-D slo-mo — how a motorcyclist came to be shot and sheared in half by a high speed train.
Those minor highlights will have to do because as timely as the plot and the predestined villain seem to be, as an action comedy the plot is preordained and the characters the simplest of archetypes. Everybody does pretty much what you expect them to do when you expect them to do it.
So yes, Leterrier may turn out to be the perfect “Fast X” filmmaker after all.
Rating: TV-MA, gruesome violence, played for laughs, profanity
Cast: Omar Sy, Laurent Lafitte, Dmitri Storoge and Izïa Higelin
Credits: Directed by Louis Leterrier, scripted by Stéphane Kazandjian. A Netflix release.
Running time: 2:00