For over two decades the Fast & Furious franchise has continued to defy the odds. Similar to an aging popstar constantly reinventing themself, the ability of the series to continuously remake itself on the fly has been the map to its fountain of youth. While studios have been desperately trying to recreate the Marvel Cinematic Universe formula for a successful franchise it can be argued that Fast & Furious is the template that they should be taking notes from. After years of rewriting its own saga, the franchise is finally ready to pen the final chapter of the book with the spectacle that is Fast X.
The first of a two-part finale, or trilogy if recent rumours are to be believed, Fast X aims to reward loyal fans who have stuck with the franchise through its gleeful highs and tragic lows. The film is full of outlandish stunts that go against the law of physics, ruminations on the power that comes from having a loyal support network, plenty of talk about the importance of having faith, and a slew of inside jokes and references that only those with an encyclopedic knowledge of the series will truly appreciate.
Considering the amount of pandering to hardcore fans that occurs in the film, it is fitting that the story commences by taking audiences back to the events of Fast Five. The consensus pick for best film in the franchise, Fast Five was the catapult that launched the series into the stratosphere and picked up millions of new fans along the way. Remolding its evolving lore once again, Fast X takes us back to the day of the infamous safe heist in Brazil to introduce viewers to a new foe who had been waiting in the wings for a decade.
After being involved in the epic chase to reclaim his father’s, Hernan Reyes (Joaquim de Almeida), stolen safe, Dante (Jason Momoa) makes it his mission to get revenge on Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his chosen family. Believing that one should “never accept death when suffering is owed,” Dante sets in motion an elaborate plan that not only physically separates Toretto from his team, but also puts the life of his son Little Brian (Leo Abelo Perry) in danger.
Setting the stage for another globe-trotting adventure, one where Toretto’s crew are once again top of the international most wanted list, Fast X hits many of the familiar beats that fans expect. The team must improvise their way many challenges while leaving massive destruction and battered bodies in their wake. Although never short on action sequences, as every character, including new additions Tess (Brie Larson), Ames (Reacher’s Alan Ritchson), and Isabel (Daniela Melchior), get their moment to shine, the sheer number of fight scenes does hinder the film from a story standpoint.
The overabundance of unnecessary fight sequences is especially noticeable when characters opt to settle old scores, or perceived wrongs, when time constraints dictate they should actually be fleeing. Trying to escape an agency black op prison in four minutes? Lets have a female fight scene with lasers. Need to get gear to sneak out of Europe? Lets have two friends come to blows at the shop where they are ordering supplies.
By frequently pausing the sense of urgency for fisticuffs the film inadvertently exposes some of the plot holes in the story. In taking The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers approach to its unfolding narrative, where characters find themselves on separate journeys, Fast X struggles to juggle all of the balls it throws in the air. One cannot help but question how Dante is magically able to predict every single action he set up multiple traps for. At times the film seems more interested in basking in its cartoonish elements than telling a cohesive story.
Director Louis Leterrier clearly has fun playing up the self-referential moments in the film that essentially call out how absurd the franchise has become. In one amusing moment, Ames complains “it is like a cult with cars” when commenting on Toretto’s ability to lure people into his “family.” He even notes distain for beer and BBQ, which is a dig at both the former criminal’s choice of beverage and the family dinners featured in each film.
In openly acknowledging the silly way the Fast & Furious films have turned the notion of family and faith into catchphrases, Fast X finds an unlikely saving grace in the character of Dante. Playing the role as if he was an understudy for Heath Ledger’s The Joker in The Dark Knight, there are several parallels to Christopher Nolan’s blockbuster throughout, Jason Momoa perfectly captures the tone of the film. While Diesel’s Toretto is overly serious and sentimental, Dante reminds viewers of just how colourful and fun this franchise can be. Edging ahead of Charlize Theron’s Cipher for best villain of the franchise, Dante runs around like deranged jester eager to see the world burn.
Consistently lighting up the screen at every turn, Momoa’s performance allows the film to rise above its narrative shortcomings. Clearly stretching its goodbye speech to ensure every memorable character past and present gets their moment of applause, the film is unabashedly for the hardcore fans. While Fast X offers a fun start to its final road trip, only time will tell if the franchise can steer towards a satisfying end.