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Fast X Review: Finale Overload

  • A very watchable and entertaining big screen experience
  • A tonal mess that leans too far into comic relief
  • Relies too heavily on retreading what's come before
  • Perhaps the least effectively written film in the series

"Fast X," the tenth film in the "Fast & Furious" series, was originally announced as part one of a two-part finale for the franchise that began with street racers stealing DVD players and eventually sent them into outer space. But then, producer-star Vin Diesel suggested the finale will, in fact, be three parts, to which this reviewer must say, "Give it up, man."

The "Fast & Furious" series has long held a special place within pop culture. Its ability to blend disparate influences with multicultural casts and electrifying action, all on the back of a love for the automotive industry and a sincere exaltation of found family, has made these movies a global phenomenon. But the vast majority of these universally beloved films were directed by Justin Lin, who quit this production in May 2022, and written by Chris Morgan, whose last script credit was 2019's "Hobbs & Shaw" spin-off. In their place, director Louis Leterrier took the steering wheel. He had to drive an unfinished car through an obstacle course of narrative pitfalls, budgetary overages, and the unenviable responsibility that comes with shepherding a saga he didn't build to a satisfying conclusion.

While we should definitely applaud Leterrier for performing under pressure and praise him for making "Fast X" a largely appealing moviegoing experience, its overall execution leaves a lot to be desired. The film is disappointing enough that the idea of adding an extra feature film into the mix feels not only ill-advised, but borderline insulting.

Truth or consequences

"Fast X" is built upon two simple concepts. The first is that Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) is now a family man more concerned with teaching his son Brian (Leo Abelo Perry) how to drive than with whatever the next mission or heist is for him and his crew. The second is a pretty ambitious retcon of "Fast Five." "Fast X" introduces Dante Reyes (Jason Momoa), son of the big bad from that film, who is now out to get revenge on Dom by attacking all he holds dear. The film goes to pretty deep lengths to sell both of these ideas, whether it's stunt casting Rita Moreno as Dom's grandmother or having Charlize Theron's overused villain Cipher align herself with the good guys to sell how evil this new threat is.

Unfortunately, Dom's status as the patriarch of this world is so cemented that implying it's some new wrinkle and not the thematic core of the last four movies becomes an irritating errand for the audience to endure. Moreover, as much fun as Momoa seems to be having chewing the scenery and reliving the acting choices every heavy between 2009 and 2015 made after seeing Heath Ledger's turn as the Joker, Dante proves too inconsistent an antagonist to take seriously. In one scene, he's replaying beats from prior baddies like Owen Shaw (Luke Evans). In he next, he's riffing as a sassy and effeminate fop whose skirmishes with Toretto are still leagues less homoerotic or fascinating than Dom's tension with The Rock's Luke Hobbs.

There's a ton else thrown in for good measure; the cast has grown so large that too many masters must be fed for adequate representation to be reached. But between new players like Brie Larson as Mr. Nobody's daughter Tess and old favorites like Jason Statham's Deckard Shaw returning to the fray, there's little screen time left for the earnest tough-guy poetry Diesel brings to the franchise. Even when those moments arrive, they're bookended by an inordinate amount of comic relief from Tyrese Gibson and Ludacris, to the point that the comedy isn't relieving anything and the scant few moments of genuine danger and pathos must fight to be taken seriously.

Moreover, this is all wrapped up in the real problem: We've seen all this before.

To be continued?

"Fast X" opens with a lengthy sequence re-litigating the best set piece from "Fast Five" (which is also, arguably, the best set piece in the entire series). Every significant character moment and action sequence that follows also reiterates or homages something earlier in the franchise — but never in a way that feels additive or necessary. Outside of a pretty fun throwback racing scene set in Brazil, "Fast X" just regurgitates what's come before, with little energy devoted to evolving the formula. Special mention must be made of Alan Ritchson's inclusion, though: His turn as Aimes, an Agency operative who's basically a cover song version of Hobbs, feels like the only time where this weaponized deja vu serves the narrative. Everything else, however, is a wash.

There's nothing wrong with a new movie in a long series repeating what's worked before, necessarily. But when nothing feels exciting or alive, a problem emerges. It's just repeated gesturing at an entertaining past that's worthier of the viewer's time. There may be enough explosions, incredulity, and fourth wall-breaking here to deceive people who hated "F9" into finding this an improvement. But this is also a film that wastes no time turning that film's villain, Jakob Toretto (John Cena, as maybe the most compelling figure the series has conjured in years), into a complete cartoon. 

The "Fast & Furious" films have never been afraid to wink at the viewer, but the thing that makes them special in comparison to every other shared universe is the sense that its creators aren't ashamed to be making these movies. No matter how absurd they got, Diesel used to ground it all in Corona-soaked sincerity. Here, that gets buried under too much debris. It's unlikely adding another movie to this prolonged finale will fish the franchise's heart out from under it all.