Fast X Review: Dir. Louis Leterrier

Somehow a film that began as Point Break with cars – The Fast and the Furious – has gone on to become one of the highest-grossing franchises in cinematic history. The seventh instalment amassed an impressive $1.5 billion, the eight $1.25 billion; the double whammy ensuring that the franchise was bankable enough to keep churning them out. The ninth film didn’t break the billion mark, but had a global pandemic working against it, and now comes the tenth film (Hobbs and Shaw is a spin-off unconnected to the main series outside of characters), Fast X.

Over the course of the ten movies, the franchise has undergone a massive makeover. The first is, as already mentioned, Point Break on wheels with LAPD officer Brian O’Connor (Paul Walker) going undercover on the illegal street racing circuit to identify a gang of highway robbers. Amongst all the racing he bonds with Dominic ‘Dom’ Toretto (Vin Diesel), which puts him in an awkward situation when Dom is revealed as the leader of the criminal enterprise Paul is pursuing. The second film stayed with cars as a driving force as Brian is sent into a shady organisation to stop a Miami kingpin. The third film shifted to Tokyo and said goodbye to both Brian and Dom, instead focusing on a wayward teen’s attempt at learning how to drift. By the fourth film the racing took a back seat, and then in the fifth film came the franchise’s first grand heist…

Jason Momoa is Dante in FAST X, directed by Louis Leterrier

This heist plays a key role in Fast X, the film opening by rewinding ten years to show a new vantage point of Dom and Brian’s vault snatch. In these scenes the villain of Fast Five , Hernan Reyes (Joaquim de Almeida), is revealed to have had a son, Dante Reyes (Jason Momoa). During the course of the sequence, Dante is shown to have been the driver in the car that got knocked off of the Rio bridge. He didn’t die though and is about to cause Dom a whole lot of suffering. This opening rewrite is nothing new to the Fast franchise. Since the fifth film it seems that almost every entry has gone back to undo something from the past, prime examples being the deaths of both Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) and Han (Sung Kang). Given that the audience never saw who was inside the second car in Fast Five, the previously unmentioned son angle in Fast X is tangible. Just like many of the other retcons, there is just enough viability that the audience is prepared to go along with it. Plot holes tend to be viewed as a bad thing, but the Fast franchise constantly proves that you can always fill them in later.

In addition to forever rewriting its own lore and history, the family expands with each Fast film. In Fast X their are multiple expansions; Dante is one new face, but there are several new cast members who are inevitably shoe-horned in. The manoeuvre is a cheap attempt at getting the audience to invest in the new characters quicker. However, as the family expands, screen time is constricted. This time around the group are fragmented across the globe with Dom isolated from those he loves. The geographical distance makes for lots of jumping around the planet to check in with the different factions meaning everyone’s screen time is diminished. Mia (Jordana Brewster) is sidelined once more, Letty is barely there, and the quartet of Han, Tej (Ludacris), Roman (Tyrese,) and Ramsey (Nathlie Emmanuel) get little in the way of development.

One of the more infuriating aspects of the story is that once more the group fail to address the elephant in the room: Brian’s absence. In reality Paul Walker tragically passed away during the filming of the seventh film. Rather than kill Brian off, it was decided to keep the character alive. Whilst it was a touching move initially, as the films move on it makes less and less sense why Brian wouldn’t be there to help his family. For the last two outings it has been Mia who has waded in to help, which goes against everything we’ve seen from her character previously. Brian’s absence is most glaring during an early BBQ scene during which there is an empty chair and plate next to Mia. It’s clearly meant to be Brian’s, but nobody mentions it, and don’t get me started on the fact that we haven’t seen either of Mia’s children since Furious 7.

Vin Diesel is Dom in FAST X, directed by Louis Leterrier

Though his cousins are missing, Dom’s son, Little Brian (Leo Abelo Perry) takes a more central role. A number of years have seemingly passed since the events of Fast Nine with the youngest now aged somewhere between 8 and 10. He becomes a coveted prize for Dante to capture and so the youngster gets a substantial amount of screen time. His inclusion serves to open the doors of the franchise to a more kid friendly arena. Youngsters who catch the film will love seeing themselves represented via their peer and will have the whole playground playing Fast and the Furious.

It wouldn’t be a Fast movie without some action and Fast X does not disappoint on that front. There are plenty of missions and battles to sustain fans, however the sequences themselves appear to have fully embraced the Marvel mantra. As such, the level of carnage and disregard for civilian life is at a series high. An early mission in Rome causes more devastation that all previous outings combined. In casting itself in the Marvel mould, so too come the pitfalls. The set-pieces are all excessively long, eventually petering out to white noise. There isn’t the same level of investment as in earlier films and signs point to a franchise desperately in need of ending. That doesn’t seem likely anytime soon however, with Diesel having heavily alluded that the once two-film ending will actually be a trilogy. Fast X being the first part of this final story means that, inevitably, the film just ends. It isn’t quite as abrupt as The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 in terms of a cliffhanger, but it is frustrating nonetheless.

Fast Five combined all the fan favourite characters into one film, Fast X follows suit by revisiting the most prominent locations from the last few entries. London, Rio, and even Antarctica all play pivotal roles. There is a nostalgia to returning to these places, but there is also a distinct lack of the electricity that the original uber team up generated. The task of injecting Fast X with new excitement falls to Jason Momoa and fortunately he doesn’t disappoint. Dante is a great villain; he is uncomfortably unhinged, driven, and fully in touch with his femininity. Momoa’s performance is high camp eccentricity, which works perfectly with the now heightened OTT arena of the Fast franchise. Momoa is gleefully wicked and gives John Wick 4‘s Marquis a run for the title of best dressed villain of the year, but for very, very different reasons. What’s more, you can feel Momoa’s excitement and delight at not only being in a Fast film, but also playing a baddie again after all his heroic aquatic adventures.

One of the many new additions, Ames (Alan Ritchson – who was Smallville’s Aquaman) remarks that Dom isn’t running a family, but rather “a cult with cars.” The statement rings true for the audience as, over the course of the ten films, they themselves have become part of the world, progressively accepting even more outlandish stunts and resurrections. In a way, loyal viewers are all suffering from a touch of Stockholm Syndrome, and it is exactly this frame of mind that enables the series to sustain its longevity. How good the movie is doesn’t really matter so long as its audience is fed their new fix of Dom and co. Fast X hits all the expected (and now familiar) tropes and beats, but this being the first in a multi-movie story, it is ultimately a little underwhelming… but regardless, we will all return for the next chapter like the dutiful cult members we are.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Fast X is in cinemas across the UK now.