I don’t think anyone could’ve predicted a street racing “Point Break” remake would transform itself into one of the biggest, loudest, most profitable and yes, dumbest action franchises ever. And yet, they keep making them because we keep watching them, either by choice or proxy, willingly or begrudgingly. And while the milage may vary on when you checked out, I think we can all agree that “F9” was the most misguided and definitive breaking point.
Yes, I’m aware they took on a submarine driving muscle cars on ice that stop fire in “Fate of the Furious,” but you get my point. I say this to iterate how surprisingly enjoyable “Fast X” actually ends up being. I’m as shocked as you are, because I’ve been kind of hate watching these movies since “Furious 7.” “Fast X” takes a step back to go forward, drawing from the insanity and over the top energy of Jason Momoa to deliver a fun, bombastic, ridiculously silly but enjoyable one last ride…again…part 1 of a three par…you know what, I’m done with this pun.
Directed by Louis Leterrier (“Transporter 2,” “Now You See Me“) and written by franchise regular Justin Lin and Dan Mazeau, “Fast X” is the tenth entry in the long running franchise. The film once again finds our crew settling in to their calm, backyard BBQ family lifestyle after their many adventures. It doesn’t take long before their past catches up to them once again, and the events of “Fast Five” turn out to have dire consequences. Their Rio De Jinero bank heist has lead to the rise of Dante, the son of the drug lord Hernan Reyes who they defeated in the fifth film. An insane man on a mission to make Dom and his family suffer, no one and nowhere is safe from this new threat. To make matters worse, Dante has managed to turn The Agency against the team, turning them into international fugitives being hunted on all sides. Scattered across the globe, the team must find away to evade capture and bring the family together once more before Dante is able to destroy everything that matters to them.
Let’s go ahead and level set our expectations here before we get into the good things “Fast X” eventually does. Yes, logic and physics and gravity do not apply to anyone here. There’s no point in trying to figure out how the hell Dom launches his car off a bridge to hook onto a crane, then spin around and slam into a giant rolling bomb to knock it into the water before it explodes, then uses the muted explosion to launch his car into a wall, land on his wheels unscathed, then onto the road and off to races again. Driving down the Hoover Dam (which is actually a substitute for a dam in Portugal but whatever, details) is strangely the least ridiculous thing that happens in “Fast X.” If you come to a “Fast and Furious” movie expecting anything less than the most ridiculous and dumbest action set pieces imaginable, then this franchise is not for you in the slightest. The script and some of the performances feel like they were written by ChatGPT, and the constant transport from one country to the next every 2 or 3 minutes is exhausting. “Fast X” is as dumb as they come, and most of what caused you to jump ship as the franchise jumps the shark is all still here and intact. Every eye roll and audible “OH C’MON!” are all completely valid, and outside of its connective tissue to prior entries and the cliffhanger set up for the future, there really isn’t anything that is going to change your mind about this franchise.
These films are often taxing in their, well, everything, and “Fast X” would wear incredibly thin were it not for a key component missing from 7-9 that makes it way into this latest film: fun. I don’t know exactly where that went wrong, but the longer these have gone on the more dramatic and self serious these big, loud, dumb films have become. There’s a whole analysis that could be done dissecting Vin Diesel‘s own misguided influence due to his over inflated ego, but that’s a whole different review. Where “Fast X” hits the mark is in its ability to have a blast, relishing in its own brand of bonkers action cinema to deliver a rather silly time at the movies. Dom (Diesel) even smiles in this one. More than once, too. He seems to have come down off his high horse to realize that he should be having as much fun making “Fast X” as audiences are watching it. This injection of self awareness is the NOS needed to elevate the same framework of over the top action we’ve come to expect without it feeling so hollow and joyless like “F9.”
Leterrier seems to understand the b-movie action comedy better than Lin this time around. He’s willing to let his characters breath and settle into their own archetypes instead of just being inserts and placeholders. He’s as in on the joke as the rest of them, and it helps make “Fast X” and its entire cast relax a little bit and play to their individual strengths instead of just being background characters in the Dom show. That was a huge problem with “F9” in particular. No one mattered except Dom and his dumb family past, and it reduced the cast to a little more than extras who have to scream out “DOM!” every 30 seconds. Leterrier recognizes that, even if he has to jet set everyone everywhere all the time, he can give them all something to do (with some exceptions) and feel important to their own stories instead of just being an extension of Doms.
The banter between Roman (Tyrese Gibson) and Tej (Ludacris) feels more natural this time. Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) and Cypher (Charlize Theron) are a perfect odd couple, at each others throats but knowing they can’t survive without each other. Jakob (John Cena) gets to let loose and be funny instead of a stilted, emotionless plot device, and Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) and Han (Sung Kang) are there too. Sorry, but “Fast X” is no exception in having no real idea what to do with these characters despite going out of their way to bring them back and keep them around. The new additions to the “Fast X” family are widely varied in terms of purpose and performance. Brie Larson as Tess is fine, though it feels likes her talents are kind of wasted in a role like this. Same goes for Daniela Melchior as Isabel who’s giving an A+ emotional performance in a C grade film at best. Sadly, Alan Ritchson as The Agency Leader Aimes feels like Ricky Bobby, unsure of what to do with his hands. He is so out of place and awkward, like he’s never done action before and almost brings it all down by not really tuning into the wavelength of silliness everyone else seems to be dialed in to.
Enter Jason Momoa as Dante. If you’ve been waiting for a Bond villain to show up in this franchise, one who is so irredeemable there’s no way he’ll be handed a Corona because his contract says he can’t stay a bad guy for more than half a film, the Momoa is the “Fast X” fuel injection that launches this whole dumb thing into the stratosphere. Admittedly, I’ve never been a big fan of his work, but if this is the kind of energy he can bring to sinking ships, then I’m advocating to put that man in everything. This man understood the assignment and came out swinging. Maniacal and menacing, Momoa brings a level of over the top, wise cracking villainy a film like “Fast X” desperately needed. His energy is the lynchpin of this whole thing, and the film doesn’t work nearly as well without him. He’s singlehandedly forcing everyone else to step their game up, and shoulders the ridiculous entertainment audiences crave and cramming it into your eyeholes. He is the perfect 90s action villain, clearly drawing inspiration from characters like Caster Troy in “Face/Off” to deliver exactly the kind of bad a bad movie like “Fast X” thrives on.
Momoa is the secret ingredient you didn’t know the franchise needed but can’t believe it took ten films to discover. It’s easy to suspend disbelief if you can enjoy the ride when you do. The problem with a lot of the more recent entries is there’s no real reward for doing that. It’s all just noise, pointless and meandering with meaningless explosions and car chases with no stakes and therefore, no tension. Look, I’m not naive enough to believe that anyone is actually in jeopardy in “Fast X,” and regardless of the massive cliffhanger ending with nearly every single fate hanging in the balance, it is of course going to work itself out in the end. But “Fast X” actually tries, and in doing so gives a slight illusion that maybe, possibly, somehow, some of these characters aren’t going to make it out of this franchise alive. This is all Momoa’s doing, and his energy and no holds barred antics finally feel like the team has met their legitimate match.
There is still enough meat on the bones of this franchise to make “Fast X” one of the best entries is a while. I am in no way saying it is a good movie; it isn’t. But for the first time in a long time, it isn’t trying to be something it’s not. “Fast X” knows it’s a bad movie, and the more it leans into that identity of itself the more fun it gets. The film isn’t going to change anyone’s mind if you’ve already drawn a line in the sand. If you love these movies, then “Fast X” has everything you want in spades. If you loathe them, than I’d say even Momoa’s wild, scene stealing performance won’t be enough to sway you to the fast side. If you’re in the middle (like I’ve become over time) then “Fast X” has just enough fun and self aware silliness to bring you back into the fold once again.
“Fast X” isn’t a good movie, but it’s a pretty good bad movie. And if you’re willing to let Momoa win you over, you’ll be treated to a pretty fun time. He got me, and just when I thought I was out, he pulled me back in for one last ride! Because of course, you don’t turn your back on family. Ok, I’ll stop.
I guess bring on “Fast X Part Deux,” and the possible third film, too.
3.5 out of 5 Stars
“Fast X” hits theaters on May 19th. You can watch the trailer below.