REVIEW — ”Fast X”
The Fast & Furious Saga spins its wheels with Fast X, another loud, dumb, crash-tastrophe that takes audiences on a bumpy and bonkers ride through some of its greatest hits (and misses).
For this outing, the team is hunted by vengeful Dante (Jason Momoa), apparent son of the bad guy from Fast Five. Out for revenge, Dante targets Dominic Toretto’s (Vin Diesel) ever-expanding Family in an attempt to make him suffer for the death of his father. His reign of terror includes infiltrating the Agency, kidnapping Dom’s son, and branding the team as international terrorists for an attempted bombing at the Vatican.
Scattered across the globe, the team must align with former foes to stay alive. Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Tej (Chris “Ludacris” Bridges), Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel), and Han (Sung Kang) go underground to seek out help from Shaw (Jason Statham), while Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) is imprisoned with a wounded Cipher (Charlize Theron).
The film clearly features a stacked cast that includes returning franchise favorites as well as new characters. Brie Larson joins as Tess, a rogue agent and daughter of the M.I.A. Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell), while new Agency head Aimes (Alan Ritchson) provides a rundown of the entire franchise that sufficiently sums up the series as “a cult with cars” where everyone becomes family. Daniela Melchior also stars as a Brazilian street racer with ties to Dom’s past.
John Cena’s fun Uncle Jakob is a highlight of Fast X. After taking on the villain role in F9, the forgiven half-brother comes to the rescue of Dom’s 8-year-old son, Little Brian (Leo Abelo Perry), who becomes the ultimate target of Dante’s vengeance. The pair embark on a fun side mission that involves planes, gliders, and a Mad Max-style cannon car.
However, the only thing keeping this silly joyride from being completely redundant is a flowery and flamboyant performance from Momoa as the film’s villain. The actor chews up every scene he is in with his over-the-top, oddly flirty, and devilishly psychotic antics.
The film’s pedigree is further enhanced by the brief appearance of Dame Helen Mirren as well as the inclusion of the legendary Rita Moreno as Dom and Mia’s Abuelita Toretto. They both essentially play the same role as consoling consul to a discouraged Dom.
Despite all the familiar friendly and formerly-fiends-but-now-family faces, the film’s biggest stars are its stunts and ‘splosions. Directed by Louis Leterrier from a screenplay co-written by original director Justin Lin (who bounced days into production), the film prioritizes explosive action set-pieces over substantial story and, therefore, takes many creative liberties. Death, logic, gravity, distance, weight: anything can be retconned on the fly or explained away in a throw away line as a character dodges a flurry of bullets while in a high-speed motorcycle chase through an Italian city. Also, Dom can lift a car with one hand.
Because character deaths have a history of not being permanent in the Fast universe, any scenes of sacrifice or loss are undercut and devoid of emotion. We simply expect to see the character return in the next film. The characters of Letty and Han have both died and come back, lowering the emotional stakes for the series.
Oddly, the only character that cannot truly return is Paul Walker’s Brian; however, the series chose to keep his character alive in tribute to the late actor. Unfortunately, this move tarnishes Brian’s loyalty and dependability when every returning “dead” character and their literal mom shows up to help Dom fight for his family. It makes you ask, “Where’s Brian?” To which the film offers a weak excuse that he is “retired” or watching the kids. Meanwhile, his wife and Dom’s sister Mia (Jordana Brewster) can pop in and out of L.A. whenever she wants? Again, flimsy logic. The truth is the series should have ended several films ago, but didn’t because $$$.
In Fast X, the series leaves common sense behind and fully transforms from a gritty street racing drama into a superhero car fantasy packed with implausibly perplexing vehicular stunts that defy gravity and reality. Seriously, the series is thisclose to becoming Transformers. I half expected the Autobots to show up and save the day. However, audiences, by now, should be optimally primed to leave their brains in the car and put it in cruise control for some macho, popcorn-munching, action.
The tagline of the film warns that the end of the road begins with Fast X, now rumored to be the first chapter in a finale trilogy. While the tenth installment of the successful franchise set ups a grand finale, features the series’ most colorfully entertaining villain, and reveals a few surprising twists and cameos, Fast X will ultimately blur into the others as one long, mindless cinematic crashterpiece. 3/5
Rated PG-13 with a running time of 2 hours, 21 minutes, Fast X opens in theaters May 19, 2023.
Stick around for a single mid-credits scene.