Fast X review: Fractured, furious sequel delivers extreme highs and lows
Jason Momoa's villain is a riot and the physics-defying action remains irresistible, but underwhelming side plots drag this entry down.
Fast X ends on a cliffhanger.
That’s a minor spoiler, but it’s also important you know this when entering into the latest instalment in the billion dollar-grossing Fast & Furious series, which more so than any previous entry in the franchise is not so much a movie as a sequence of events.
The "beginning" is perfunctory – a brief rehash of events from 2011’s Fast Five, retrofitted to introduce Jason Momoa’s new villain Dante Reyes into proceedings – and the ending is non-existent, all pay-off held back for an inevitable 11th film. Fast X is comprised entirely of middle – some of it utterly misses the mark and some of it works spectacularly well, action cinema so exhilarating you’ll be whooping in the aisles.
"Family" might be as much at the forefront of this Fast movie as any other – with Rita Moreno and Helen Mirren adding a touch of class as, respectively, the previously unseen grandmother of Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and Queenie Shaw, now effectively Dom’s surrogate mother – but the splintered structure of Fast X sees the franchise’s key players more fractured than ever before, occupying separate plot strands which run parallel but never gel across the film’s 141-minute runtime.
The end result is a movie which serves up extreme highs and lows. Easily the most successful element is the core plot which sees Dom targeted by psychotic antagonist Reyes, who’s on a mission of vengeance after the Fast family offed his father Hernan (Joaquim de Almeida) in Fast Five. A flamboyant Momoa, aping Heath Ledger’s Joker, is without question this movie’s most valuable player – Fast X is immeasurably more fun whenever he’s on screen – and this thread, which sees Dom’s loved ones threatened, also brings the best out of Diesel, who delivers his most committed performance in the saga’s recent history.
But the success of this central storyline only emphasises how insubstantial the rest of the film is. Supporting cast Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Tej (Ludacris), Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) and Han (Sung Kang) loiter on the sidelines with no clear purpose – double act Roman and Tej in particular rehashing banter we’ve seen before, and better, in previous fast Films – while John Cena’s Jakob, Dom’s brother and bitter adversary in 2021’s F9, is now positioned purely as comic relief, relegated to a side quest with his nephew 'Little B' (Leo Abelo Perry).
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Other characters – including Scott Eastwood’s g-man Little Nobody and, most unforgivably, Michelle Rodriguez’s Letty, a franchise OG – get a few brief moments to shine only to be sidelined or removed from the film entirely.
When it’s firing on all cylinders, Fast X is a riot, delivering adrenaline-fuelled action and absurd fun on a level equal to franchise highs. The brand of physics-defying vehicular acrobatics remains irresistible, while Momoa’s Dante is the saga’s finest villain to date and a most welcome addition to the canon.
Still, in isolation, this much-vaunted "beginning of the end of the road" can only be considered a partial success. The sworn mission of Dante Reyes is to tear apart his nemesis Dom's family, but the film's writers end up doing that for him, keeping the Fast "familia" apart for much of the film, to its detriment. The end result is a hugely enjoyable face-off between Diesel and Momoa that's surrounded by a string of substantially less engaging satellite plots.
Though it lacks an ending, the film does hint at a hugely satisfying denouement to come, via a few blatant teases and some others that'll be detected only by hardcore Fast fans. If it delivers on the promise of what's laid out here, a less haphazard, more cohesive Fast 11 might very well be the Avengers: Endgame to this film's Infinity War, the stirring franchise capper that this 22-year-old series deserves.
Fast X is out in cinemas on Friday 19th May 2023 – find out how to rewatch all the Fast & Furious movies in order.
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