Film Review: ‘Fast X’ is a False Start for the Franchise’s Concluding Chapter

The Fast and Furious franchise has been a staple of 21st century pop culture for the past 22 years, with 9 mainline entries having been released since 2001, as well as a single spin-off in 2019. This year, Fast X races into theatres, and as producer and lead actor Vin Diesel has stated repeatedly, the film is the beginning of the epic conclusion to the franchise. This time, Dom (Diesel) is the target of the vengeful Dante Reyes (Jason Momoa), who threatens to burn everything Dom holds dear to him: his family. The 141 minute action blockbuster is a return to the “grounded” action of the series compared to F9: The Fast Saga, and has all the elements needed to be a fun popcorn flick.

However, for all it’s dazzling effects and fantastical set pieces, the screenplay to Fast X is completely hollow. The result is a meandering, directionless film, that draws attention to it’s ineffective editing & consequence-free story. Fast X has blown its engine at the start of a multi-film final race, and it’s not worth watching in the multiplex.

The film follows Dom and his family of criminals turned spy agents as they try to survive the onslaught of Dante Reyes, the son of Fast Five‘s drug lord villain Hernan Reyes. Dante is out for revenge, and having turned Cypher’s (Charlize Theron) own hired mercenaries against her, he has everything he needs to take down Dom. Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Tej (Ludacris), Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel), and Han (Sung Kang) are tricked into hijacking a neutron bomb in Rome, and despite the best efforts of Dom and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), the mission goes south and they are framed for the act of terrorism. Letty must find a way out of the Agency’s maximum security prison, Roman’s crew must out-run both the authorities and Dante’s own goons, while Dom attempts to find who Dante is and stop him before it’s too late.

The first major issue with Fast X is its unbalanced plot. There are 4 plot-lines occurring throughout the film, and yet they rarely intersect and don’t lead into one another naturally. The A-plot, Dom finding Dante and stopping him, is a detective plot, where Dom has to find out who Dante is, and where Dante is located. This has no immediate effect on the B, C, or D plots, and thus it feels out of place when it cuts to the plots with the other familiar characters. The B-plot centers Jakob (John Cena) protecting Dom’s son, Little Brian (Leo Abelo Perry). Their plotline intersects with Dom’s plot brilliantly, making it the strongest of the four.

However, its strength also highlights where both the C and D plots fall apart: these never interact with the A plot. Roman, Tej, and Ramsey may interact with fan favorite character Shaw (Jason Statham), but their actions have no effect on this films plot. They become a part of the third act in the last 2 minutes of the film, and they don’t impact it in any meaningful way. Adding to this is Letty’s plot, which never re-integrates with any of the other plot-lines, and doesn’t completely resolve at the end of the film. While these C and D plots feel integral to the story being told through the proposed multi-film finale, they don’t have an effect on this films plot.

This is further compounded by the weak action of the A plot. While Fast X does a stellar job at making street races in a straight line interesting again, Dom’s plot has the least action of the four plotlines until the third act. Instead, Dom is frequently interacting with new faces, and the character introductions are all weak. Dante, Tess (Brie Larson), Isabel (Daniela Melchior) and Diogo (Luis Da Silva Jr.) are all fascinating characters, with some great performances coming from their actors/actresses, but the introductions never capture their energy.

Dante is introduced to the audience in the prologue for the film, which recuts the safe heist from Fast Five with new footage of Jason Momoa added to reveal his status as the son of Hernan Reyes. Momoa’s flamboyant and unhinged performance as Reyes isn’t present in the scene, and while these elements may have become a part of the character as a result of the trauma of having his father die, it doesn’t work as an engaging character introduction.

Dante is given a second introduction when Cypher turns to Dom for help, and it’s a much stronger showing of who Dante is for the film. This is a problem that permeates through every new character, whether it’s a very minor role like Abuelita (Rita Moreno) or a larger role, like Aimes (Alan Ritchson). The writing, direction, and editing fail to make the new characters truly engaging or seem worthy of your interest.

However, the performances of the actors often inject the nitros needed for these characters to work. Jason Momoa has seen universal praise for his chilling work as Dante, and its well earned. While the philosophical battle between Dom and Dante is mediocre, Momoa’s presence makes him more than a worthy battle for the final chapters of the Fast and Furious franchise. On the opposite spectrum, Melchior continues to excel as an actress, giving Isabel the sympathetic performance required to immediately have the audience care for her, despite having no clue who she is to Dom or the family. Alan Ritchson and Brie Larson play off one another well as opposing powers within the Agency, and when Tess goes rogue, it’s believable and fun.

Pete Davidson has a fantastic small cameo as Bowie, and it helps vary the tone of Roman’s plotline. John Cena reprises his role as Jakob Toretto, and is once again very charming as the guardian for Little Brian. His layered performance as Jakob masks his concern for Dom to ensure that Little Brian doesn’t have to worry about his dad’s mission. Leo Abelo Perry brings Little Brian to life fabulously. The weakest performances are from the series regulars, and Diesel is particularly flat in the film. His performance has some somber, reflective characteristics, but is largely what we have come to expect from Dominic Toretto. It’s acceptable, but it weighs down the A plot even more.

The last major weakness to Fast X is it’s editing quality. As I noted earlier, there are some great ideas for a more “grounded” entry to the franchise. It’s action is composed of some close quarter combat, a street-race with rigged cars, a chase through Rome, and the final chase on highways in South America, involving standard cars, helicopters, Dom’s Dodge charger, and a monster truck with bazooka’s attached to the side. Each of these sequences have strong choreography, high stakes, and very cool gimmicks. But it’s all done a major disservice by the haphazard, tensionless editing that fails to convey the geometry of each sequence. It’s never truly horrible, but its a point of failure in a franchise that has previously had very well constructed action sequences.

All this culminates in a disappointing part one. Fast X may have the hallmarks of director Louis Leterrier’s stylistic establishing shots, but it lacks direction and poignancy. Even a powerhouse performance from Jason Momoa can’t save Fast X.



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Written by benjaminwiebe

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