The Fast and Furious franchise has been a testament to adaptability over the years. What first began as “Point Break with street racers”, the franchise transformed itself (successfully) into grand scale heist flicks featuring rousing hand to hand combat and awe-inspiring set pieces. Fast Five, Fast and Furious 6, and Furious 7 are some of the most enjoyable commercial action films in recent memory. Unfortunately, the heart-breaking loss of Paul Walker left a hole in this franchise that cannot be filled. This is an overarching story that without a doubt should have concluded with Furious 7 but has stubbornly endured with continuously diminishing returns. This time around, Fast X corrects this downward trajectory slightly to create something that is more entertaining though still never touches the heights of the series’ peak. The story is mindless and there are too many characters with too little to do but darn it if the action isn’t enjoyable enough to keep you enthralled from start to finish with a 2 hour and 21-minute runtime that races by.
Directed by franchise newcomer Louis Leterrier, Fast X follows Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel) as he attempts to protect his ever-growing family from a new threat, Dante Reyes (Jason Mamoa), who is the son of the drug kingpin that Dom took down in Fast Five. The entire crew (Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, Jordana Brewster, John Cena, Sung Kang, and Nathalie Emmanuel) is back for this installment, and they are all at risk as Dante plans to exact his revenge against Dom for taking away his only family. Delving deeper into the complex details of this soap opera with cars is unnecessary, as it is all just an excuse to get these characters into perilous situations and watch them drive really fast out of them.
The biggest mark against Fast X is its storytelling, which feels devoid of stakes. In a franchise that has already brought 2 previously thought dead characters back into the fold it is incredibly hard to believe that any of the main protagonists are ever in any real danger. This plot armor, along with the constant addition of characters combine for a movie that is completely overstuffed. The result is nearly everyone is underserved outside of fleeting moments, except for Vin Diesel of course, who gets plenty of scenes to showcase his inability to express emotion. Along with Mamoa, Brie Larson, Alan Ritchson, and Rita Moreno are new additions. Ritchson does admirably with a stock character, while Larson’s role is severely underwritten and leaves her with disappointingly little to do. Similarly, Moreno and Helen Mirren each appear for a scene only to disappear. Such is the burden of an overstuffed story that doesn’t know how to take advantage of what it has for acting talent. One thing the script does get right is having its ensemble separated for most of the story, making it easier to spotlight individual characters, although in a typically minimal capacity. It is no secret that this entry is the beginning of a planned 2 (or 3 if Diesel gets his way) movie finale for the Fast Saga, and in line with all “Part 1”s this story feels like just a lot of buildup with not much resolution.
Fortunately, there is one other actor provided with enough screentime to make his presence felt and that is Jason Mamoa. Mamoa knows exactly the type of zany, over the top project he’s a part of, and he is game for it, delivering a delightfully unhinged portrayal as the primary antagonist. He is easily the most charismatic villain of the franchise, imbuing Dante Reyes with a demeanor and physicality that stands out from the rest. It is a thoroughly engaging performance that serves as the highlight of this moviegoing experience and provides excitement for what Mamoa chooses to do next. Meanwhile, on the outskirts of the story, Charlize Theron returns as a past foe, Cipher, and despite being given minimal screentime still manages to shine, providing the best action scenes of the film with some thrilling hand to hand combat sequences. There is certainly a better movie amongst the mess that involves more Charlize and more of this type of action choreography, but we’ll have to take what we can get. The big car-centric set pieces we do get are solid, if unspectacular. They are fun, although you can’t help but hold them against the previous highs of the franchise.
Overall, Fast X is an extraneous entry in a saga that should’ve ended long ago. It knows what has made the franchise great in the past but is never able to get back to those peaks. Nevertheless, this is undeniably an entertaining adventure. The combination of pedal to the metal pacing, cool camera shots, humorous banter, and Mamoa is just enough to keep audiences engaged for a fun ride. If they had to make another Fast and Furious, they could’ve done a lot worse than this. I give it 2.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it to any action fan seeking out a silly summer blockbuster.