Those who have grown up through the 2000s, we have seen the Fast and Furious franchise at its best, and we’ve seen it at its worst. Generally speaking, everyone considers the first movie to be great, not just because of its simplicity but also because of its worldwide impact. Fast Five is seen as the point where things essentially peaked. The folks aren’t wrong; it’s the best. Although Tokyo Drift wasn’t well-received when it was released, people finally joined the wise ones in the sun and gave it the appreciation it deserved. Despite its box-office returns, The Fate of the Furious was absolute garbage, and it didn’t look like Vin Diesel’s Fast Family would make a return due to the pandemic. Guess what? F9 came out when nobody was ready to go to the theater and raked in the big bucks. That didn’t stop the series from getting embroiled in controversy due to the apparent fallout between Diesel and Justin Lin, which cost the production millions of dollars. With Fast X, though, I think the producers (which include Diesel) can put all that in the rearview mirror because they’ve truly struck gold by roping in Louis Leterrier and the inimitable Jason Momoa.
Fast X turns back the clock all the way to 2011 to reveal that Hernan Reyes had a son named Dante Reyes. He was with his father during the iconic bank vault heist and was the only survivor of Toretto’s onslaught. Since then, he promised to avenge Hernan by not killing Dominic Toretto but by hitting him where it hurts: his family (or cult with cars). In the present day, Dom, Letty, Little Brian, Han, Tej, Roman, Mia, Ramsey, and Dom’s Abuelita are spending time together, thinking about the old days and the kind of legacy that they’re going to leave behind. This brief period of tranquility is upended by two things: Cipher’s intrusion and a mission in Rome led by Roman.
Cipher informs Dom about Dante’s attack on her in her office, and Roman’s trip to Italy turns out to be a setup by Dante so that Dom’s crew can be broken up into pieces. By the time Dom and Letty can get to Roman, Tej, Han, and Ramsey’s rescue, it’s all too late, as they are forced to go their separate ways for being the ones to almost kill the Pope. Now, while everyone in the crew tries to reunite with Dom, the man of the hour (Dante) engages in a wild cat-and-mouse chase with Toretto that involves cars and explosions.
Contrary to popular opinion, I don’t have a lot of qualms with the writing department because it has its own standard, which is something that I am familiar with, and the plot is eclipsed by the action and Jason Momoa. So, let’s get them out of the way quickly. As many have pointed out, this is the only film that’s not eager to conclude certain arcs, as Universal wants to give the franchise a three-part finale. Hence, the characters are way too scattered. Whenever the focus shifts from Dom and Dante to practically anyone else, it starts to get a little annoying. Although Roman, Tej, Han, and Ramsey’s chemistry is pretty tight, Roman’s unnecessarily meta jokes feel grating. Roman and Tej do stop winking at the camera eventually, but it’s too little, too late.
Apart from all that, everything in the film is a blast! Using Fast Five as the emotional trigger for everything that unfolds in this film is genius. Taking the protagonist, who has risen from the streets and is always high on family values, and pitting him against an antagonist who has known nothing but toxicity and pampering and has nothing to lose, is genuinely fantastic. And the fact that they manage to draw a line between familial ties, faith (religious or spiritual), and Dom’s love for analog muscle cars in order to critique the digitization of everything through A.I. is mind-blowing to me.
What’s also mind-blowing to me is the action in Fast X. That entire sequence in Rome (where Leterrier probably tips his hat to the boulder scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark and the Odessa Steps scene in Battleship Potemkin) is a brilliant mix of practical stunts, VFX, and CGI. Going by the behind-the-scenes footage, Momoa actually did a lot of his motorbike riding in that scene because he’s a fan of motorbiking in real life. The drag race in Rio de Janeiro is simple, yet it’s quite tense because of Dante. And I think it’s a notable moment in the franchise since Dom loses the race. If I remember correctly, in Fate of the Furious, the man competed in a busted-up car in Cuba and set its engine on fire to give it the necessary boost to get it across the finish line. So, there’s literally nothing in the universe where this franchise exists that can beat Dom because Vin Diesel allegedly doesn’t want to portray himself as a loser on screen. Yet here he is, boldly going for the moral victory instead of adhering to his “winning by an inch versus winning by a mile” theory.
That said, the quality of the action does drop a few notches during the hand-to-hand fight sequences. They are exquisitely crafted, and the actors and their stunt doubles do a lot of the heavy lifting. However, it’s chopped up into bits, thereby making the viewing experience a little underwhelming. That said, the entire final act more than makes up for it, as it includes Dom outrunning a dual tanker truck explosion down a dam! The icing on the cake is the virtual camera floating through the frame, as everyone is frozen in time, going from Little B to Dom to the iconic cross to the veins on Dom’s hand to the NOS and then to the engine. It’s like the film’s way of showing what’s at stake for Dom and what Dom is going to use to get out of this situation, and it’s absolutely amazing!
When it comes to the performances, the entire cast plays to their strengths. Vin Diesel is stoic and surprisingly vulnerable. Michelle Rodriguez is used sparingly, but her scenes with Charlize Theron (who is so amazing in her own right and finally gets to sport a good hairstyle in the franchise) are action-packed and entertaining. Jordana Brewster gets to explore her auntly side and partake in a lot of action against the agency’s agents, where the highlight is her chucking a cast-iron pan. Ludacris, Sung Kang, Tyrese Gibson, and Nathalie Emmanuel are functional as a unit. John Cena gets to spend a lot of time with Leo Abelo Perry, and they are so cute! Brie Larson finally gets to prove that she can be incredibly charismatic in a blockbuster movie. Daniela Melchior continues to show that she’s on her way to becoming one of the most bankable stars in the industry. Alan Ritchson gets to flex his personality and his muscles. The cameos are all fine.
But let’s put all of that aside and talk about Jason Momoa because, OMG, has this man delivered an Oscar-worthy performance! I’m not even kidding when I say that Momoa’s turn as Dante Reyes is one of the most unhinged and best performances of the year. He’s the personification of the franchise’s inclination to let loose after playing it safe for around two decades. That’s why you see this vehicle-of-vengeance licking knives drenched in blood with as much enthusiasm as he is licking Melchior’s face. He is draped in the coolest clothes and wearing the chicest accessories you’ve ever seen. He is serving mojitos to corpses while painting their nails as well as his. He flirtatiously tells Dom to hang up first after giving him the most infuriating threats. He rarely throws a punch, and he laughs while he’s being punched, which sends him into Joker territory. The amazing sound team uses the TIE Fighter sound effect from Star Wars and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake to add to his menacing aura. In addition to all that, you have Momoa using his physique and his vocal range to sear every bit of Dante into the audience’s mind. Therefore, I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that Jason Momoa is the best thing that has ever happened to the Fast and Furious franchise.
In conclusion, it’s because of Jason Momoa that the trip to the theater, and the incredibly expensive ticket for Fast X was totally worth it. It’s safe to say that, after Aquaman and now this, Momoa shouldn’t be restricted to the small screen. He should be allowed to play the most fruity and masculine characters because he clearly has the chops to pull it off. That said, I am a little scared of how they are going to conclude Dante’s arc. Why? Well, as mentioned before, the franchise allegedly has a Vin Diesel-shaped ego problem, and I don’t know how he’s going to react to all this attention that Momoa is getting. I am inclined to think that the creation of Dante is Diesel’s way of being the bigger man and allowing the better actor to shine. If Momoa gets neutered for the obvious reason in the next few installments, I’ll be incredibly sad. But let’s all be optimistic and hope that that doesn’t happen, and Louis Leterrier and company get to deliver the most iconic villain in blockbuster history in the form of Jason Momoa’s Dante. With all that said, please go to the theater and watch Fast X, form your opinion (since what you’ve just read are my views and my views only), and share your thoughts with us.