Skidding onto the screen with its ear-splitting, brain-numbing, physics-flaunting TENTH instalment, the Fast and the Furious franchise is back.
Like a flaming neutron bomb careening through the streets of Rome, the Fast and Furious films have an unstoppable momentum. What were once somewhat simple stories about street racing have now transcended the qualifiers of good and bad.
The Fast and Furious oeuvre exists in a bubble blissfully free of self awareness, where Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his extended family of gearheads battle to save the world … with muscle cars.
WATCH | The Fast X trailer:
Opening at a family meal with Rita Moreno (!) as Dom’s Abuelita, we are fully in telenovela mode as Dom and friends trade Hallmark-worthy moments. Dom’s son, Little B, is learning to fix cars and burn rubber like his old man. “That’s fatherhood,” Dom rumbles.
While the Toretto clan share affirmations about faith and family, what they don’t know is they’re being targeted.
In a series with no shortage of he-men, it’s no surprise that producers invited Jason Momoa to the party. He plays Dante, the son of a former crime lord killed back in Fast Five, now determined to make the Toretto family suffer.
A fun, flirtatious villain
But under Momoa’s typical rock ‘n’ roll wardrobe is a character best described as: “What if the Joker was a drag queen?”
Playing firmly against type, Momoa is a gas as the giggling mastermind in touch with his feminine side who introduces himself with a playful “I’m Dante, enchante.”
While some will debate whether it’s camp or queerbaiting, the flirtatious performance brings a fresh zest of fun to the testosterone-fuelled films.
The fun and games continue with the Toretto compound soon under attack while Roman (Tyrese), Tej (Ludacris) and Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) are in Italy on a mission.
As Dom and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) race to intervene, Dante springs his trap: a massive neutron bomb, which is quickly transformed into a flaming sphere, ping-ponging across the Roman piazza.
Soon, the Fast and Furious family is scattered to the four winds as Dante’s plan makes them into international fugitives.
Letty is sent to a secret black ops prison. Dominic is off to Rio to get back to his street racing roots and dive into Dante’s origin story. Meanwhile, the Tej and Roman show heads to Britain as Brie Larson randomly arrives, joining the franchise as Tess, the daughter of enigmatic government operative Mr. Nobody.
While it’s impossible to take a film where cars pull helicopters from the sky seriously, Fast X seemingly expects fans to keep track and catalogue the dozens of characters that have been injected into the franchise over the years.
Since characters change sides as easily as rotating tires, Queenie (Helen Mirren), Dominic’s brother, Jakob (John Cena), Shaw (Jason Statham) and Cipher (Charlize Theron) are also along for the ride.
Somewhere around the midway part — it may have been when Jakob and Little B escaped from a plane and hopped into their “cannon car” — a woman sitting near me in the theatre audibly said, “What is happening?”
Lady, you and me both.
New director in the driver’s seat
Perhaps the answer lies with the exit of Justin Lin.
The director of some of the more coherent Fast and Furious films reportedly quit filming Fast X to protect his mental health. Replaced by a more malleable director in Louis Leterrier (Now You See Me), it’s clear Vin Diesel’s hand is firmly on the steering wheel.
The result is a film with a super-charged sense of self-importance, but one that lacks the fun that propelled the best instalments.
If anything, the Fast and Furious films have reached the point where they all take things a little too seriously. The giant metal bomb smashing the steps of Rome isn’t just an engine of chaos, it’s a callback to Fast Five.
Meanwhile, without Dominic as the crew’s anchor, the bickering between Roman and Tej quickly loses its charm, and yet is extended with a side quest to London and a surprising but ultimately pointless cameo.
Some performances cut through the noise
But this is the Fast and Furious experience, a story spinning its wheels while we wait for the next injection of automotive mayhem. As always, there are a few actors who cut through the noise.
Rodrieguez makes the most of her screen time as Letty, whether it’s her bike chase in Rome or a particularly brutal prison battle with Cipher. Cena is positively giddy as the older bro responsible for protecting Little B, and while Fast X is brimming with posturing posers, few approach the effortless cool of Sung Kang as Han.
After an uneven 120 minutes Fast X pulls into the finale with the familiar ingredients assembled: a roadside showdown with a family member in peril where suspension of disbelief (and various steel cables) will be stretched to the breaking point.
With nine films (10 if you include Hobbs and Shaw) to draw on, there’s a sense of sameness creeping into what’s meant to be jaw dropping. Another highway leap of faith? Yawn. While there’s no chasm Dom can’t jump, no surface too steep for him to race down, one thing still eludes us all: closure.
Fast X was originally scheduled as a two-part story with the second instalment scheduled for 2025, but on the red carpet in Rome, Diesel hinted it could become super-sized into a trilogy.
Buckle up, the last ride just became a marathon.
WATCH: On the red carpet in Rome, Italy, did Vin Diesel just confirm that <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/FastX?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#FastX</a> is the first part of a… trilogy?! Whoa! It all begins in theaters a week from today. Ready, set… go get your tickets! <br>🚘🎟’s —> <a href=”https://t.co/jO68lUJ5h6″>https://t.co/jO68lUJ5h6</a> <a href=”https://t.co/2DiJsYkgUz”>pic.twitter.com/2DiJsYkgUz</a>