Fast X puts the pedal to the metal with a risky, often surprising new chapter that reopens a franchise high point to deliver an instantly iconic villain. Though it may struggle with pacing and feels at times repetitive, its willingness to take big swings and understanding of what keeps fans coming back makes this an impressive entry for a decades-long franchise that shows no sign of slowing down.
It’s been 22 years since TV-stealing street racer Dominic Toretto sped into our hearts alongside Mia, Letty, Brian and the rest of the family in The Fast and the Furious, and they’ve come a long way from the scrappy, low-stakes (but no less high octane) heists that made the franchise famous. Now, nine films and a spinoff later, Dominic’s past comes back to haunt him in Fast X—and between Jason Momoa’s scene stealing villain and John Cena’s intense charm, the tenth Fast and Furious film is one of the strongest entries in the franchise yet.
Starring Vin Diesel and Michelle Rodriguez, Fast X picks up with Dom and Letty living a quiet life with their now 10-year-old son Brian (Leo Abelo Perry). Their humble life is shot to pieces with the violent arrival of Dante Reyes (Momoa), the son of Hernan Reyes, the Brazilian crime kingpin Dom helped Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) take down in Fast Five. Seeking vengeance for his father and determined to make Dom suffer, Reyes scatters the family across the globe, and a race against time begins as Dom rushes to keep his loved ones safe.
With a franchise as lengthy as The Fast and the Furious, it’s refreshing to see the series take the time to look back on beloved prior installments, and as far as previous entries go, Fast Five is about as good as it gets—the perfect fodder from which to craft a new villain. And though it may be Diesel’s name on the marquee, this almost feels like Reyes’ film—Momoa brings an intense and undeniable charisma that crafts one of if not the most memorable villain the franchise has seen.
As far as the Fast movies go, the villains have always tended to feel dime-a-dozen—crime lords, hackers, corrupt politicians, etc. Though they may be serviceable, the cookie-cutter formula means it’s easy for all the baddies Dom has gone up against to blend together: a problem that’s consistently plagued the franchise, even in its stronger instalments.
In casting Jason Momoa, Fast X blows this problem completely out of the water: everything from his eclectic hair and costume design to his bizarre taste in music to his frenetic body language makes Reyes the kind of frightening villain we love to hate. With a leading man as stoic and monosyllabic as Dom, Reyes also feels like a particular breath of fresh air for his verbosity: he’s the polar opposite to Dom in every way, and when he’s onscreen, he’s running the show.
The film’s other major scene-stealer is John Cena as Jakob Toretto, reformed F9 baddie and Dom’s formerly estranged brother. While Momoa’s Reyes is memorable for his strange, charismatic cruelty, Cena’s Jakob is a scene stealer for his endearing plotline with Dom’s young son, Brian. Tasked with protecting Brian from Reyes, Jakob spends the film playing fun uncle to Brian—taking him on a globetrotting road trip that yields a number of surprisingly sweet, often heartwarming moments.
Generally, the emotional beats in the Fast and Furious movies tend to begin and end with Dom’s devotion to family and his fury whenever one of them is injured or kidnapped, but by isolating Jakob and little Brian from the rest of the cast, the film takes the time to explore the sweet innocence of their familial bond. It may not be the full-throttle action fans have come to expect from the franchise, but Jakob and Brian’s road trip still makes for some of Fast X’s most effective moments, and the culmination of Jakob’s heroic sacrifice is a fitting end to a surprising scene-stealer.
As for the rest of Fast X’s sizable ensemble cast, some fare better than others. Michelle Rodriguez’s Letty finally gets a substantial chunk of screentime for herself: grudgingly paired off with (yet another reformed baddie) Cipher, Charlize Theron’s icy hacker first introduced in Fate of the Furious. The two have a particularly memorable fight scene set to Doechii’s “Crazy” and though it’s still strange to see relative franchise newcomers like Cena get meatier plotlines than Letty (who’s been there since day one) it’s gratifying that she isn’t entirely sidelined or merely a damsel in distress.
Not as effectively used are Han (Sung Kang) and Shaw (Jason Statham), whose longstanding beef was featured heavily in the Fast X’s marketing—at long last, were we going to see Han and Shaw settle the score? Yes, technically, we do get a fight scene between them, but it’s over nearly as quickly as it begins, and is the only screentime Shaw gets for the whole film. It feels like a strange brush-off for a narrative that’s been such a significant sticking point in the franchise as far back as Tokyo Drift, and a disappointment that neither Statham or Kang are allowed to really flex their dramatic muscles.
Instead, Han is mostly just there, playing sidekick alongside Ramsey, Roman and Tej, who spend the film on what feels like an arbitrary, globetrotting goose chase. Jordana Brewster’s Mia and Brie Larson’s Little Miss Nobody also suffer from the film’s inability to properly allocate screen time between its bakers dozen of main characters, though both women get memorable fight scenes, if nothing else.
Of course, Fast X isn’t entirely able to buck the flaws of the films that have come before: the film still holds a strange affinity for meaningless celebrity cameos, and with the return of Gal Gadot’s Gisele just before the end credits, it feels like the Fast franchise is getting a little too comfortable resurrecting characters whose deaths were major emotional turning points. Still, even if it falls into some familiar traps, Fast X is still undoubtedly one of the stronger entries in the Fast and Furious franchise.
Should be Considered: None
Where to Watch: In Theaters
Just killing time until first contact with Vulcan.
Favorite Directors: Mike Flanagan
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