Review – Fast X

From stealing DVD players and racing in the streets of Los Angeles in 2001, to now in 2023 partaking in black-ops covert spy missions all around the world (when they’re not on the run from various law enforcement agencies or double-crossing bad guys), the Fast and Furious ‘family’ have been one-upping their insane adventures and raking in billions at the box office for 11 movies over 20-plus years now. The evolution of this franchise, of which it’s most noticeable turning point into the more action-fuelled blockbuster being 2011’s Fast Five, has been an unexpectedly interesting, unpredictable, and at times thoroughly entertaining, trajectory to watch play out.

But after a boring misfire with The Fate of the Furious and not entirely successfully regaining its exciting entertainment value with Fast and Furious 9, it seems appropriate that the latest bombastic, loud and ridiculous entry into the series, Fast X, has been touted as the first part of a two part — wait, Vin Diesel said what at the red carpet premiere? This finale is a trilogy now? Well, fasten your seat belts, because there’s a lot more fast and furious action to come, and if it’s anything like Fast X, fans who have stuck by this franchise for over two decades now might actually be in for a pretty damn fun ride!

Opening ten years ago during the events of the Brazilian set finale of Fast Five’s exciting climatic vault heist, Fast X introduces Dante (Jason Momoa), the son of that film’s main bad guy, Herman Reyes. With newly shot footage intercutting with scenes from Fast Five, Dominic Torretto (Vin Diesel) and his crews brazen and destructive car chase through the streets of Rio De Janeiro are seen from Dante’s point of view, leading up to the brutal death of his father at the hands of Dom.

Back in the present day, Dom, Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) and Dom’s son, Brian, attempt to live a quiet, family-first life in their LA home, even though Dom and his ever-expanding crew of racers, misfits and rocket-engineers still are co-ordinating international espionage missions on the regular. The latest mission, being led for the first time by foot-in-mouth syndrome specialist Roman (Tyrese), doesn’t require the driving services of Dom or Letty, splitting the team up for a small crew to travel to Rome for what should be a good intel led, easy heist. But, once the crew leaves for their mission, an unexpected visitor and long-time enemy of Dom arrives warning that the Rome heist is an ambush created by a much more sinister enemy. An enemy who is seeking the suffering of Dom and his family for the pain caused by the death of his father. Dante has emerged ten years later to take everything that Dom cares about away from him.

Newcoming director to the franchise, Louis Letterier (The Incredible Hulk), solidly picks up the mantle left behind by 5-time Fast and Furious director Justin Lin, to create a 2 hour and 20 minute movie that is an absolutely visceral, unapologetic, NOS fuelled thrill ride that some may see as a pure assault on the senses, and other will take as a damn good, if not completely brainless, fun time at the movies. There is a solid amount of insanely ridiculous action in Fast X, ranging from exciting throwback car races that bring a great sense of nostalgia back from the earlier films of the series, to utterly physics defying, literally unbelievable, explosively relentless action set pieces that continue to one-up the insanity of the last few films action highlights.

Letterier uses practical effects, such as cars wire-flipping at high velocities with gasoline charged fireballs under them, with some completely necessary CGI to form these exciting moments. And even though some of that CGI elements could be cartoonish in comparison to other action films of this calibre, the cartoonish nature of what is actually happening to cars and people during these moments makes those noticeably visual moments forgivable. It is the electric atmosphere of the action scenes of Fast X that add to its over-the-top tone in such an enjoyably fun way. A way that seems like the franchise has been missing for the last few films.

While the action plays a huge role in setting that fun tone, a lot of the credit must go to arguably the best villain Fast and Furious has seen ever, in Jason Momoa’s unhinged, terrifying, and absolutely hilarious Dante. Momoa is completely chewing up the scenery every second he is on screen as Dante. The flamboyancy of his costumes, demeanour and sassy one-lines never misses a beat, often delivering the biggest laughs throughout the film. Momoa completely understood his assignment of injecting so much life and energy into Fast X, while still being a menacing force for Dom to take on. Having Dante’s story be connected to Fast Five through his father’s death gives a genuine motive for his actions, something a lot of previous villains have lacked (or writers have stretched for to get), and that adds a decent amount of substance to his character, making him a truly entertaining presence on screen. Plus, it helps seeing how much fun Momoa is also having by playing this truly derange psychopath.

Other newcomers to the franchise include Brie Larson and Alan Ritchson as the latest ‘insert US military/government body here’ agents going after Dom and his ‘family’. Both are introduced in a very on-the-nose exposition scene that ultimately acts as a recap of the entire story over the ten movies so far for the audience, with a solid amount of meta commentary from Larson and Ritchson’s characters about how ridiculous the trajectory of this series has been. On paper, it does sound pretty lame, but in the film, it works well and provides a decent chuckle. It’s moments like this that open up the self-serious nature of the Fast and Furious films that leaned into and delivers more of the fun that made Fast X enjoyable.

The old-faithful cast, including Tyrese, Ludacris, Jordana Brewster, John Cena, Jason Statham, Charlize Theron and Sung Kang (just to name a few), all get their moments to shine, albeit quite sporadically in this behemoth of a story. While their storylines do play a part in the overall narrative, the focus is less on them to propel the story, and more so to being the comedic side kicks going on side quests. It’s not abnormal for these characters to appear on screen, go away from 20 minutes, and then when the movie returns to their plot, being surprised by remembering they were actually in the film in the first place. There are a lot of characters, and a lot of plots, in Fast X. And while it definitely fills it’s long runtime to the brim, it does feel quite clustered at points, which isn’t a new criticism for the series.

Fast X’s biggest flaw is unfortunately it’s main man, Dom Toretto. Dom’s story and Vin Diesel’s acting feels like they belong in an entirely separate film. The overly melodramatic, soap opera storyline, mixed with an overly sincere and odd over-acting/under-acting hybrid performance from Diesel, contribute to the scenes in the film that drag on the most. Aside from the next-level insanity of some of the action that Dom takes a part in during Fast X, the ‘too-serious’ commitment from Diesel is a complete mismatch the humour and fun that bookends those scenes. It’s been an issue for the last few films, and whether it’s Dom’s anger about his family being in danger, or the car-related nuggets of wisdom he has for every single person he meets, it feels like the character is running on empty and doing laps around the same track he’s been doing for 20 years now.

If anyone had lost interest in the Fast and Furious franchise over the last films, or even newcomers and casual fans for that matter, Fast X stands on its own legs as a great re-entry in to the series. But most importantly, long time fans will be rewarded for sticking with it. Even when it’s bogged down by the Diesel centric drama, Fast X wins the audience’s excitement back with a loud, bombastic, ridiculous, adrenaline filled, action packed and genuinely hilarious ride, that is anchored down by Jason Momoa bringing the best villain to the franchise ever, beginning the journey to the end of the Fast and Furious road.

Fast X is in cinemas from May 18, courtesy of Universal Pictures.

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Nick L'Barrow
Nick L'Barrow
Nick is a Brisbane-based film/TV reviewer. He gained his following starting with his 60 second video reviews of all the latest releases on Instagram (@nicksflicksfix), before launching a monthly podcast with Peter Gray called Monthly Movie Marathon. Nick contributes to Novastream with interviews and reviews for the latest blockbusters.

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