Universals Fast & Furious movies started out as high-stakes action thrillers about people doing spectacular things to sexy cars, but the franchise’s transition to telling big, bombastic, family-oriented parables is what has really given it momentum over the years. In Fast X – the 11th overall film in this series – you can see director Louis Leterrier trying to tap into as many of the themes that define this nos-filled world as humanly possible, and it’s an admirable effort. But while Fast X‘s heart is in the right place, that heart is also so enlarged in the sense of ‘stressed beyond capacity’.
You don’t necessarily have to have seen any of the previous films to dive in Fast Xbut this latest chapter of Dominic Toretto’s (Vin Diesel) life makes a lot more sense the more you become familiar with Justin Lin’s Fast Five. Although it’s been years since Dom, his sister Mia (Jordana Brewster) and his best friend Brian (Paul Walker) robbed Brazilian drug kingpin Hernan Reyes (Joaquim de Almeida), Fast X tells the story of how Reyes’ cartoonish rampaging son Dante (Jason Momoa) emerges from the shadows to avenge his father’s death by trying to destroy what Dom loves most. If you’re reading this, then you should know what that thing is. However, if you don’t, Fast X makes a point of telling you while dropping the f-word so many times it almost feels like the movie’s script was written with drinking games in mind.
You don’t just attack DomToretto’s chosen family of highly skilled street racers turned professional criminals head on, because at this late stage in their careers Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Tej (Ludacris), Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) ), and Han (Sung Kang) know all too well how many villains they want dead. But with Dom and Letty trying to settle down to give Dom’s son Brian “Little B” Marcos (Leo Abelo Perry) a semi-normal life, the family moves a little differently these days, and one of the bigger ideas is running all over the place. Fast X is what it really means for people who live fast to try to slow down and breathe a little.
That idea could have been somewhat interesting. Fast X quickly drop it to the side as it brings back pretty much every character you know from these films in a series of intricate twists and turns that make the film play like a thrilling yet airless telenovela that only works if you’re deeply invested in this world.
A presence as terrifying and larger than life as Cipher (Charlize Theron). The fate of the furious And F9, the way she just shows up on Dom’s doorstep is almost as unintentionally comical as the way Momoa can’t quite get his mouth around a consistent Brazilian accent. By reintroducing characters like Cipher, Queenie (Helen Mirren) and Dom’s brother Jakob (John Cena), Fast X means to illustrate how effective Dom has been in working through his issues with former enemies and growing his family in the process.
However, since there are so many of these movies to call back to, Fast X‘s supporting characters often feel more like staged cameos meant to remind you of the past than figures that exist organically in the present – especially when they just pop up out of nowhere, which happens more often than you might expect. Unfortunately, this also applies to many Fast X‘s newcomers, like Agency nepo baby Tess (Brie Larson) and the new leader of the shadowy organization Aimes (Alan Ritchson) – both of whom spend a surprising amount of time in screen-filled voids as something out of Evangelion.
As you watch the drama of Dom and Dante unfold around the world in a series of stunts designed to portray the family as the ultimate terrorists in the public eye, you can see Fast X back to the classic Fast formula that turns deadly foes into friends later. But Universal is also clearly green-lit Fast X with the intention that it be something similar to Avengers: Infinite War — the beginning of the end of much of this franchise — which, in a curious way, makes this movie’s attempts to establish a new dynamic between humans feel half-hearted.
On some level, Fast X means taking seriously the grudge Dante – a Joker-esque sociopath who plays Momoa with a hackneyed quality that smacks more of gay panic than insanity – holds for Dom. But in between Fast X not exactly doing the best job of differentiating Dante from your typical one Fast villain and Diesel truly embody a Dom who feels like he’s been through the wringer a few times, their conflict feels like something mapped out on paper but not made tight enough to sing on screen.
Fortunately a lot of it Fast XThe vehicle stunts are inspired – apart from the physics of our reality as they could be – and the film is very good at having a sense of humor about how patently ridiculous the Fast world is usually where directors break free. For every exhausting ham-fisted sentimentality game Fast X precedes by reminding you how much Dom loves – Loves – his family and Jesus, the movie knows that too Fast fans love seeing these characters whip cars around like they’re extensions of their bodies.
Often, Fast X feels like it’s in too much of a rush to be the kind of full-on joyride it could be, which is disappointing, but perhaps somewhat intentional on Universal’s part. As great two-part movies go, Fast X ends on a series of cliffhanger-like beats that aren’t exactly the most exciting. What they are, however, are reminders that another one of these movies will come out in the very near future, and it’s then that diehard fans of Fast & Furious are likely to get the epic payout they’ve been waiting for.
Fast X also Daniela Melchior, Rita Moreno, Jason Statham, Luis Da Silva Jr. and Pete Davidson. The film is in cinemas today.