Look, for 2 decades now we know exactly the type of film we are getting when a new installment of the Fast Saga is announced and released. The latest entry in the main series titled Fast X and 11th film overall that has spun off a quarter mile stretch of highway delivers exactly on their promise. Family, explosions, surface level character attachment and a whole mess of nonsensical science be damned action sequences that get more outrageous with each entry. If further proof is needed to suspend all disbelief at the door remember F9: The Fast Saga, two of the beloved family members that have been around since the very beginning went to space, in a Pontiac Fiero stitched together with duct tape and lived to remember it.
If by any chance you’re new to this franchise, walking in unburdened, that’s right, a mechanic and a former inmate got launched into space for a reason that never mattered, nor did it push the barely there plot forward. But if you’re seeing Fast X, chances are you’ve committed to this journey for 2 decades and have accepted the now self-aware parody of itself shenanigans that ensue.
Before that, a human man altered the course of a missile shot from a submarine with his foot while driving at top speed on a sea of ice. Is it fun to get sucked into the escapism of it all, absolutely, that type of nonsense is what has been promised all of these years later. And still people line up indulging in a film to see what can top going to space. My money is still on time travel by the time of franchise end but at this point, its anyone’s fair share at a guess.
I can go on and on about the absurdity of the franchise until my gas tank is coasting on E, but Fast X takes a half step back from the nonsensical and kicks off the beginning of the end of the road for this franchise and the fast family as we know it. When the time comes to pull the cars into their garages and the final corona is finished, it will be bittersweet, an entire generation grew up on these films, evolving with them, sharing in the spoils of victory and the agonizing defeat and loss of valuable members. Whether anyone wants to admit it or not the Fast Saga provides comfort, were invited into this tight knit family and made to feel like we belong right there with them. If Dom could, he would risk life and limb for any o us.
Fast X like majority of the models that have come before it string together connective tissue to set the groundwork for the current film. Some of these connective strings are stretched well beyond the breaking point of believability, introducing us to new characters that have never once been whispered about previously. Going way back to Fast Five (the best film in the series and the film that transitioned the franchise into the behemoth it is today), after Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker, appearing in archival footage) take out Rio de Janeiro drug lord Hernan Reyes (Luis Da Silva), his son, Dante (Jason Momoa) has vowed to seek out Dom and his family to get revenge on the loss of his father.
As far as plots go, that’s as bare bones as it gets. One by one, Dante targets Dom’s family, isolating them and therefore cutting off their strength. Dante’s main goal is to go after Little B (Leo Abelo Perry) assuming multiple members would attempt to protect him, and they do. Both Mia (Jordana Brewster) and the newly reformed ally Jakob (John Cena) do everything they can to protect their nephew Little Brian from both Dante and the Agency now led by Aimes (Alan Ritchson) after taking over for Mr. Nobody.
Regarding the rest of the team, Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Tej (Christopher Bridges), Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel), and Han (Sung Kang) are all falsely led to Rome for a job where one thing after another goes wrong and the team must go underground and seek out Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) for assistance. Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) is the only member that gets incarcerated after both her and Dom attempt to stop the bomb from going off at the Vatican, prompting Tess (Brie Larson), the daughter of Mr. Nobody to break her out.
Every Fast Saga film that has come out has doubled down on the massive ensemble cast while the actual plot has remained consistently poor. Majority of the newer characters that appear have no attachment formed to them and not much development has been spared. To be fair, we don’t go to a Fast Saga film for the plot, it’s not Shakespeare and it doesn’t need to be but after F9 the fatigue has settled in, and the franchise has run its course – the exit ramp is quickly coming up on the left. That doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy the ride given how many death-defying stunts are present throughout Fast X. Im surprised the entire film isn’t just one action sequence. Maybe that is being saved for the final film.
About halfway through, Fast X takes a brief pause from its mismanaged pacing to go back in time to what made the franchise what it is. A street race but not for pink slips. 4 cars all lined up with each driver looking to their left and right as the engines rev up. It’s here we meet another newcomer Isabel (Daniela Melchior) a street racer who I’m sure will be back in the next installment. For its simplicity, this sequence instantly becomes the film’s most memorable moment as a celebration of the franchise’s roots.
Nothing will ever come close to a Fiero in space and Fast X and director Louis Leterrier after stepping in for Justin Lin takes the step back from the disbelief. Only some of the stunts performed though mildly entertaining are head scratching for the mortality of the characters involved. To avoid specifics, one stunt involves a crane, and another involves a dam. And after the proverbial dust settles from both, there isn’t a scratch to be had, a burn mark from the intense heat (please see The Fate of the Furious), a trickle of blood or a sprained or broken bone. No, with every sunt, each more elaborate and death defying than the previous, the characters involved simply walk away like nothing happened.
What started out as a Point Break hand-me-down has turned into superhuman like abled characters. Dom can stomp the ground and cause a parking structure to collapse, he can grab hold of two chain links and bring down the foundation of a building and now he can lift a two-ton car with his bare hand (singular) among a sea of bullets being shot at him.
All of that aside, the main draw to Fast X and its saving grace can all be credited to Jason Momoa’s brilliant villain portrayal. Much has been said about Dante being compared to the late Heath Ledger’s Joker performance in The Dark Knight and I can’t help but think of Michael Caine’s monologue about some men simply wanting the world to burn. He can’t be bought, bullied, reasoned or negotiated with. That’s Dante, he’s flamboyant, unpredictable and dangerous and Momoa obliges us all with an outstanding villain, the one this franchise was desperate for.
Without a strong performance from Jason Momoa, Fast X would only amount to being static noise and a whole lot of explosions. The franchise has followed in Marvel’s footsteps of bringing about a fake death universe – several key characters who have been presumed dead have magically resurrected which leads me to believe that one of the death’s to the main cast is not absolute. Performance wise, there isn’t much to write home about, these characters, 10 installments in are lived in and familiar but along with Momoa, John Cena also provides scene stealing charm and right on time humor delivery.
Screenplay By: Dan Mazeau & Justin Lin
Story By: Dan Mazeau, Justin Lin & Zach Dean
Directed By: Louis Leterrier
Music By: Brian Tyler
Cinematography: Stephen F. Windon
Starring: Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Christopher Bridges, John Cena, Nathalie Emmanuel, Jordana Brewster, Sung Kang, Scott Eastwood, Daniela Melchior, Alan Ritchson, Jason Momoa, Jason Statham, Brie Larson, Helen Mirren
Edited By: Dylan Highsmith, Kelly Matsumoto, Laura Yanovich & Corbin Mehl
Release Date: May 19, 2023
Running Time: 2 Hours 21 Minutes
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 55%
Based On: Characters by Gary Scott Thompson