Plenty of familiar faces in ‘Fast X’
I was able to embrace the absurdity and enjoy the ride
Cars and characters continue to collide in Fast X, the 10th entry in the ever-expanding and the ever-ludicrous Fast & Furious film franchise. The first part in either a two- or three-part finale — depending on whether you ask Vin Diesel or the bean counters at Universal — this latest installment ends abruptly after multiple cliffhangers, and that’s before an inevitable mid-credit stinger that teases yet another ad for the sequel.
In case it wasn’t obvious already, this action franchise has become Universal’s response to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, hoping to emulate the feverish fandom and box-office success of Disney’s juggernaut.
As that’s the case, it’s not difficult to view Fast X as the Avengers: Infinity War of this series, an overstuffed and overwhelming culmination of plot threads and accrued players which sets up a gambit waiting to be resolved.
The basic narrative of Fast X is a revenge plot, borne from the death of a drug lord in a Fast Five bank vault heist that retroactively serves as a supervillain origin story for his son, Dante Reyes (Jason Momoa). Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his crew of heisters and hackers are called to Rome to steal a computer chip, but the mission is revealed to be an ambush set up by Reyes to frame the team as terrorists. The Rome job fractures the group, with Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Tej (Ludacris), Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel), and Han (Sung Kang) scrambling for supplies in London, while Dom tries to track Reyes in Rio. All the while, henchmen are sent after Dom’s son, Little B (Leo Abelo Perry), in Los Angeles, but are headed off by Dom’s brother, Jakob (John Cena), who works to get him to safety.
If that wasn’t enough, Fast X also introduces two characters from the Agency: new lead Aimes (Alan Ritchson) and Tess (Brie Larson), the daughter of former Agency head Mr. Nobody. For anybody who needs help remembering the gist of this series, the pair’s first scene together is a helpful recap of this franchise’s myriad through lines and characters, both major and minor. Taking place in what looks like the Cerebro room from the X-Men series, Aimes fills in Tess on all the highlights from Dom and his “family,” which he describes as a “cult with cars.” The knowing commentary continues when Tess asks, “So we’re all just a beer and barbecue away from corruption?” after Aimes says the team has turned on the Agency. This kind of humor is a good reminder that this is a series that has no problem poking fun at aspects of its kooky lore.
These movies have had their share of villains in the past, some of whom pop up again in this entry, but Fast X introduces a Thanos-level supervillain by way of the larger-than-life Dante. Played with perpetual panache by Momoa, this big bad has the knack for mastermind planning and impossible forethought à la The Dark Knight’s Joker, with what seems to be the limitless resources of Bruce Wayne. Somehow, Dante may be even crazier than either of them; after licking knives of fresh blood in his first big scene, his level of psycho stays at that level or escalates. Whether he’s crooning opera over walkie-talkies or having nail-painting tea parties with corpses, Dante is always extra 100 percent of the time. In a film defined by excess, Momoa is somehow even more and delivers his most pleasurable performance to date.
I should mention that this is the first Fast film that I’ve seen since The Fast and The Furious, the sleeper hit that kicked everything off 22 years ago. Frankly, I figured the wheels had fallen off after the third entry, Tokyo Drift, jettisoned all of the previous characters for what is ostensibly a standalone entry. But over the years, the movies have kept coming and, as I quickly learned watching this chapter, expanded vastly on the humble street-racing roots of that inaugural installment.
Naturally, I couldn’t keep up with every line of dialogue or cursory character that popped up for a cameo; even those who have seen all of these, including Hobbs & Shaw, may have to glance Wikipedia for a refresher now and then. But it’s a credit to director Louis Leterrier and his crew that I was able to embrace the absurdity and enjoy the ride.
New movies coming this weekend
Coming to theaters is The Little Mermaid, yet another live-action Disney remake, this one starring Halle Bailey and Jonah Hauer-King retelling the tale of a young mermaid who makes a deal with a sea witch to trade her beautiful voice for human legs so she can discover the world above water and impress a prince.
Streaming on Max on May 29 is Reality, a biopic starring Sydney Sweeney and Marchánt Davis about former American intelligence specialist Reality Winner who was given the longest sentence for the unauthorized release of government information to the media about Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. elections.
Premiering on Netflix is Blood & Gold, an action dramedy starring Robert Maaser and Marie Hacke set at the end of World War II in which a German soldier is looking for his daughter while an SS troop is looking for a hidden treasure.