Vin Diesel leads the all-star cast.
Loudly proclaiming, early and often, that’s it ‘all about family,’ Fast X proceeds to dismantle that bromide, bit by excruciating digital bit. Calling back to and revolving around key events in Fast Five (2011) from the adult perspective of Dante (Jason Momoa), the son of the earlier film’s principal antagonist, drug lord Hernan Reyes (Joaquim de Almeida), the film imagines that Dante has been plotting revenge ever since and now intends to executive his vengeance upon them by MAKING THEM SUFFER (cue evil laugh).
By “them,” of course, the vengeful Dante plans to attack Dom (Vin Diesel) and his extended family of blood relatives and close criminal associates, who now number into the thousands, or at least to the point that Dom embraces every survivor of his kooky driving, shooting, and killing exploits as a member of his family and thus deserving of the kind of protection that only he can provide (cue 1,000-yard stare).
What follows is a blitzkrieg of images, hasty assembled into something resembling a narrative, and clearly meant to be taken dead serious, judging by the tone set by Vin Diesel, who exudes the same hulking menace, whether he’s crouching over his young son or ignoring the property damage he has caused or the enemies he has murdered to protect those that he loves.
The decision to circle back to Fast Five as a jumping-off point for the story is just the first in a series of bad decisions. Directed by Justin Lin, the film was the first in the series to leave behind entirely the constaints of time, space, common sense, and the laws of gravity. By embracing its entirely ridiculous excesses and having fun with them, acknowledging its own Looney Tunes mentality, the film simultaneously declared it would henceforth be making up its own rules and establishing its own (un)natural laws.
The films that have followed, especially after Lin departed the franchise after Fast & Furious 6, steadily embraced that wildly individualistic style with diminishing effect, especially noticeable after writer Chris Morgan departed after The Fate of the Furious (2017). Even with Lin’s return to the helm in F9 (2021), the series was reduced to treading water and felt desperate and ever more outlandish and untethered to any sort of guiding narrative throughline.
That continues under the direction of Louis Leterrier, a journeymen helmer who has made seven previous action movies, none that are especially memorable. (Lin before work on this film before departing shortly after production began due to “creative differences.” Note that Lin co-wrote the script.) From the outside, Leterrier appears to be a hard-working sort of filmmaker who gets the job done, on time and on budget, but without much noticeable flair or hint of personal style. (He also claims to have re-written substantial portions of the script on his flight to begin work.) As to the acting, well, the franchise is a graveyard for Academy Award-winning actors (Rita Moreno, Helen Mirren, Charlize Theron, Brie Larson) who, like Leterrier, get the job done (i.e. say their lines) without leaving any discernible marks.
At the public preview screening I attended, Jason Momoa’s performance as a supremely flamboyant metrosexual villain played extremely well with the crowd. Personally, I could not quite fathom the reason for his character to lean heavily on behavior that I thought was outdated and (borderline) offensive. He practically twirls his moustache. (Cue evil laugh again.)
Perhaps I’m missing the point (or the humor) entirely. In any event, it’s in an entirely different style from all the other performances, which makes it stand out; it’s as though Momoa thinks he’s in a comedy, while everyone else plays it as a family drama.
At best, he’s a distraction from a lessening spectacle. More does not always mean better, as painfully demonstrated in Fast X.
The film opens in Dallas, Fort Worth and surrounding cities on Friday, May 19, via Universal Pictures. For more information about the film, visit the official site.