Review by C.J. Bunce
It’s easily the most entertaining movie of the year. It’s like Hasbro making a live-action adaptation of its Mouse Trap game if it was merged with a live-action adaptation of its Hot Wheels toys. It’s what The Expendables movies have tried–a giant cast of major actors in a thriller action movie. But Fast X, the best and biggest installment of the franchise, gets it all just right. The story and writing of an end-of-the-franchise part one of a multipart finale is much better than what the Marvel movies did. The writers know their characters, know their rules, and know what their narrative is about. The team of director Louis Leterrier (the Transporter franchise, The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance) and writer Justin Lin (Warrior, Star Trek Beyond, Magnum PI) is simply the action genre’s top pairing. Three decades since we first met Vin Diesel’s Dominic Toretto, the Fast & Furious franchise hasn’t let up on the high-octane excitement one bit. Its eleventh movie in the saga has finally come home via streaming provider Peacock.
With so many actors in the movie, you might ask how each could be showcased enough to justify putting them in this film. The only characters missing are Kurt Russell’s Mr. Nobody and Lucas Black’s Sean Boswell. And that means resurrecting some characters from the past–a superhero genre thing–while also tapping that crazy trope that usually doesn’t work: introducing surprise relatives who could have been mentioned before if the franchise really had it all planned out. The movie dips into that well multiple times. It only works because the theme hammered home in every movie is the importance of family–and Fast X delivers that topic by the truckload.
The script also allows the franchise to make fun of itself. It does that through its new villain, Jason Momoa’s Dante Reyes, son of Hernan Reyes, who Dom and Friends killed off in Fast Five. There’s a reason everyone loves Jason Momoa. The actor has style and a good sense of humor. Here that translates to creating the franchise’s best villain–a Bond villain without James Bond, although he’s even more of Jack Nicholson’s Joker from 1989’s Batman. Dante is actually a clash from what the franchise usually offers, but in a long-game story of bad guys eventually becoming good guys, the writers had to up the stakes somehow. In that regard the movie has another villain, a lesser villain played by Alan Ritchson named Aimes. Dante is the bad bad guy, but Aimes is the bad good guy. But Ritchson is lost in such a cast of big personalities.
Along with Momoa, the shining star of this entry is John Cena back as Uncle Jakob. Jakob is charged with protecting Dom and Letty’s son, and every scene is full of Cena’s humorous antics. In a movie full of cool, Sung Kang’s Han wins as the coolest of them all. If there’s not enough of any of the actors, it’s Jason Statham, back again as Shaw. Shaw’s mom is back, too–that’s Helen Mirren in a cameo. Somehow all the major players from the last film get enough screen time so they don’t feel like they are under-utilized. That’s Michelle Rodriguez′s Letty Ortiz, Jordana Brewster as Dom’s sister Mia, Tyrese Gibson as Rome Pearce, Ludacris as Tej Parker, and Nathalie Emmanuel as tech guru Ramsey.
In what started as a testosterone monopolized storyline in 2001’s The Fast and the Furious, the story has migrated toward balancing the women’s stories and contributions, including in driving, fight, and stunt scenes. Charlize Theron’s Cipher, villain of the past, switches sides and joins a newcomer, Mr. Nobody’s daughter Tess, played by Brie Larson. Theron and Larson, like so many in this movie, steal the show in every appearance. The giant sized cast movie hasn’t handled the sharing-the-screen concept so well since probably It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.
The Fast & Furious series is the biggest all-star movie franchise of the century. Other actors in the franchise have included Dwayne Johnson, Gal Gadot, Eva Mendes, Luke Evans, Djimon Hounsou, Ted Levine, and Paul Walker, who was there in the beginning, in the first, and arguably best film of the franchise, 2001’s The Fast and the Furious. You just know something good is coming when a memorable scene from Fast Five is reworked as the opening of this movie, complete with splices of the late Paul Walker, and new scenes with Joaquim de Almeida.
Rita Moreno gets a brief scene as Dom’s grandmother. And one more newfound relative joins the fight: Daniela Melchior as the sister of the cop Dom failed to protect from Cipher. You can ask whether all these scenes of tangent characters are necessary, but the script is so tight you’ll never notice any of it seeming extraneous.
Sanja Milkovic Hayes doesn’t get enough credit for her costume work on films like this. Someone must create all the outfits on those race day attendees–another required, checklist item for the franchise.
It all ends on a cliffhanger. That’s because it’s only the first part of what the studio promises “launches the final chapters of one of cinema’s most storied and popular global franchises, now in its third decade and still going strong with the same core cast and characters as when it began.”
If you’ve liked any of the movies in the franchise, you’ll love this one. Catch Fast X now streaming on Peacock.