The Fast and Furious has become a franchise that is somehow both inconsistent and reliable. The audience has come to rely on over-the-top action sequences, grave soliloquies on the importance of family, and a stubborn belief that nobody stays dead. These tropes, present in most entries from entry number four onward, are the hallmark of the formulaic series. What occurs in all the other films is an almost by-the-numbers approach to storytelling. Fast X takes this recipe, uses the same ingredients, simmers them, and presents a deconstructed reduction that offers bold flavor but does not satisfy your craving. With the promise of the end of the franchise in sight, this is not necessarily a bad thing for the franchise as a whole, but as an individual film, something is missing.

Fast X

Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) have settled into a life where raising their son Brian (Leo Abelo Perry) takes priority over doing a job. Leadership is passed on to Roman (Tyrese Gibson) with Tej, Han, and Ramsey (Ludacris, Sung Kang, and Nathalie Emmanuel) in tow. This group heads to Rome to retrieve some computer chips. Meanwhile, Cipher (Charlize Theron) arrives at Dom’s home injured to warn him that something bad is coming. Dom and Letty set out to save the rest of their crew. This ends with them all being framed for the destruction of Rome. The mission was a set up by the big bad to split the team, rob them of their credibility, and unilaterally rip Dom’s family apart.

Fast X fleshes out a previous entry, interspersing new footage into existing scenes to create a new continuity. It is not the most original storytelling technique, but in a world where nostalgia holds a lot of weight, it is effective. For many, seeing the late Paul Walker on the big screen again even via archival footage is a thrill as much as the car chases are. This flashback is to serve as an introduction to Jason Momoa’s Dante, son of Hernan Reyes, the villain of Fast Five. Taking the climax of a decade-old film and making it the cold opening of the new film works. Continuity in the series has not always been important, but it helps bridge the narrative gap of four other films between Fast Five and Fast X. It also illustrates just how long Dante was planning his revenge.

Momoa singularly steals the show, bringing menace and humor to one of the best villains seen onscreen, not just in this franchise, in several years. The easy confidence he has belays any doubt of what he can achieve. His resources and influence are far-reaching yet believable, something sourly missing from previous entries. This is not the first revenge we’ve seen in these films, but it is the first that we believe might succeed. John Cena’s Jacob also makes a welcome return, bringing a spark of light to an otherwise dark entry.

The rest of the cast, however, fail to bring anything new to their roles. Gibson’s Roman, in particular, has worn so thin that if he turned sideways, he’d disappear. Newcomers Brie Larson and Daniela Melchior do what they can with weak material. One hopes they get more to do in the next film.

Fast X

Meanwhile, Diesel shows a weariness that seems less to do with an acting choice and more to do with age. These films have been his baby for twenty years, but even he seems tired of them. Fortunately, that exhaustion works its way into the story. How many times will his character have “one last ride” before he is left alone to live a quiet life? Instead of the god-like super-being he has portrayed in the past films, there is finally a vulnerability that comes out in his character this time. Whether intentional or not, that raises the stakes considerably. Maybe this time the family won’t stay together.

Splitting the group into three factions allows for the number of action set pieces to be increased. This results in the greatest variety of fights, chases, explosions, and showdowns seen in one film. Some of these are more effective than others, but the sheer number of them keeps the film from slowing down. Though it is clear that nobody involved has ever cracked a physics book, there is a more grounded feel to the film that has not been present since the early days of the series. For a series that prides itself on being as over the top as possible, this change was refreshing even if the reliance on CGI was disappointing.

Cliffhanger endings are a tricky thing. On one hand, it leaves the film incomplete. It’s a story without an end. On the other, it raises the stakes and increases interest in the franchise to come. For a franchise as long-running as the Fast Saga, it was a bold choice. Up until now, the films have done remarkably well, turning in huge box office numbers and releasing to a wave of anticipation, so it seems an odd choice unless the filmmakers are building to some sort of epic climax.

Overall, Fast X delivered everything the audience wants in a Fast film. It gives us a strong villain that might just herald the end of Dom’s found family. Splitting the group raises the stakes of survival and allows for more action scenes that propel the film forward. The character interactions are always a highlight even if they aren’t given much development this time around. The stars and filmmakers have been hinting at the end of the franchise for a few years. The cliffhanger ending at this point might signal that the end is closer than we think. Or it might just mean this series has run out of gas.

Josh’s Rating: 7/10

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