Fast X, the tenth film in the Fast and Furious series proper, has got to be the dumbest fucking movie I’ve ever seen in my whole godforsaken life. Just powerfully dumb. Big, brash, loud, and so mired in retcons and on-set controversy that it’s no wonder the resulting product is absolute nonsense. I’ve often joked that I’d love to find a Fast noob and show them just the first and most recent entries to see if they can even begin to fill in the blanks between the two, but I’ve never followed through for fear of someone’s head exploding right in front of me. Be it the impossible physics, the aggressive messaging about family (despite the ever rotating members of said family), or the weird Christianity-based moral code of a man who has violently killed no fewer than a thousand people, it’s a wonder that we moviegoers keep putting up with this series that absolutely refuses to die (much like the multiple characters within who have died explicitly, only to be returned to our mortal coil with the swift stroke of an intrepid writer’s pen).
Yet we do. Why? Because despite being, again, the dumbest fucking movie I have ever seen in my entire godforsaken life, Fast X, the first part of the gigantic franchise’s closing trilogy, is the most fun I’ve had at the movies in quite some time. Yes, it’s powerfully dumb. Like, “needs to be reminded to chew its food” dumb, but it ain’t stupid. And better yet, it’s earnest about its dumbness, and it’s happy to revel in delivering exactly what we expect from Vin Diesel’s magnum opus that took a bunch of street racing DVD-player thieves and morphed them into a diverse squad of international super agents with an inclination to accomplish 100% of the tasks assigned to them through the usage of cars. Are there easier ways to defuse a gigantic, rolling bomb before it blows up the Vatican? Sure, but none are as fun as treating the entire city of Rome as a Rocket League arena.
Our tale begins with a retcon. Remember back in Fast Five when Dom and The Fambly (complete with a handful of members who are no longer part of The Fambly for a variety of reasons) dragged a gigantic safe all around the streets of Rio de Janeiro, killing hundreds of innocent people that we prefer not to think about in the process? Well apparently, the guy who owned the safe has a son, and now the son (Jason Momoa) is pissed. He has made it his mission, like so many bad guys before him (literally all of whom have become good guys), to dismantle The Fambly once and for all. Luckily for The Fambly, they now have the full support of The Agency, an agency that gets them whatever gadgets and cars they need, while also providing international travel and a magical way of never having to deal with jet lag or the passage of time. But just as this new villain, Dante, makes his mission clear, The Agency finally decides that The Fambly have killed way too many people, and need to be stopped from killing any more. This leaves us in a place we’ve been many times before: the good guys and the bad guys are after The Fambly, and now they have to split up and do action things until either the bad guy becomes good or the good guy says “you’ve earned yourself 24 hours to run, Toretto, but after that, I’m comin’ for ya.”
As this franchise races forward, a splitting up of The Fambly has become all too common, partially because there are so many characters to serve, and partially because Vin Diesel is reportedly not a lot of fun to work with on set. But since these movies have gotten so insanely grand in scope, it’s barely noticeable that The Fambly doesn’t really even seem to hang out anymore. More noticeable is the fact that Brian O’Conner, played by the late Paul Walker, is still very much alive in the film’s canon, but doesn’t seem to ever want to hang out, or even be present in his own home. This is made doubly clear by the inclusion of Dom’s son, Baby Brian, who by the end of Fast X racks up a pretty impressive kill-count of his own (for Fambly and Jesus).
Here in the back half of the franchise, these films live and die by their directors. The original director of Fast X, Justin Lin, quit after just a few days on set (it is largely assumed this is because of Vin Diesel acting like a dingus). His replacement, Louis Leterrier, is a good fit for the material, having handled plenty of shiny actioners in the past. After literally going to space in F9: The Fast Saga, this entry brings things back down to Earth (to a degree), and it is evident in the action. The focal point here is, as expected, cars. For the most part what we’re seeing is practical car stunts enhanced by digital effects. The series has typically prided itself in using actual stunt driving wherever possible, although some things are simply impossible (except through faith, as Dom would surely assert). Fast X delivers on the action in a big way. The auto-tomfoolery is crisply shot, cleanly edited, and quite cleverly staged (the hand-to-hand combat, conversely, is a mixed bag of satisfying fisticuffs and nonsensical gobbledygook). We made peace with the extremely loose physics many movies ago, and the film has a lot of fun with such freedom. One agent of The Agency, played here by a game Alan Ritchson, calls out the lack of physical consistency when explaining his distaste for The Fambly to an equally game Brie Larson, who must owe somebody money. In doing so, he highlights one of the Fast Franchise’s battiest strengths: you don’t have to explain it as long as you call attention to it. I’d personally much rather someone marvel “that’s impossible, but he’s doing it” than have someone explain why some batshit piece of action is indeed possible. In the same scene, said agent also points out that every antagonist to The Fambly eventually becomes a part of The Fambly, and that’s really all we need to explain how Jakob (John Cena) is a good guy now, or how Cypher (Charlize Theron) is a good guy now, or how Shaw (Jason Statham) is a good guy now.
This is perhaps the most exciting thing about Fast X: Its villain. Jason Momoa is arguably the best baddie in the whole series, and it all comes down to his strange, energetic performance. He has a gleeful, Joker-like energy that defies the notion that he could ever turn into a good guy. He gets off on being evil (no lie, it actually seems to make him horny), and he does so while looking rather fashionable in a variety of outfits from all across the gender spectrum. Momoa’s surfer-bro standard is tweaked into something a bit wilder than we’re used to, and it gives him license to go as big as possible. He is presumably the heavy for the remainder of the series, and there’s no one better for the job. Sure, his Dante has some loose ties to the history of The Fambly, but really, he just wants to fuck shit up, and boy does he. Momoa is having so much fun that it’s hard to think of anyone else as the star of the movie. I’d venture to say it’s his best performance. He’s giving everything that this strange series never gave Charlize Theron a chance to give, and he’s giving it from under layers of purple silk. There’s one beat that I won’t spoil (you’ll know it when you see it) in which Momoa does something so gruesome and dark that it feels lifted from a much ballsier film series. I’m glad it found its way here.
To review a Fast movie has become a bit of a fool’s errand since most readers already know whether or not they’re going to see it. So really, all I can offer is a review of where this ranks within the series. After Furious 7, when the death of Paul Walker put a damper on things, the series dipped. Both The Fate of the Furious and Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw, despite having insane titles, were pretty lackluster movies. F9: The Fast Saga, was a bit of a course correction, capturing some, but not all, of the magic that the series found at its height (namely the unofficial trilogy consisting of parts 5-7). Fast X is most comparable to F9 in both quality and style, but has such a gleeful abandon that it takes a slight edge. It’s the best of the post-Furious 7 bunch, but doesn’t quite have the same charm as the first three films. It’s certainly better than part 4, a “we’re trying to figure out what this series can be” entry if there ever was one.
Looking back on that last paragraph I realize how insane this all sounds.
Directed by Louis Leterrier
Written by Dan Mazeau, Justin Lin, Gary Scott Thompson
Starring Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, Sung Kang
Rated PG-13, 141 minutes