Fast X

The Fast & Furious series has been massively popular with audiences, leaving outliers like me to wonder what we’ve been missing. I liked the 2001 original, which was about street racing, and disliked the eight subsequent sequels, especially as the series evolved into a ridiculous car-driving spy adventure. Now we’re at the tenth installment, Fast X. Well, pigs are flying, hell has frozen over, and monkeys are flying out of Wayne Campbell’s butt, because they finally made one of these that I enjoyed. Of course, that might mean hardcore fans won’t like it as much. Hard to say.

The success of Fast X is due in large part to Jason Momoa. He plays Dante Reyes, the son of a drug kinpin Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and crew robbed back in Fast Five. Now he wants revenge. Killing Dom isn’t enough, however. Dante wants to make him suffer by taking away the most important thing in his life – his family, especially son “Little B” (Leo Abelo Perry). Momoa gives a big, over-the-top, Nicolas Cage-esque performance in the movie. He’s hilarious, yet also a very intimidating villain. Dante’s desire to get revenge by causing Dom endless misery infuses the story with a type of suspense that wasn’t always there in previous sequels. Diesel gets to go beyond his tough-guy posturing too, showing fear, an emotion we really haven’t seen from the character.

Brie Larson is another new addition to the cast. She’s Tess, the daughter of the now missing covert ops leader Mr. Nobody. The actress gets to provide a little comic relief, while also taking part in a couple action sequences. Here is more proof of my theory that any movie is automatically improved by the presence of Brie Larson. Charlize Theron, Jason Statham, John Cena, and Helen Mirren all reprise their roles from prior entries. Seeing how and when their characters factor into the plot is fun, especially Theron, whose Cipher was once an enemy to Dom, but now has an “enemy of my enemy is my friend” relationship with him.

The all-star cast is certainly a treat to watch. Insane action is the true draw, though. Fast X is every bit as preposterous in that department as its predecessors. Nevertheless, the Dante revenge angle makes those outlandish scenes feel like they have actual stakes. The best of them finds Dom and crew racing around Rome, trying to halt a massive round bomb that careens through the streets like a pinball, headed right toward the Vatican. Statham gets to take part in a nifty fight, as do Theron and long-time star Michelle Rodriguez. Craziest of all is the grand finale, a chase that cheerfully ignores rules of physics and gravity even more than the franchise has before. Thankfully, there’s nothing as stupid as the “going into space” bit from F9.

Fast X drags a bit in the middle, and having to give each of its many, many characters their own big moment causes it to feel overstuffed. Fans already know that a second part is on tap for next year, meaning the movie ends with a cliffhanger. Such gimmicks make sense for a studio looking to extend a franchise; for fans who want a conclusive ending, it’s sort of disappointing. A mid-credits scene designed to be a crowd-pleaser will placate those fans somewhat.

Back in 2001, nobody expected ten of these movies would come into existence. That F&F has managed to hold audiences’ interest for over 20 years is a cinematic miracle. I thought it ran out of gas a long time ago. Thanks primarily to the awesome turn from Jason Momoa that gives us a reason to care about the vehicular mayhem, Fast X has unexpectedly found a way to refill the tank. Being entertained by this sequel was a pleasant surprise.

out of four

Fast X is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, language, and some suggestive material. The running time is 2 hours and 21 minutes.