‘Fast X’ Review: Momoa’s DOMination

Aaron Neuwirth reviews Fast X, another wildly ridiculous entry in The Fast Saga, and it delivers on being an entertaining ride featuring an effectively unhinged Jason Momoa as the film's villain.
User Rating: 7

It’s wild to think that the Fast Saga has been a part of my life for over 20 years. No, that doesn’t mean I’m having a family BBQ and knocking back Corona’s in honor of the racing/super spy efforts of Vin Diesel’s Dominic Toretto and his crew every month. Still, it’s not as though there isn’t some mention of living life a quarter mile at a time that happens at least once a year. Fast X is the tenth entry in this franchise and reportedly the first part of its two-part finale. Regardless of whether or not Diesel and this cast return in some form in spin-offs following these entries, the evolution of this franchise from dealing with street racers to contending with superhero spies is more apparent than ever here. Building off what feels like an attempt to capture the energy of Avengers: Infinity War, Fast X is a massive movie with many moving parts and a villain who will easily become iconic for fans of the series. And here’s the other thing – as ridiculous as this film is, it feels very thought out. Coming off of the more mixed efforts of the past few installments, this is the best entry since Furious 7.

Given how much this series has always worn its themes on its sleeves, it also wants to make sure no one is lost in the proceedings, so Fast X has at least three different recaps to make sure everyone is caught up on who Diesel’s Dom is, what his family has accomplished over the course of two decades, and why the son of a drug lord wants to break it all apart. That’s really the gist of this film’s plot.

Dante Reyes (Jason Momoa acting with Joker-level maniacal glee) wants revenge on Dom for taking everything from him based on the events of Fast Five (the one where they pulled off a bank heist by dragging a huge vault through the streets of Rio de Janeiro – the best film in the franchise). To do this, Dante comes at Dom with everything. That means gathering a bunch of henchmen, stealing surveillance devices established in previous entries, and concocting elaborate plans that always leave Dante multiple steps ahead. Of course, as long as Dom has his car and his family, he’s pretty unstoppable.

Here’s the thing though – Dante makes the right moves as far as splitting Dom from everyone for as long as he can. In doing this, the film can balance various locations featuring different cast members with better and lesser results. As far as the better goes, John Cena returns as Jakob, Dom’s estranged brother. He’s tasked with keeping Dom’s son (Leo Abelo Perry) safe. Compared to F9, where Jakob had to be stoic and mean, this film allows Cena to unleash the big kid energy we all know he’s capable of. As a result, there’s a lot of fun to be had in watching this big guy being a protector.

On the other hand, the set of Dom’s crew that is Tyrese Gibson’s Roman, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges’ Tej, Nathalie Emmanuel’s Ramsey, and Sung Kang’s Han, is less exciting. Sure, a large action sequence set in Rome that features the entire Fast crew is as exciting and nonsensical as one hopes for. However, once split apart, this foursome’s escapades never achieve much beyond some scattered laughs. Their duties include visiting a location, finding information, realizing they’ve been compromised, and running away. It happens a few times (one featuring a cameo that is never as funny as the film wants it to be) and ultimately adds up to very little.

There’s more to say regarding the rest of this ensemble cast, which includes the series’ knack for bringing a former villain onto the side of the heroes, as well as a return of Jason Statham’s Deckard Shaw, who seems somehow angrier than the last time he was with this crew. However, even with additions that include Brie Larson as a rogue secret agent (uh huh) and EGOT Rita Moreno as Abuelita Torretto (put her behind the wheel next time!), the real boost this entry gets is from Momoa.

The Aquaman star has described his character as a peacock with a lot of issues, and that’s absolutely correct. Momoa is going all in here, complete with various costume changes and a level of flamboyance that counteracts his imposing image of machismo. It’s incredibly welcome and highly memorable, given how much fun he’s clearly having in the role. It really adds to this series in a positive way, given how much sincerity Diesel strives for, despite all the craziness around him.

Honestly, this has to be the most earnest blockbuster series out there that is willing to rewrite the rules of physics as well as deliver monologues about the importance of keeping family together at all costs. Regardless, Momoa’s Dante brings a real sense of danger to the proceedings. Yet, his sociopathic menace keeps you wanting to see more of this guy.

Director Louis Leterrier has stepped in this time around (replacing FF3-FF6 & F9’s Justin Lin a few weeks into production), and he seems to get what is needed. The director of a couple of Transporter films, among other B-movie fair (Unleashed with Jet Li rules), knows his way around this sort of movie, even at the blown-up scale it’s at, and seems to know how to stay out of the way of the stuff that works. That’s not exactly a compliment, nor is it a complaint. Really, while I wouldn’t say this franchise runs on rails, a certain kind of house style has worked for the Fast films, and Leterrier steps up to hit the marks as needed.

The results allow for two guarantees – the action is insane. Yes, the idea that an ensemble cast serves as a nearly indestructible crew that can use cars to solve any problem is just plain dumb. However, to see this in action remains fun, and it doesn’t hurt that it’s still reliant on a lot of practical stunt work. Visual effects are all over this thing, and I’m not even going to get into the extremes to which they apply. However, there’s still a good amount of physical work going into making many of these car chases, fights, shootouts, and other sequences filled with spectacle possible.

As far as the other assurance, it’s Diesel. It’s easy to go at this guy for what feels like his limited sense of range in the realm of action, but he’s very aware of himself. Honestly, I’d argue he’s perhaps better than usual as Dom in this film precisely because of the concern that’s pushed on him by Dante.

Yes, so much of the dialogue is rubbish, but there’s a kind of delivery that Diesel can pull off in these flicks that feels satisfying if you’re into what sort of silly energy drives these films. When we get these installments of a Fast movie every so often, it provides a goofy sense of familiarity watching this guy, mostly sleeveless, growling and scowling his way to the film’s heart. I dig it, much like I dig this franchise as a whole.

Fast X is by no means perfect or even great as a film. It’s pretty long, although it packs those minutes with all it can. With that said, there’s more casual killing on the part of our heroes, which felt off. Say what you will about the destruction going on at times, but there’s always a willing acknowledgment (however slight in mention) that this crew has their goals in mind and they specifically do not want to harm civilians (seriously, watch these movies). This time around, however, the various agents that come after Dom and his crew are ostensibly just government employees, right? So, I don’t know, watching Cena, Statham, Diesel, etc., continually destroying these people instead of just Dante’s people seemed oddly cruel.

Despite this, however, as far as big, explosive blockbuster entertainment goes, I have little doubt that some of the other films arriving this summer (ahem…Mission: Impossible) will crush in all the ways I hope. Still, the Fast family is humming along, and this series hasn’t let up in its style of craziness either. Not hurting is the focus. This globetrotting action flick features muscle cars vs. helicopters, heavy-duty cars with missile launchers attached, and Diesel lifting cars to protect family. It’s got everything! And most importantly, it has a wild Momoa performance to help center it all. This film leaves things off on a cliffhanger of sorts, and it’s an accomplishment to have me genuinely curious about where it all goes next, as I had quite a fulfilling ride with this one already.

Fast X opens in theaters and IMAX on May 19, 2023.

7
Good
Written by
Aaron Neuwirth is a movie fanatic and Rotten Tomatometer-approved film critic from Orange County, California. He’s a member of the African American Film Critics Association, the Hollywood Critics Association, the Online Film Critics Society, and the Black Film Critics Circle. As an outgoing person who is always thrilled to discuss movies, he’s also a podcaster who has put far too many hours into published audio content associated with film and television. His work has been published at Variety, We Live Entertainment, Why So Blu, The Young Folks, Firstshowing.net, Screen Rant, and Hi-Def Ninja.

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