Preposterously defiant of the laws of physics and simultaneously so fun – the 'Fast and Furious' movies have established themselves from humble beginnings to a massive action blockbuster franchise. From Vin Diesel possibly gaining earth-bending powers ("The street always wins" in 'Fast & Furious 7') to launching Ludacris and Tyrese Gibson into space in a car ('Fast and Furious 9'), the sheer imaginative landscape of the franchise only fuelled by their ever-growing budgets has time and time again served blockbuster spectacle.
So of course, when I had the chance to tune into 'Fast X', the beginning of the end of the road (allegedly) for this family of car racers slash superspies slash superheroes, I said, "Yes please!"
After Justin Lin - veteran 6x 'Fast and Furious' director - exited the franchise early into the filming of 'Fast X', the keys were thrust to Louis Leterrier to take over. While I am unfamiliar with Letterier's recent work, I particularly enjoyed his film from 10 years ago, 'Now You See Me', which also defies all logic by substituting spectacle. And so I entered 'Fast X' with cautious hope. Can he top the 20+ years of films that came before?
'Fast X' sees the family torn apart to face an all-new threat years in the making - Dante Reyes, played campily by Jason Momoa doing a Joker impression. With a handy retcon to 'Fast Five', Dante is in the mix and coming for revenge for what the family did to his father, Hernan Reyes. Now if you forget what they did, here is a quick recap: the crew crashed through a police station, harpooned Reye's huge safe, dragged it through the streets of Rio, and caused a significant number of casualties.
Dante is determined to torture Dom and his family before of course killing Dom, because one should "never accept death when suffering is owed." What ensues is city-wide destruction, irresponsible parenting (Dom's son Brian is a very good car drifter. He is also like, nine years old), kidnapping, and extreme collateral damage. Jason Momoa's Dante is entirely unhinged, evil and very unserious - making for one of the most entertaining villains in the franchise, albeit occasionally stumbling into the trap of tropes he is parodying.
Leterrier serves up a fast-paced three hours, with an explosive opening threading footage from 'Fast Five' setting a precedent that he races to top with every new sequence. Rolling a giant bomb down the streets of Rome, street racing in Brazil, flying a tiny plane from a bigger plane, racing down an exploding dam... Bigger is better. The film also gives us a little wink-wink here and there as things get more ludicrous – Alan Ritchardson's Agent Aimes stares at footage of past 'Fast' crew hijinks and family barbeques before deeming them a "cult with cars" that violate the laws of God and gravity to Brie Larson's Tess.
But while the action sequences in 'Fast X' ramp up to entertaining extreme speeds, the character arcs shrink to give way for the humongous action. Surprisingly, I found myself disappointed with the lack of familia - not of screentime or the sheer number, but their interaction. To orchestrate a setup for a sequel (or two!), the film forces the characters into multiple factions, with much of the legacy cast sharing few to no scenes together. While this has worked for some big superhero team-up movies like 'Avengers: Infinity War' with the heroes off in mini-group adventures, it doesn't quite as well work for the 'Fast' Saga, whose charm has been built on their group interactions.
Surprisingly, I found myself disappointed with the lack of familia - not of screentime or the sheer number, but their interaction.
With the runtime split between so many subplots, the biggest standout and most charming part of the film is undeniably Dom's son Brian, played wonderfully by the young Leo Abelo Perry and his chemistry with fun uncle John Cena's Jakob, who is entrusted to care for him while Dom is on the run.
Legacy cast Han (Sung Kang), Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Tej (Ludacris) and Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) go on their own fun romp. At the same time, Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) and Cipher (Charlize Theron) have a subplot featuring hand-to-hand combat sequences, as seen in trailers. Newcomers Brie Larson as Tess and Daniela Melchior as Isabel – a street racer with a key link to familia - are both so likeable you wish to see them more.
The engaging dynamics between groups of characters were such heavy standouts that every time the film cut back to Dom himself, I wished we would return to one of the other groups who seemed to bring the earnest personality that makes this movie franchise so loved.
The reason the characters are split up and never reunited is dangled in front of us the entire film – of course, it's a setup for the upcoming grand finale. Everything in the movie is in anticipation of what's next, be it scribbling out characters from the page (with ambiguity on their return!) or adding them back in. So as the film hurtles to an explosively bizarre cliffhanger involving lots of fire, cars, and said cars on fire, a core chunk of the film feels missing as we smash to the credits.
I found my eyes glued to the screen for two and a half hours, the same way I would not be able to peel my eyes from a terribly sped-up high-pitched episode of 'The Simpsons' edited above a 'Subway Surfers' gameplay on TikTok. Overwhelming, entertaining, amusing, disappointing, 'Fast X' is a whiplash of spectacle that drags you with it so far that you have no choice but to ask to see 'Fast X2' ('FastX: Endgame'? 'F11'? 'Furious 11'? 'Fast and Furious 11'?) now.