Fast X Review – An Exhausting Ride From a Franchise That Refuses to Die

Once upon a time there was a little film released in 2001 titled The Fast and the Furious which was essentially a riff on Point Break with street racing, not surfing, and small heists of consumer electronics, not bank robberies. A young LAPD officer, Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) infiltrated Dominic Toretto’s (Vin Diesel) racing world, fell in love with Dom’s sister Mia (Jordana Brewster) and became part of the ‘family.’ From those humble beginnings one of cinema’s most profitable franchise was launched into the world, and by Fast 9 into outer space.

The high-octane action series abandoned all sense of reality somewhere around the fourth instalment (possibly earlier depending on your tolerance) and went from a bunch of good-hearted petty crooks indulging in illegal street racing to Toretto’s family basically becoming a black ops group running espionage missions. There really isn’t much point recapping the series as audiences who are up for Fast X have been along for the ride for a long time. It is important to note that the events of Fast Five are essential to understanding Fast X, as the main antagonist Dante Reyes (Jason Momoa in high camp mode) is the son of drug dealer Hernan Reyes who Brian and Dom brought down with the famous cars dragging safes on a highway scene.

Fast X recreates that set up and scene with the inclusion of a young Dante and the audience watches through his eyes. The past has consequences, and a time of reckoning is upon the extended Toretto family just as Dom is truly settling down into family life with Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) and Little Brian (Leo Abelo Perry). From the action sequence that begins the film we watch as the Toretto family, led in prayer by Abuelo Toretto (Rita Morena) have one of their famous cook outs. A surprise visitor appears at the door, Dom’s sworn enemy Cipher (Charlize Theron) who warns him something far worse than her is coming for his family.

From that moment on Fast X tries to balance its action sequences (one mighty set piece in Rome involving a bomb shaped like a mini–Death Star) with Dom’s concerns about the safety of his son. Dante Reyes isn’t interested in just killing Dom and everyone he loves; he wants them to suffer and seemingly has the resources to make that happen on an epic scale.

Almost everyone returns for Fast X (Brian is of course at home babysitting the kids, vale Paul Walker). Tyrese Gibson as Roman and Ludacris as Tej spend most of the film bickering an “reacting to shit” as is their wont. Nathalie Emmanuel is back as the tech genius who created God’s Eye. Helen Mirren’s Queenie turns up for about a minute. Han (Sung Kang) gets to face Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) who killed him but didn’t kill him. Jakob Toretto (John Cena, one of the better performances in the film) who is back in the family’s warm embrace takes on caring for Little B.

There are some new additions. Brie Larson plays Tess, the daughter of former Agency head Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell who is ‘absent’) and Alan Ritchson plays Aimes, the new Agency head who has no time for Toretto and his group. Daniela Melchoir appears as Isabel, a Brazilian street racer who has ties to Dom. If that all sound like there are too many characters to keep track of it is because that is what is happening. Dante’s grand plan is to separate the family and make them outlaws ensuring they can’t help each other. His other plan is to obliterate them once he’s put them through enough pain.

Fast X is another globe-trotting adventure (no outer space) which sees various characters all over the world. Few of them interact and there is only one character arc that is of concern or interest. Knowing the franchise even when the stakes are high they’re also quite low. It’s impossible for most characters to stay dead (there is a baffling resurrection in Fast X which the sequels are going to have to go to great lengths to explain). Sure, there are some fantastic action set pieces but writers Dan Mazeau and Justin Lin (based on a story by Mazeau, Lin, and Zach Dean) do little to give the audience new reasons to care. Dom telling Letty that he’s afraid every day that something will happen to his family is as deep as it gets. Director Louis Leterrier (Transporter) is a serviceable action director and keeps to the F&F formula without much deviation.

The Fast and Furious franchise has been mostly undemanding fun. Fast X is a little more demanding because with the exception of Jason Momoa’s fantastic and often hilarious villain, there isn’t a lot of fun. There are street races, big explosions, cars being dropped by planes, helicopters exploding, planes blowing up… the standard fare. The problem is there is nothing to weight all the action. Vin Diesel’s Dom is particularly monosyllabic and earnest (Vin does takes these films very seriously) but mostly the rest of the crew turn up in scenes that are so disparate that it’s hard to connect with them. Mia and Letty get to kick some ass (amazing how Mia somehow became basically a professional martial artist somewhere along the way), Shaw is there until he isn’t, and the audience is treated (?) to a Pete Davidson cameo.

Fast X ends on a massive cliff-hanger which is no surprise as audiences were aware that there was going to be a Fast Eleven. It has recently been revealed that Fast X is the first in a trilogy within the series, and one has to wonder if the franchise really has enough gas left in the tank to keep it going? After saving the world from a potential nuclear war at one stage, and reiterating, going into outer space, what more is there for the extended (and continually growing) Toretto family to do? Maybe we just all need to strap in for Vin Diesel’s superhero with a car fantasy and go along with it, or maybe, possibly preferably, we get out of the vehicle now.

Director: Louis Leterrier

Cast: Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster

Writers: Dan Mazeau, Justin Lin, (Based on characters by Gary Scott Thompson)

Nadine Whitney

Nadine Whitney holds qualifications in cinema, literature, cultural studies, education and design. When not writing about film, art or books, she can be found napping and missing her cat.

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