Big and bombastic, Fast X is an over-the-top extravaganza of callbacks, absurd situations, and family… but what’s so wrong with that?
The latest installment of the Fast and Furious series has its detractors, even among our own Cinapse staff and long time Fast supporters, but this particular moviegoer and film writer remains a staunch and supportive member of the “Family”. In fact, it’s hard to believe that people taking issue with the film’s “vibe” or incongruences in tone were ever truly fans to begin with – unless they bailed somewhere around 4 or 5, where the series went from good (semi-serious action films) to great (over-the-top insanity). Fast X takes the madness we’ve come to expect and keeps it going, replacing going to space with Jason Momoa in eyeliner and outfits from the closet of Seth Rollins.
In what feels like a truly successful audition for a future role as The Joker, Jason Momoa as Dante is the most gleefully evil villain the series. It’s fair to say that his performance feels different than anything the series has done before, but it’s a logical progression within the framework of Fast world. In the framework presented in the latter entries of this franchise, a Joker-sequence sociopath is the much needed next step in the progression of enemies that face the Family and the Agency. In fact, a more standard villain with less on-screen charisma and a less over-the-top maniacal demeanor would have likely been a step backwards in a lot of ways. For the series to continue on its path, it has to keep getting bigger and more eccentric. Once a series “jumps the shark”, it has to continue to jump bigger and most ferocious sharks or it must be shut down. Momoa’s Dante is that bigger, more ferocious shark.
Beyond the fantastic villainous performance from Momoa, we’re treated to appearances from virtually every major character in the series. Callbacks to plot points of previous entries are also relatively abundant. Yes, it’s crowd service, for sure – but, in a film like this, it’s welcome. If you haven’t come to expect characters to be resurrected and references to other installments in the franchise by now, I’m not sure what you’ve been watching. The blend of these familiar elements with the new villain and a couple of fun twists creates a film that feels much more breezy and easy than it should as nearly two and a half hours.
One other fantastic highlight is the chemistry between Don and Letty’s son Brian (Leo Abelo Perry) and his uncle Jakob (John Cena). Leaning into his comedic timing and action chops, Cena’s Jakob is on point and highly entertaining from the moment he hits the screen. His chemistry in the scenes where he is partnered up with Brian, or Little B, is exceptional. Additional exploration of this relationship would have been welcome – but, as it stands, the buddy relationship of the two was captivating whenever the two were on screen.
If there’s one wet blanket in the film, it’s Vin Diesel. While he’s long become the least interesting character on screen – at least for the past few installments – he seems disinterested in a few scenes. Hints of later era Bruce Willis levels of investment in the performance feel like the most apt comparison. While Dom is the glue of the film series, he’s become one of the least exciting or memorable characters, yet this is the first time where it seemed like Diesel himself has realized this fact and doesn’t quite seem to be giving the performances his all.
Yet, even with Vin’s weak performance, the film works so well because Dom remains separate from the bulk of the cast (based on stories from the set, it seems that may be because few people actually enjoy working with him) and his scenes rarely overstay their welcome.
Everyone else truly plays their part and does so well. The team of Tej (Chris “Ludacris” Bridges), Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel), and Han (Sung Kang) are given a good amount of screen time and they work so well together. Encountering old and new faces, the group is focused on a central goal while on the run together. Their bickering and working together alike all makes for truly entertaining scenes. Along with them, we have other story threads involving Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), Mr. Nobody’s daughter Tess (Brie Larson), Cipher (Charlize Theron), new Agency leader Aimes (Alan Ritchson), and a few others. And, much like in previous films, the concurrent threads all find a way to come together in the end.
If you’re one of the detractors and you’re not on board… that’s okay. But as for me, I’m still Family and I can’t wait for the next (and final?) installment of the Fast series.