The Fast & Furious films live in the ridiculous – or, at least they have predominantly for the last decade or so – and, at this point, that’s practically a compliment to call so. Whether you think they have evolved or devolved over time from their humble 2001 beginnings of car-jackings and street races is a matter of personal opinion, but, either way, they’ve undeniably placed their own stamp on the action genre with their (now) signature brand of physic-defying stunts.
And with Fast X, the inexplicable tenth entry in the Fast Saga (as it has been so dubbed), whatever bets were left are considerably off. And how!
Plausibility has always had a non-existent relationship with a Fast film, so there’s no reason it should start now, and when Fast X, once again, gives us a plethora of heroes and villains that switch agendas with no correlation to their previous embodiment (John Cena‘s villain-adjacent Jakob from F9 is now painted as a goofy uncle archetype) and devotes an entire bombastic sequence to an over-sized bomb rolling around Rome, destroying everything in its path on the way to eradicate the Vatican – which is arguably this film’s best moment – you know you’re in good hands because why would anything start making sense now?
As directed by Louis Letterier (Transporter 2, Now You See Me), Fast X reignites the series with a certain energy that most would agree seemed to depart momentarily with outings 8 (The Fate of the Furious) and 9 (F9). Vin Diesel‘s gravelly voice and penchant for sprouting the importance of “family” have grown exponentially over the last few entries, and Fast X is no different, but there was an almost bloated earnestness to how the material was approached. Ironically, Diesel is this film’s weakest link, despite being the narrative glue that holds all these vehicles together, and as he continues to devote himself to proceedings as if he’s one of the great thespians of his generation, his surrounding cast all lean in to how ludicrous everything truly is.
With 2011’s Fast Five oft-considered the peak of the series, it makes sense that Letterier would look to that film as Fast X‘s almost direct bloodline. That film culminated with a dazzling heist that saw a bank vault traipsed across Rio de Janeiro as Joaquim de Almedia‘s Hernan Reyes, a ruthless drug lord, pursued. At the time he felt like the series’ first legitimate villain and, quite ironically when you realise how he hasn’t been able to truly start his own franchise, Dwayne Johnson was introduced to the fray to further add some authorisation and imposing muscle to a film set that was already dripping in testosterone. Johnson was dubbed “franchise viagra”, and though he undoubtedly added a certain appeal to the films – and the behind-the-scenes loggerheading between himself and Diesel meant the lengths the films went to to keep them somehow together was amusing – it’s difficult to say he saved them in any way.
Johnson had his sweaty charm, but if anyone is saving this franchise it’s Jason Momoa. When viagra doesn’t work, just inject yourself a dosage of him, as his flamboyant, sexually ambiguous supervillain is truly the burst of chaotic energy these films have long needed to go beyond merely being entertaining from a spectacle point of view. The scope of action on hand has always been amusing, but Momoa’s Dante Reyes – yes, avenging son of our Fast Five big bad – adds a level of unpredictability and genuine terror that’s almost too good for a film of this ilk. With his hair adorned in double pony-tails, his nails a mismatched shade of purple and velvet scrunchies wrapped around his wrists, Momoa’s aesthetic doesn’t seem too far removed from his own brand, but it complements his peacocking nature. Every “whoop” he lets out and swan-like movement he makes the film is dialled up to 11, and when he’s not on screen he’s sorely missed.
That’s certainly not to say this monumental cast don’t have their cake and eat it too, it’s just Momoa clearly has a much healthier appetite. Dante wanting revenge for the slaying of his father is pretty by the books in terms of an action narrative, but the carnage is stretched out for 140 minutes because killing Diesel’s Dominic – or “Dommy boy”, as Dante likes to call him – would be too easy. Dante wants him to suffer, so it seems justified that Dom’s crew are all separated across the world on their own individual missions, making it easier for him to target them; that, or when you have Tyrese Gibson, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Nathalie Emmanuel, Michelle Rodriguez, Charlize Theron, Helen Mirren, Jason Statham, Sung Kang, Brie Larson, Scott Eastwood, Jordana Brewster, Alan Ritchson, and the aforementioned Cena on your call sheet, getting them in the same room might be too much of an ask.
With so many players it’s understandable that not all are going to get their moments to necessarily shine, and indeed the likes of Brewster, Eastwood, Statham and Mirren feel short-changed amongst the action, but with an 11th film already on hand – and, perhaps, a 12th if Diesel is to be believed – Fast X very much plays as if it’s the first half of a bigger story, meaning post-X arcs for their characters are likely; of the returning crew, Rodriguez and Theron probably have the most fun in that they finally get to put their combat skills to good use – against each other, no less – and their back-and-forth, whilst going completely against the fact that for the last two films Theron’s cyber-terrorist Cipher has been their sole enemy, is an amusing mix of banter and brutality.
Being 10 films in now, Fast X has not been designed in any manner for the uninitiated. Sure, Larson and Ritchson’s competing agents have a neat little exposition-catchup session early on in the piece to remind us of the timeline at play, but that’s not necessarily catering to audiences who have only casually viewed or shut out the series all together. Because Momoa is just so damn good, I’d want to recommend people see Fast X for him alone, but outside of his performance there’s hoards of nonsense that only certain family can suffer through.
With the film very much playing to its “We’re getting a sequel” mentality, Fast X‘s ending will likely shock those watching. Certain post-credit movements have been spoiled (I won’t repeat, however), but regardless of this knowledge, it really can’t help but add a level of excitement for a film that will begin on a tragic and exciting note. As long as Momoa returns, we’re in good hands, and, really, after so long you have to hand it to the Fast team for pulling a left-hand turn so unexpectedly when, no matter how high or far the road went, we always figured they’d stick to the right.
THREE AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Fast X is now screening in Australian theatres.