“The 10th film in the Fast series shows its age as Fast X has too many characters and not enough of a compelling story to really care about the outcome.”
- Jason Momoa plays a great Joker-like villain
- All the insane automotive action you could want
- Too many moving parts
- Feels incomplete, even as part of a trilogy
Every time it looks like the Fast & Furious franchise is entering its final lap, Universal Studios and star/producer Vin Diesel find a way to extend the race. When a 10th Fast film was announced nearly a decade ago, it was expected to be the final chapter in the franchise. In 2021, the finale was split into two parts, and last week, Diesel broke the news that Fast X would instead be the first chapter in a trilogy.
Ironically, despite the expected story decompression, the latest installment in the Fast franchise still manages to be overblown and overstuffed. Fast X is a two-and-a-half-hour movie, but instead of feeling like a complete feature, it unfolds like a weirdly paced season of high-budget television. There are so many characters, so many threads, so many set pieces that very few of them get the attention they need to feel satisfying. It’s still a fun and furious ride, and if you’re a fan of the series, that’ll likely be enough to satisfy you until the next chapter arrives in 2025, but crazy car-centric action sequences aside, Fast X is the messiest entry in a franchise where the laws of physics and storytelling have always been equally elastic.
True to form for a series about a family of outlaws that collects new members like a Katamari ball, Fast X juggles a massive ensemble. Dominic Toretto (Diesel) is now focused on fatherhood, raising the precocious preteen Little B (Leo Abelo Terry) alongside his wife and partner in crime, Letty Ortiz (Michelle Rodriguez). The rest of the gang, however, is still on call at The Agency, an international spy organization that is, for all intents and purposes, S.H.I.E.L.D. from the Marvel Universe. When a mission goes south, the entire Toretto crew ends up on the run from the authorities, as well as from the author of their doom, cackling sociopath Dante Reyes (Jason Momoa). A high-stakes globe-trotting adventure ensues in which our heroes’ driving skills and personal ethos are tested, strange alliances are formed and shattered, and — needless to say — a whole lot of stuff goes “boom.”
It’s not that any one character gets stuck with nothing to do — quite the contrary, screenwriters Dan Mazeau and Justin Lin clearly make a concerted effort to give each of the regulars their own subplot — there’s simply not enough track for most of them to get to full speed. Naturally, Dom gets the most complete story, going head-to-head against an unpredictable psycho who’s dead set on making his life hell.
Momoa’s Dante is very obviously designed to be Dom’s Joker, a flamboyant supervillain who’s always two steps ahead of the hero (he even drives a purple car). It may have begun as an attempt to repeat the success of Heath Ledger’s iconic performance in The Dark Knight, but Momoa overshoots it and lands somewhere between Jack Nicholson and Mark Hamill, which turns out to be a terrific fit for this bonkers universe. Momoa is plainly having a ball in the role, and that fun is contagious.
Everyone else suffers a bit from the need to squeeze their shtick into the runtime. Roman (Tyrese Gibson) and Tej (Chris “Ludacris” Bridges) get the most complete subplot ,and their chemistry is as playful as ever, but tech expert Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) is still mostly an exposition machine and recently resurrected cool guy Han (Sung Kang) mostly feels like a tagalong. John Cena returns as Dom’s estranged brother, Jakob, but this time around he’s basically just playing John Cena, with all traces of his character’s edges completely filed down.
Multiple supporting players from previous films turn up for a scene or two, plus there are new characters who we’re supposed to get attached to like Brie Larson’s secret agent Tess and Diana Melchior’s street racer Isabel, but they do not receive enough time to make a strong impression. In the plus column, Rodriguez does get her contractual one barn-burning brawl per picture, and there’s still a special room waiting in heaven for whatever genius figured out that Letty’s thing should be motorcycles.
Fast X still delivers all the racing car action fans love
Still, one can’t escape the impression that Fast has gotten too big for its own good, that maybe the franchise has reached the point where it would be better off branching its ensemble into their own films before reuniting Avengers-style. Or, if they must do a three-part finale, it might have been a good idea to keep a few characters on the sidelines this time around so that everyone present could have a little more space to open up the throttle.
As much as its story wobbles, Fast X certainly delivers the insane vehicular mayhem that fans have come to expect. Dom and the gang face a series of escalating video game stages, high-speed puzzles that can only be solved via precision driving. Director Louis Leterrier and the action design team have found more clever ways to stage vehicular warfare, and there are plenty of triumphant moments worth hooting and hollering over.
The drawback to the increasing insanity of the automotive action is that it no longer has any sense of actual danger or stakes. Dominic Toretto does not take fall damage, and neither do any of his allies. Every character (save for Ramsey) is both an elite-level performance driver and a master of mixed martial arts. Two members of the gang have returned from the dead. It’s hard to believe any of them is ever in real jeopardy.
An overstayed welcome
Fast X attempts to subvert some of the audience’s expectations in this regard, but bolsters them just as often. The Fast franchise has become so committed to being comfort food for action fans that even its most violent twists feel softened, as if by some sort of narrative airbag (this is ironic, seeing as airbags do not seem to exist in the Fast universe). There’s nothing in Leterrier’s music video direction or in the cliché-ridden screenplay that establishes any sort of reality, even a heightened one. That departure from reality is some of the appeal of the Fast movies to begin with, but the personal stakes of Fast X demand a personal investment that just isn’t earned.
The Fast movies, we are always told, are about family. And here’s the thing about family — whether you’re referring to a family you’re born into or a family you choose, much of the appeal is that they’re familiar. Family is the people you are used to and will miss when they’re gone. Over the past two decades, we’ve all gotten used to the Fast movies. We love when the Toretto crew comes to visit; it’s like a holiday. But even family can overstay their welcome. Sometimes a gathering leaves you wondering whether it’s really the people you’re fond of, or just the routine. Fast X may not convince you to skip the next barbecue, but it may make you grateful that there are only a few of them left on the calendar.
Fast X is now playing in theaters nationwide. For more Fast and Furious content, check out all the Fast & Furious movies, ranked and all the Fast & Furious villains, ranked.