The Fast & Furious franchise is officially old enough to drink. The first film arrived in theaters in 2001, and 22 years later, Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his family of drivers, hackers, spies, weapons experts, and more show no signs of stopping their do-gooding (collateral damage be damned) speed demon ways.
It certainly helps its longevity that the franchise has fully embraced soap opera storytelling. We’ve had returns from the dead, amnesia, long-lost brothers, families swearing vengeance, and of course, enemies becoming friends over the last 22 years of Fast history, and Fast X is happy to continue delivering on what has worked.
In fact, Fast X isn’t just going to give us more of what we (well, fans of the series) want; it’s going to do so while commenting on the sheer ridiculousness of it all.
A Return to the Beginning (Actually the Middle)
Fast X is the first movie in the franchise to reuse significant footage from a previous film. Other films have given us a quick flashback, but Fast X replays a good amount of the climactic vault-dragging sequence from Fast Five, the rightfully most beloved entry in the series. It’s a bold move that tells the audience, “This is our high point. We want to meet it again.”
Of course, there are also plot reasons for the flashback. Fast X starts with that now iconic sequence to introduce the audience to Dante Reyes (Jason Momoa), son of Fast Five’s lead antagonist Hernan Reyes (Joaquim de Almeida). It turns out that Dante was there the whole time and is now, a decade later, enacting his plan to avenge his father.
It’s a simple narrative that fits in perfectly with the ongoing “Fast Saga.” But things become a bit more complicated when the film breaks up its core cast of characters to ensure that audiences see the many of the side characters that have become allies to the Toretto family over the last two decades.
It’s a Big Family
After the film’s first major action sequence, the characters are split into four different sub-groups that each go off on various missions and adventures to find and stop Dante. The film doesn’t exactly crawl to a halt, that would be sacrilege, but when a lighthearted fight breaks out between two teammates, you can tell that the filmmakers knew they were going a bit too long without an action sequence.
It also doesn’t help that secondary antagonist Aimes (Alan Ritchson), a new supercop who wants to bring in Dom, is a pretty flat character outside a brilliant scene where he catches another character (and the audience) up on the story so far with some fantastic color commentary, like calling the family “a cult with cars.”
But the varied quests allow the film to give time to almost everyone who has ever appeared in a Fast film and some newcomers (don’t worry, they’re related to characters we’ve seen before and are therefore also family). So we get brief scenes with Helen Mirren, Jason Statham, and Jordana Brewster, while Charlize Theron’s Cipher teams with Michelle Rodriguez’s Letty, and John Cena’s long-lost Toretto brother Jakob ensures the safety of Dominic’s son Brian (Leo Abelo Perry).
These scenes are mostly quick, moving us through the various storylines with enough momentum to keep things moving and entertaining. Many of these scenes end with buttons that would be at home in any sitcom and keep things light enough to not feel like we’re getting bogged down in the plot.
What really keeps things alive during this action drought, though, is Momoa’s mustache-twirling performance that can be seen from space. He plays Dante as a flamboyant chaos demon with an infectious villainous delight and as many jaw-dropping costume changes as a fashion show. He appears in multiple snakeskin jackets, silk shirts, different colored nails, and at one point, an entirely unbuttoned dress shirt and emblazoned blazer.
But the Action Is Even Bigger
Even with a family that forces the film’s narrative to fracture into multiple pieces and a villain performance that deserves an award for “the most fun anyone had on screen this year,” the real stars of the show are the increasingly absurd action sequences.
The first big sequence brings the team to Rome, where they have to steal an armored truck but soon find themselves chasing down a ten-foot spherical bomb through the city. At one point, Dominic defends an outside cafe from an explosion with his car in such a wonderfully creative and silly way that the film shows it three (or was it four?) times from different angles.
In that same extended sequence, the central armored car is flipped, Letty races the giant bomb on a motorbike, and Dominic uses his car as a projectile. Over the course of the movie, oil tankers explode into one another, helicopters smashing into each other, a car with missile launchers attached, and more. It’s the kind of over-the-top chaos that fans of the series have come to love (and expect), and, incredibly, the films continue to deliver.
It’s not only the massive sequences of action that succeed, though. The close-quarters combat is phenomenal throughout, starting with a scene of Cipher taking down a dozen goons with her hands, blades, and point-blank gunshots. In that fight and elsewhere, there are moments that stretch the PG-13 rating, from a head being scraped against the walls outside a dropping elevator to the use of a crowbar and several blades.
The film has a real equal opportunity badassery philosophy that’s on full display in a sequence where Brewster and Cena are not only equally capable of defending themselves against bad guys but also equally capable of throwing them around.
A Joyride With Few Bumps
Fast X maintains the series’ commitment to ridiculous action even while winking at it. And even though that winking isn’t necessary and doesn’t add much, it’s charming to know that the filmmakers are in on the joke and seem to love continuing to play it.
The fracturing of the team here does slow things down a bit in the middle, but the action sequences, the character dynamics, and Momoa’s performance ensure that Fast X is one of the more memorable entries in the now decades-old franchise and leaves me excited for the next.
Rating: 7.5 SPECS
Fast X releases in theaters nationwide on May 19th.
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This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.
Kyle Logan is a film and television critic and general pop culture writer who has written for Alternative Press, Cultured Vultures, Film Stories, Looper, and more. Kyle is particularly interested in horror and animation, as well as genre films written and directed by queer people and women. Along with writing, Kyle organizes a Queer Film Challenge on Letterboxd.