Pop a Corona, shift into merrily mindless, and ride the furious frenzy of Fast X. After spending the equivalent of a small country’s GDP (and earning just as much), Hollywood is finally promising to pump the brakes on this multidecade franchise. Stretching back to 2001, it’s been a long ride, but if this is the start of the end, Fast X is off to an early lead.
Welcome back to the world of street racing superspies who used to be heist criminals; drag race demigods led by mumble master Dominic Toretto. Portrayed by Vin Diesel, Dom and company discover their past had unintended consequences. In what’s become a staple of the franchise, a villain, Dante Reyes, is quickly retconned into continuity and soon begins his relentless revenge quest.
Now, a lot of people love to punch down on this franchise. Frankly, that feels like standing outside the short bus and clubbing every kid who steps off. It’s too easy. Like someone hunting squirrels with a shotgun instead of a screwdriver, such self-righteous dismissals miss the point. The Fast and Furious franchise is a junk food buffet, and no one is forcing anyone to feed at this slop trough. Also, these films are as endemic as covid, so maybe get off the high horse and at least let others enjoy their guilty pleasures.
For the wonderful NOS sucking weirdos of the world, that means laughing at the audaciously absurd action. And Fast X serves enough to glut a glutton. Director Louis Leterrier guides the audience through every high-octane action set piece. Editing knows when to jump around but also when to linger so a moment can build. Despite the breakneck pace, there’s no way to lose track of what’s happening, but if anyone in the audience does get lost, characters constantly relate what they’re doing. Sidewise, this is very considerate of those with visual impairments, though it can get a little tiresome.
Still, dialogue has never been the saving grace of any Fast and Furious film. Yet, the majority of performances are solid. Ridiculous though scenarios may be the seriousness with which the cast approaches their parts helps sell the moment. The only weak link in all the acting is Vin Diesel.
There are literally scenes where he delivers lines with his eyes closed. He seems on the verge of falling asleep in takes that make one wonder, considering behind the scenes drama, if he’s been tranquilized. Fortunately, the low quality of his acting raises the status of those around him. Essentially, every lame line delivery by Diesel makes Brie Larson, John Cena, or et cetera sound all the better. Surrounded by solid performers, it’s like listening to a competent guitarist after a botched children’s recital—it almost sounds masterful.
Fortunately, the bulk of him failing to act is at the very beginning. From then on Fast X is mostly angry grunting behind the wheel of a car which he does better than most. However, as far as acting, the shining star in this movie is Jason Momoa.
Not only is Dante Reyes a marvelous villain, Momoa plays him with malevolent exuberance. The performance features some turn on a dime changes in demeanor that are deliciously unsettling. There’s also a twisted glee he gets from the chaos he causes that is honestly infectious. Momoa manages to make this new villain a kind of anti-macho madman who is entertainingly clownish yet sinister. And the hell he unleashes on the Fast and Furious family sets up stellar action.
Although the franchise is known for outlandish acts of improbable vehicular thrills, Fast X manages to stop just shy of eye rolling. That isn’t to say things don’t defy physics at times, but filmmakers seem to have found a happy middle ground wherein the action is absurd yet thrilling. That’s to say, if it doesn’t get the blood pumping it probably fuels a few laughs. Either way, it works. Maybe not as viscerally satisfying or innovative as other more, ahem, WICKed franchises, Fast X knows when to stop talking and merrily throw cars around.
Cinematographer Stephen F. Windon has now completed six installments. With Fast X, he maintains the visual style he helped establish in The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift. It’s a world of distinct hues where even the night is alive with color. As such, the flashy glamour stands out, making these high-end automobiles shine, but it also gives explosions vibrance. It all combines to add a tempting shell to this eye candy.
The soundtrack is easily forgettable. Though there is an apparent effort to use what seems like area appropriate music—lyrics in the language of whatever country the story turns to—the whole thing mostly sounds done by one artist. Despite a track list touting several well-known and rising stars, it’s like everyone did the same kick drum thud and bump groove, cashed their check, then went home. That said, amidst the cacophony of cars, collisions, and roaring races, it mostly disappears in the background so doesn’t detract that much.
Action is the entrée and Fast X delivers. Except for Vin Diesel, solid performances keep the film racing along smoothly. Jason Momoa is the standout, easily the most entertaining and the movie is almost worth seeing just to watch him. However, I’d be remiss in not mentioning Alan Ritchson as Aimes, who delivers a crowd-pleasing meta monologue that playfully skewers the whole franchise. Fans and detractors alike will love this scene.
Whether subsequent films draft off the lead of Fast X remains to be seen. But as the beginning of the end, this is a great start. Dumb fun has never been more delightful than with Fast X.