Home » ‘Fast X’ Review – First Part of Finale Accelerates the Series

‘Fast X’ Review – First Part of Finale Accelerates the Series

by James Preston Poole
Vin Diesel stars as Dominic Toretto wearing a black vest and posing with his arms crossed while leaning on his new black charger in FAST X.

It’s a genuine miracle that Fast X exists in its final form. The first of a two-part (and now maybe three-part) finale to Universal’s highest-grossing franchise, the Fast Saga, hit a wall when initial director and franchise mainstay Justin Lin departed over creative differences just one week into filming. The move appeared to be a culmination of a building frustration over star/producer Vin Diesel’s much-rumored domineering control over the series. As the budget ballooned, director Louis Leterrier, famous for sturdy actioners like Jet Li’s Unleashed and Now You See Me, stepped up to the task of keeping up with the sequel’s ever-changing script. Given this situation, it would’ve been respectable if Fast X barely held together like a Frankenstein’s monster. However, against all odds, Fast X leaves its troubled development in the dust, delivering a high-octane, surprising, and utterly ridiculous entry for the better.

The tenth film in the series finds Dominic Toretto (Diesel) and his de-facto family still running automotive missions for Mr. Nobody’s top-secret government agency. More and more, Dom and his wife Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) enjoy a quieter life than their comrades to raise their son Brian Marcos (Leo Abelo Perry). As it always happens in these movies, the past comes home to roost. Dante (Jason Momoa), the son of Hernan Reyes, the Brazilian drug lord the crew dispatched in Fast Five, is here to exact revenge and tear apart Dom’s world once and for all. Framing the crew for an international incident, Dante sits back as the core cast splits off into separate groups to avoid the law.

But Dom tries to stay two steps ahead as Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Tej (Ludacris), Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel), and Han (Sung Kang) attempt to find a way to strike at Dante. Meanwhile, Letty ends up in a maximum security holding cell next to an enemy from the crew’s past… Cipher (Charlize Theron). In an odd way, the narrative of Fast X echoes Avengers: Infinity War of all things. Writers Dan Mazeau and Justin Lin (who still keeps his screenplay credit) set up the most lethal opponent yet, split up the characters, and attempt to honor almost every film in the Fast Saga while visiting an impressive roster of locations and setting the stage for a grand final chapter. If you’re longing for the days of the more grounded gearhead-aimed flicks of the franchise, it may seem absolutely preposterous that the series’ mythology has gotten to this point. And it is!

Vin Diesel as Dominic Toretto is embraced by his abuelita played by Rita Moreno as she gives him life and family advice in FAST X.
Vin Diesel & Rita Moreno in ‘Fast X’ courtesy of Univeral Pictures

There’s the rub; the dividing line between fans. You’re either all in on the exponentially silly storytelling or not. For those who are, Fast X furthers the blissful acceleration of the series into full soap opera territory. The earnest exploration of family is still here, and that said family keeps growing. Fresh blood like Daniela Melchior as the elusive street racer Isabel liven up the proceedings. No less than two new characters are also revealed to be related to established ones, including Brie Larson’s Tess. Characters change allegiances, get captured, escape, rinse and repeat – you know the drill at this point. But what makes this formula feel special this time is the scale and the consequence of it all. This is a Fast & Furious movie with ambition up to the stratosphere, unafraid to once again blow up the premise and make some shocking decisions.

No one’s accusing the Fast Saga of having excellent storytelling by any means. Its dialogue is a mixture of one-liners and exposition, and it’s unclear if any of the big swings this movie makes are going to stick because of the franchise’s shaky relationship to mortality. However, it’s now clear more than ever that the people involved know why the audience is here. Furthermore, the formula has been perfected. Every story is interesting. Roman, Tez, Han, and Ramsey bring the laughs and a sharp reintroduction to Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham). A subplot with Brian Marcos being babysat by his Uncle Jakob gives John Cena plenty of time to show off his charm. Elsewhere, Michelle Rodriguez and Charlize Theron have a previously untapped frenemy kind of chemistry that makes their story one of the standouts of the film as they are at each other’s throats constantly, physically, and mentally.

Vin Diesel’s Dom Toretto holds Fast X together in our A-plot that introduces one of the movie’s greatest assets: Jason Momoa as new foe Dante Reyes. The comparisons to the Joker are very much warranted, as Dante is a gleeful psychopath – a flamboyant lone wolf who wants not simply to kill the family, but to make them suffer. His reckless commitment to the most despicable acts possible brings a manic energy to the movie that courses through its veins even when he’s not on screen. In a series full of tragic villains, he’s pure evil and he loves it, which makes him the ultimate antagonist for the Fast Family. With his painted nails, wildly off-kilter fashion sense, and gallows humor, he’s the tornado that stirs up the chaos of Fast X

Jason Momoa stars as the new villain Dante as he raises both of his arms and prepares to detonate a bomb switch in FAST X.
Jason Momoa in ‘Fast X’ courtesy of Univeral Pictures

If there were any doubts about Louis Leterrier’s direction, put them to bed. He may not have the experience with the franchise that Justin Lin did or say the flair of James Wan, but what we have here is an extremely competent action filmmaker who knows how to keep things moving and how to build up to a sequence with pure adrenaline. Leterrier is the perfect guy to execute the high-level absurdity that Vin and co. are going for, and him directing Fast & Furious 11 can only mean better things with his prolonged involvement. Although some shots feature obvious green screen and the editing can be a little grating, that all melts away when the set pieces pop off the way they’re meant to be enjoyed. 

The big first-act action piece where the gang all try to stop a rolling bomb from hitting the Vatican in Rome is a showstopper. It marries the absurdism of the last few movies’ action with hefty weight, a sense of warped physics that’s been missing since Furious 7. Seeing the Family trying to stop this barrelling bomb with cars, and Michelle Rodriguez pulling some really fancy moves on a motorcycle, is what action cinema is all about. Also, there’s a lot of really excellent hand-to-hand combat and gunplay throughout Fast X, including a soon to be crowd-pleasing scene where we get to see what Cipher can really do. It’s very clear, though, that people are here for the farcical car action and Fast X is littered with those kinds of sequences, culminating in a bombastic bit of vehicular combat between Dom and Dante that takes them to a massive dam. 

When Fast X begins to reach its fever pitch, we’re left with a massive cliffhanger that’ll anger just as many as it’ll excite. That might be true of the whole movie. The audiences that checked out long ago are sure to leave the Fast & Furious saga behind for good. But if you see the vision and have embraced what this franchise has now become in its third decade of life, Fast X is a capital B Blockbuster that does all in its power to wring every drop of entertainment, even at the detriment of logic and tightness. It’s a messy movie, nearly collapsing under the weight of its own ambition. It does so many different things at once, with so much energy, that it feels like it’s about to catch fire trying to balance it. And that’s just fine!

Fast X is big dumb fun in its purest form, an example of a troubled production turning into a diamond under pressure. Guilty or not, there’s no mistaking the pleasure at the center of Fast X.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Fast X releases in theaters on May 19!

Follow writer James Preston Poole on Twitter: @JamesPPoole

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