The past few Fast & Furious films have had a fluctuation of popcorn action movie elements. The car chases have grown more absurd, the sentimentality adorably cornball, and plots a smeary combo of routine world-saving and preservation of the family. After so much mounting of the silly, to the point where F9 made good on rumors about taking the street racing into space, Fast X would seem like it would be running on fumes. Thankfully, it’s one of the most exciting entries to date and possibly my favorite Fast entry ever.
The casting of Jason Momoa as the villain Dante instantly makes this picture brilliant. He plays an eccentric son of a late mob boss from a previous film in the saga. While bound by revenge, he still takes the time to delight in his carnage with the same vigor as a Batman villain. He’s practically aware that he’s within a Fast & Furious movie as he reaches flamboyant levels of giddiness. He doesn’t just kill his henchmen if he feels they’ve failed them; he’ll prop up their dead bodies, paint their fingernails, and hold quirky one-sided conversations with them as he proceeds with the next stage of his plan.
Dante’s plans are more akin to a comic book villain for being so bold with violence and bound by an unhinged need for destruction. Having grown bitter with the violence of the racing family led by Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel), he merely wants to watch the world burn with bombs, hijacked tech, and force the world to target Dom’s group of friends and associates. So there’s plenty for everybody to do in this globe-trotting adventure that never settles too long on one section or sideline that many characters. Considering how huge the cast has become, this picture has a surprising amount of charismatic moments, with 5-6 storylines throughout.
Dom is living up to his promise of being a dad and training his kid to be an expert driver. Of course, he needs childcare when he has to go globetrotting and find even more family members strewn about the Earth. In comes Dom’s latest crew of addition of his estranged bro Jakob (John Cena), living up to the role of being the cool uncle who takes his nephew on thrilling rides in experimental planes and cars. Not a bad babysitter, all things considered.
Of course, the film can’t separate the unbelievable comedic chemistry of the threesome of Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Tej (Ludacris), and Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel). Their antics are hilarious, given Roman’s uproarious exuberance, Tej’s short-fused frustrations, and Ramsey’s ability to keep them both in check. There’s also more depth given to Roman, who wants to prove himself as more than the dunce who says silly things and delivers corny punchlines. He’ll still do all that but prove himself more when the chips are down.
Michelle Rodriguez gets her own plotline to shine when she arrested by the mysterious Agency and reluctantly works with the villainous Cipher (Charlize Theron). And by reluctant, I mean she’ll wait for just the right moment to have a kick-ass fight with her, making for one of the best fights in the film among many. A similar feud breaks out between the rivals of Han (Sung Kang) and Shaw (Jason Statham), still not having dropped their rivalry that seemingly died in Furious 7.
And because this series can’t help itself, even more, new characters are thrown into the mix. They thankfully make their presence known in a big way. The Agency trying to apprehend Dom’s gang is led by the beefy and aggressive Aimes (Alan Ritchson). He’s established as a man powerful enough to take control and too vicious to fully trust, even when presented as an ally. More trustworthy is the turncoat Agency agent Tess, played by Brie Larson, with her trademark of wearing shoes with spikes.
The action scenes follow the progression of getting more intense with each film. Characters will launch themselves out of cars, slam into cranes, and even pick up vehicles with nary scratches on their muscular bodies. A giant bomb will roll around Rome like a Fast & Furious pinball game. Street races will end with exploding cars and bold choices about who will live and who will die. Showdowns of remote-controlled vehicles, explosive trucks, and hordes of heavily armed mercenaries remain as the saga’s bread and butter of high-octane thrills.
Fast X is the Empire Strikes Back of the Fast & Furious movies for amplifying its best traits and leaving you on one of the most intense movie cliffhangers. It finds a perfect balance of the absurd and daring, harboring a tongue-in-cheek atmosphere but letting the silliness spill out when needed. The stakes are raised with no guarantees of survival while still having fun with the idea of Jason Momoa galavanting around as a garishly-dressed villain jazzed on the fumes of exploding vehicles. Few action films can have this much cake and eat it as well, mumbling something about family between bites.