Fast and Furious, the franchise that evolved from drag racing on streets to saving the entire planet like a more multi-racial Avengers, is now at its tenth checkpoint (eleventh if you count the spin-off Hobbs & Shaw). And Fast X does deliver on its expected doses of physics-defying hi-jinks, characters' mumbling the word "family" and the mandatory product placement of Corona beer.
But despite Fast X delivering on everything that a franchise purist can ask for, even the most forgiving of audiences are bound to feel the need to get out of the car. As all entries in the franchise go, Fast X builds up its ensemble with more resurrected characters (people die and come back just like an Ekta Kapoor serial at this point) and yet another villain who has bad blood against Vin Diesel AKA Dominic Torreto’s…family.
For a movie that is rooted in its core concept of family, Fast X is scattered all over quite literally. With Dominic facing off against a dead foe’s revenge-seeking son Dante in Rio de Janeiro, the comedic duo of Tej and Roman are paired with hacker Ramsey and “zombie-fied” drifter Han as they do their bit in London (where they meet Pete Davidson for some reason).
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Meanwhile, franchise badass and Dominic’s wife Letty is in a secret facility with Cipher (yes, the villain from the eighth film who is now Dom’s ally). This facility is under the “Agency” (yes, maybe Universal fears the CIA suing) that includes Alan Ritchson (the buff-guy from Reacher) and Oscar-winner Brie Larson in arguably her most overdramatic role.
The woman who won an Oscar for playing an overprotective mother in Room was never this emotional as she somehow gets more defensive about Dom’s “cult with cars” than the average Fast and Furious fan would get about the science of the franchise. Somehow managing to keep a straight face, Larson gives a dramatic monologue of how Dom and the crew have “driven through Hell’s gates to protect us”.
She’s one of the Agency’s agents who believes that Dom is being framed for crimes like a bombing near the Vatican (calm down, the Pope is alive and well in the Fast franchise). So, Larson’s character conveniently shows up in a sharp suit anywhere and everywhere to help Dom and his allies. The question isn’t how she shows up? The question remains, why does she?
The ratio of increase in actors alongside the increase in parallel storylines is increasing with every Fast and Furious movie now and Fast X has just amped up the confusion a whole notch higher. Everyone is on some kind of mission in some part of the world. Even Dom’s brother Jakob (John Cena, let’s not even start with any facial similarities between Vin Diesel and Cena) has his family-friendly road trip comedy going on as he’s tasked with protecting Dom’s son Brian.
But in retrospect, Cena is quite the show stealer despite his limited runtime. Dwayne Johnson (who is absent from this film over the actor’s ego issues but don’t worry he will be back because everyone does come back here) has often prided himself for his successful transition from WWE wrestler to Hollywood stardom. But when it comes to natural comedic timing and the lovable nature Johnson craves so much, Cena might be a mile ahead of him. He is a delight to watch out in the migraine-inducing mess that the rest of Fast X is. Watch him babysit his nephew in an uncle-like car while lip-syncing to a cheesy 90s pop song. That is the highlight of Fast X.
Despite Fast X’s plot being all over the place and strands of narrative unnecessarily stretched out for more sequels (“one last ride” is the franchise’s biggest lie), it does deliver on the high-octane WTF-inducing chase sequences. With those audiences who simply wish to see big cars vroom their way across every dimension possible (I mean the last movie saw a car in space), Fast X has its redeeming qualities.
The highly-anticipated Vatican bombing scene plays out as a game of life-sized pinball on the Italian streets as Dominic tries to stop the bomb from exploding with car acrobatics. Not to spoil too much but such sequences would make Fast and Furious fans nostalgic of how far the franchise has come from Dwayne Johnson deflecting a torpedo with his bare hands to the crew going to space in duct taped-spacesuits.
And driving to the positives, Jason Momoa proves to be a flashy, cliched crazed villain as he seeks revenge for his dead father (who died in the fifth film if you forgot). But Dante’s vibrant fashion choices and his ability to just be unbeatable make him a perfect extension of the franchise's self-aware humour.
While Vin Diesel is just grunting throughout the film and everyone else is speaking in punchlines, Momoa’s Dante Reyes is just having fun. It’s Momoa’s ability to not take himself seriously (don’t know if that’s intentional or not) works in his favour and he is definitely having fun playing a bad guy who isn’t the hypermasculine tough guy one would think of him to be. Dante is a man who paints the nails of his victims, sports a Ranveer Singh-like wardrobe and just does weird unexplainable things like stepping out of a staircase in Rome saying “BONJOURNO”.
Sadly, even the Hawaiian hunk (who is Mexican here) gets tiring after a point.
Fast X is ultimately what it promises to be: an over-the-top action epic that begs you to not take it seriously. As long as it plays out like Dante Reyes’ straightforward revenge plan, it is an enjoyable no-brainer. The problem, however, lies in scenes where it takes itself a bit too seriously and the bad news is that Fast X has an arsenal of such scenes.
Diesel, who has greater dramatic range saying one line over and over as MCU’s Groot, gets more and more grumpy-faced in this installment. His attempts at looking serious can get laughable at times. The Agency, as mentioned earlier, is unintentionally a joke in itself. And if you thought the 141-minute-long action flick were to give you any definite ending, the joke is on you.
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As is common knowledge, Fast X was the first entry in a two-part finale. But just weeks before release, Universal shamelessly showed its money-minting desires as they changed the finale to a three-part one.
So, if Fast X makes you think the franchise is running out of fuel and reaching its “so bad that it’s good” stage, wait for two more super-sized “last rides”.
And while a piano rendition of See You Again plays somewhere in the beginning to make you cry, it’s just shameless exploitation of the late franchise star Paul Walker. Rather than ending his chapter, Fast X continues restating the theory that Paul Walker’s Brian is simply living away from Dom’s crew to start a new life. Yes, sure, while his wife Mia is still back in action in Fast X to help Dom.
While Dom’s family and crew members are in peril, the franchise wants us to believe that Brian is just chilling at a beach. What are they saving his character for? The Fast X screenplay anyway feels like it’s penned by ChatGPT. Now, will they feature AI Paul Walker in the next sequel?