“It’s like a cult with cars.”
That’s how The Agency describes Dominic Toretto’s (Vin Diesel) family of street racers-turned-international criminals in “Fast X.”
Ten movies deep in “The Fast Saga,” they’re not wrong – and the same can be said of fans who still loyally show up to see what new gravity- and death-defying stunts these movies can cook up.
I say that as a proud member of Toretto’s cult myself. If realism is your fancy, you likely bowed out somewhere around “Fast Five” or “Fast & Furious 6.” But for those of us still on this NOS-fueled joyride, we know exactly what to expect: long gone are the days of boosting DVD players – now it’s all about increasingly absurd set pieces, globetrotting adventures, and, of course, family.
“Fast X” delivers on all three of those to varying degrees, creating another epic entry in this gloriously silly franchise, that doesn’t quite crack the surface of the series’ best, but is far from its worst.
While most “Fast” movies end with a celebratory cook out, “Fast X” begins with one. Life is good for Toretto and his family – until an unwelcome guest arrives.
A bloody and bruised Cipher (Charlize Theron) shows up on Dom and Letty’s (Michelle Rodriguez) doorstep one night with a warning. As the evil mastermind thwarting Toretto’s crew in the last few “Fast” films, she must be desperate to come to Dom for help.
Turns out there’s a new big bad in town: Dante Reyes, played by a delightfully unhinged Jason Momoa. The son of Hernan Reyes, “Fast Five’s” Brazilian drug lord, Dante is out to avenge his father’s death and family’s downfall at the hands of Toretto. But death is not enough – he want’s to make Dom suffer.
Dante’s quest to make Dom pay sends Toretto and his family on a round-the-world adventure, as they try to stop the villain’s path of destruction, outrun the law, and, most importantly, rescue Dom and Letty’s son, Brian (Leo Abelo Perry).
Momoa’s villain is easily one of the highlights of “Fast X.” So often stuck playing gruff, surly tough guys, Momoa unleashes his inner ridiculousness here. While Dante is certainly still a badass not to be crossed, he has a taste for flamboyance – from his pastel wardrobe and painted nails to his giddy personality and choice of insults (“You butthole!”). While other antagonists in the franchise have tried so hard to play mysterious, truly evil villains, Dante Reyes feels like the first to actually match the absurdity of the movie he’s in – which makes the insanity all the more fun.
Beyond Momoa, “Fast X” is jam packed with other newcomers to the family, pushing us to the verge of needing a literal family tree to keep everything straight. The most impressive of these is Daniela Melchior, who joins as Brazilian street racer Isabela, the sister of Dom’s late flame, Elena (Elsa Pataky). The two have some actually emotional moments – carried by Melchior, obviously – and while her screen time may be limited, she proves herself as one of the best actors in this cast. Here’s hoping for more from Isabela in the future.
Other new additions include Brie Larson as Tess, the daughter of Kurt Russell’s Mr. Nobody, Alan Ritchson’s Aimes, a one-dimensional B-Villain, and Leo Abelo Perry as Dom and Letty’s son, Little Brian, taking on a pretty sizable role this film.
With all those additions, you’d think the family would be the main focus of “Fast X.” While the plot does revolve around rescuing Dom’s son, the idea of family that has managed to ground these ridiculous movies for so long takes a bit of a backseat to the nonstop action. There are fewer intimate moments between characters than ever before, and like in “F9,” much of the family is split off into different A-, B-, C- and D-plots.
For much of the film, Dom is on his own quest against Dante, meanwhile, Letty is teamed up with Cipher, while Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Tej (Ludacris), Han (Sung Kang) and Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) are grouped together on a different mission. At the same time, we’ve got another subplot centering around Jacob (John Cena) and Little B, while other characters from “Fasts” past like Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), Mia (Jordana Brewster), Queenie (Helen Mirren) and more come and go.
And of course, all of these missions span from Los Angeles to Rome, London, Rio de Janiero, Portugal, Antarctica and beyond. While it’s fun traveling the world, the various missions and submissions convolute the plot a bit too much, and more detrimentally, keep our favorite heroes from ever all being in the same place.
The only thing that can outdo the number of cast members and locations, though, is the audacity of the increasingly absurd stunts Dom and Co. pull off in “Fast X.” From rocket cars to helicopters and driving down the face of a dam, there’s no limit to what can be done when Toretto is behind the wheel – and that’s exactly why we love these movies. “Fast X” absolutely delivers on the sheer, jaw-dropping spectacle we’ve come to expect from “The Fast Saga.”
As “Fast X” ushers in the beginning of the end, it’s been revealed that this film is the first of a two-part (maybe three!) finale. With that in mind, a few loose ends and overarching storylines were expected to carry over into the series’ 11th and final film – but when Vin Diesel says two-part, he means two-part.
“Fast X” stops dead in the middle of its explosive story with dramatic cliffhangers across the board for nearly every character. This is not an “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Endgame” scenario, we’re talking a full on marathon of two films. So, don’t expect any sort of resolution in “Fast X,” save that for “Fast X: Part Two,” “Fast XI, “Fast XX” or whatever they decide to call it.
“Fast X” releases in theaters Friday, May 19.
Zach Goins is a member of the North Carolina Film Critics Association based in Raleigh, N.C. Zach co-founded Inside The Film Room in 2018 and serves as Editor-in-Chief of the website and co-host of the podcast. Zach also serves as a film critic for CLTure.org.