Review: “Fast X”

Nine movies and a trilogy? That’s the direction the Fast and Furious franchise is turning toward, as it begins heading down the long road to wrapping up the series that began 22 years ago as a thriller about street racing. We’ve heard this before; the series’ supposed tenth and final film was soon announced to be split into two, and mere weeks before the premiere of Fast X, we learned that that film would actually be the first part of a trilogy. That’s a lot of miles still to go for a series that has built a reputation on continuously topping what it did before, and seemed to have reached the apex of that with its previous installment, F9, when it launched a couple of its characters into space. At this point, is the series just spinning its proverbial wheels?

The answer to that is a little bit yes, and a little bit no. Fast X, which is directed by franchise newcomer Louis Leterrier (whose previous directing credits include 2008’s The Incredible Hulk and 2013’s Now You See Me and who replaced original director Justin Lin a week into filming), builds the bulk of its conflict off of 2011’s Fast Five, frequently heralded as the series’ best installment and the one that really kicked off the turn away from street racing and toward globe-trotting espionage. Jason Momoa joins the cast as Dante Reyes, the son of Fast Five’s drug lord baddie Hernan Reyes, and—you guessed it—he’s looking for vengeance against Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his crew. With his family scattered across the world—his son Little B (Leo Abelo Perry) at home, his wife Letty Ortiz (Michelle Rodriguez) being held in a nondescript location, and Roman, Tej, and Ramsey (Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, and Nathalie Emmanuel) sent off on a wild goose chase in Rome—and Dante framing them all to appear guilty in the eyes of the Agency they are typically allied with, Dom is forced to make some tough choices, and realize that he can’t save everyone all the time.

Vin Diesel as Dominic Toretto and Daniela Melchior as Isabel Neves in “Fast X”

Fast X still delivers on the massive, logic-defying action set pieces that are a hallmark of the franchise—just look at an early scene in which Dom stop a giant bomb rolling through the streets of Rome by launching his car off a bridge into a crane, like a super-sized pinball game—but it also manages to pull back a bit, bringing the series closer to its roots with more scenes centering around cars and racing and playing out more drama among the characters. It’s still quite a silly popcorn fare, not to mention visually unappealing (from the gigantic location title cards to the unnecessarily stylized subtitles) and the somber tone indicated by the film’s poster (which pictures Dom, alone, head bowed and clutching a cross against a black background) isn’t really manifested in the movie. Momoa is greatly entertaining as the film’s giddily unhinged villain, gleeful in a way that is different from any of the series’ previous characters (one scene in particular feels like it was lifted from another movie entirely), but it’s sometimes difficult to take him too seriously, even when his character makes some cold, violent moves. And yet, as meme-ified as it has become, Fast X, like its predecessors, very sincerely upholds the importance of family and the relationship these characters hold with each other.

But there are perhaps too many characters popping in and out of Fast X, and it’s an issue not only for this movie, but likely will be as the story (which is not tidily wrapped up here at all) continues over the course of the next two films. Besides the returning principal cast, Fast X introduces a host of new faces, while also bringing back familiar ones who have taken part in the series before, like Jason Statham’s opponent-turned-ally Deckard Shaw. For the characters making their return to the series, their presence feels a little fan-servicey, even a flashback that utilizes archival footage of late series co-lead Paul Walker (who was so beautifully bid farewell to in 2015’s Furious 7). But none of the new characters are particularly compelling. Daniela Melchior, for instance, plays Isabel, the sister of Dom’s former girlfriend and mother of his son Elena, but while her inclusion adds another emotional layer to Dom’s arc in this movie, she never feels like a fully formed person; she’s just there to serve his story. Brie Larson, meanwhile, is also in this for some reason, majorly phoning it in as Tess, the daughter of Mr. Nobody (played by Kurt Russell in previous films) who tries to help Dom and his team from inside the agency, and she’s primarily defined by a girl power persona that’s so cloying, it’s frustratingly clear that there were no women on this movie’s writing team. Those things aren’t enough to bring the whole movie down, but they are enough to take away time from our established group of heroes, threatening to undermine the narrative’s emotional through-line as a result.

Jason Momoa as Dante Reyes in “Fast X”

Likely even viewers who have religiously watched every Fast and Furious movie won’t notice, but Fast X carries its illogical action beats over to its characters, making choices and changes that don’t make a lot of sense compared to what came before. Take, for instance, John Cena’s Jakob Toretto, who is suddenly the fun uncle to Little B after serving as a serious threat in F9. Cena is much more adept at comedy than drama so it isn’t an unwelcome change, but it is one that comes a little out of nowhere. The series is clearly losing steam in the final lap, even for those like me who have stuck around and largely enjoyed it for this long, but it’s far from alienating either. Fast X isn’t going to bring new fans into the fold, but for those who are already in this thing, it still delivers on the cheesy humor, ridiculous action scenes, family barbeques, and less-than-subtle Corona product placement that we’ve come to know and love.

Fast X is now playing in theaters. Runtime: 141 minutes. Rated PG-13.

One thought on “Review: “Fast X”

  1. I just can’t bring myself to watching this. I remember several years ago, I made it a point to marathon all six “Fast and Furious” movies because part 6 was premiering in theaters. That was PART 6! They made 4 more?!?! With just the 6 that I saw, I still think Fast Five was, by far, the most fun, seamlessly executed, and slightly believable. Now, it looks like an MCU franchise of disbelief. I commend you for seeing this. With how little time I have now, I think I’ll pass. Happy week to you!

    Liked by 1 person

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