The Fast and the Furious franchise earned its place as the blockbuster franchise to beat in the early 2010s. While the series struggled after its initial release, fans eventually grew to hold the series in high esteem. Fast Five became the victory lap that proved it was capable of holding the belt as the heavy-weight champion of the action world. Yet ever since the tragic passing of Paul Walker, the series has struggled to celebrate the tone. Fast X hopes to change that, introducing the most exciting villain to the series in years. However, Vin Diesel‘s insistence that Dominic Toretto drive every piece of the story upends the team dynamics once again.
While his team completes a mission in Rome, Dominic Toretto (Diesel) and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) care for their son Brian (Leo Abelo Perry). However, their peace is disrupted when Cipher (Charlize Theron) arrives injured. She’s come to warn them of an emerging threat from their past. The son of Hernan Reyes, Dante Reyes (Jason Momoa), plans to kill the Toretto family as payback for his father’s death.
From there, Fast X hits the booster and builds out a half dozen action setpieces. Some of these are incredible, including a warehouse battle where Jason Statham and Sung Kang work out their beef. John Cena emerges from the last film with more of his bubbly personality intact. He’s here to help his brother and steals the show with Perry by his side.
However, new director Louis Leterrier quickly showcases his flaws as an action director. A chase sequence through Rome features dozens of edits and cutaways in minutes. The goal is to raise the anxiety and “pace” of the scene, ” but often, these feel unnecessary. Leterrier also fumbles the chronological storytelling, abandoning storylines at the drop of a hat and then returning to them like nothing happened in the time gap.
Leterrier cannot handle the tonal shifts required to make a Fast film work either. It’s clear that the giant ensemble on display could rarely interact much because of scheduling. Whatever the future plans are for the franchise, there’s little time spent with the core “family” Toretto has cultivated. Instead, we are treated to extensive sequences with new characters that do not pop.
Brie Larson does her best, but her role is comically underwritten. Literally everything moment positive moment for her character is non-verbal or non-existent on the page. Meanwhile, Aimes (Alan Ritchson) and Isabel (Daniela Melchior) instantaneously read as misses. They do not have any characterization without applying their screen time through the lens of a character out of the franchise.
The real shock comes from Momoa. The actor has never had a difficult time breaking through, but this performance is far more intricate and energetic than anything we’ve ever seen from him. Momoa gets to be funny and violent. His ideology becomes clear early on, and it makes his omniscient powers somewhat earned. Momoa dances through every scene, having a blast at every opportunity. While coding a villain as queer carries its own implications, Momoa easily becomes one of the top two villains in franchise history.
Diesel once again fumbles the bag as a star and performer. His sequences throughout the film are messy in the best of circumstances. Yet he brings so much self-seriousness into the film it throws off the rest of the gang’s moments. Why Diesel sees Dominic Toretto as a gladiator is beyond us all. The once charismatic and funny character now gruffs his way through scenes and angrily screams at anyone who crosses him. Diesel used to have fun in these films, but it’s clear that is no longer the case. Instead, we’re left with a shell of the character we used to love.
Unfortunately, Fast X forces us to spend large swaths of the film with Diesel solo. The gang quickly splits up. Almost all of the comedy comes from two storylines. In one, Tyrese, Kang, Ludacris, and Nathalie Emmanuel desperately search for supplies to fight back. In the other, Cena and Perry get to buddy-cop their way off the grid. Rodriguez becomes paired off with an unexpected character, and Diesel tries a tete-a-tete with Momoa. The newcomer charms Diesel off the screen, and it calls Diesel’s future as the heart of the franchise into question.
Another real shock seems to be the reversion to CG effects. Time and time again throughout the film, the images look blurry and sludgy. From Tokyo Drift to Fast & Furious 6, the legends of how they used practical effects were incredible. CG obviously played into those films, but not at the level we see in Fast X. Leterrier has not historically been great at framing shots to allow the CG to disappear, and once again, this proves correct. No matter how cool the stunts are, the vast majority look like waxy CG bodies.
As the characters escape certain death once again, it’s clear that the stakes have disappeared. All the moments that made us care in previous installments are gone. Diesel is incapable of creating emotional moments. Leterrier is a disastrous director for this franchise. The “family” spends no time together. We are at the point where we have to question what is going on here. Fast X is an empty experience, and one of the worst entries in a spectacular franchise.