Believe it or not, we are now over 20 years into the existence of the Fast & the Furious franchise, evolving from a street-racing story to one that could be compared to the Mission: Impossible and James Bond series. Like those other two franchises, Fast now exists as a never-ending globetrotting adventure where the protagonists are called into action wherever their particular set of skills is needed.
How being able to drive really fast in tight areas translates into world-saving derring-do is one of many reasons that the franchise is supremely absurd, with all logic thrown out from minute one of each subsequent film. Fast X, naturally, is no exception, although this time around they at least gift the audience with a great new villain, Dante Reyes (Jason Momoa), son of drug kingpin Hernan Reyes (Joaquim de Almeida), who met his demise in Fast Five.
In his pursuit of revenge, Dante lures/blackmails the core group – Dom (Vin Diesel), Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Tej (Ludacris), Han (Sung Kang), and Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) – into traveling to different places around the world where he has set a series of traps. Along the way, old and new allies and foes like Jakob (John Cena), Deckard (Jason Statham), Tess (Brie Larson), Cipher (Charlize Theron), and more help or hinder the heroes’ efforts.
Directed by Louis Leterrier and written by Dan Mazeau and Fast veteran Justin Lin, the film has the characters almost constantly on the move, which gives the illusion of action. There are, of course, plenty of car chases, explosions, fist fights, and shootouts, although the excitement they generate will likely depend on how hardcore a Fast fan you are. What’s undeniable is that the filmmakers do their best to make the film as over-the-top as any of the previous films, if not more so.
This results in cars, usually driven by Dom, doing things that they are clearly unable to do in the real world, like stop a massive rolling bomb, careen down a dam, and more. As in at least the previous two films, the filmmakers are in on the joke, having characters make fun of certain situations or engage in stunts that are so preposterous that the only natural reaction is to laugh at the sheer gall of putting them on screen in the first place.
The most enjoyable aspect of the film by far is the performance of Momoa, who has a ball making Dante into a cackling, monstrous bad guy who, despite Momoa’s beard and burliness, also comes off as androgynous in style and demeanor. For a series where the stakes are often ephemeral and death is rarely a true threat for the main characters, Dante feels like a breath of fresh air, offering something unique amid elements that often feel repetitive.
On the flip side, great acting is not the first thing that springs to mind for the rest of the cast. Almost all of their characters are set in stone, so none of their performances offers anything surprising. The only fun to be had on this end is the various pairings that crop up due to plot machinations, most notably when Jakob winds up as the caretaker of Dom and Letty’s son, Little Brian (Leo Abelo Perry).
It makes little difference whether Fast X is a truly good movie or not (spoiler: it’s not), as its legion of fans will show up no matter what’s put up on screen. The ridiculousness of the series is the point, and the first part of the two- (or three?) part finale more than delivers on that promise.
Fast X opens in theaters on May 19.