Director: Louis Leterrier
Cast: Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Nathalie Emmanuel, Jordana Brewster, Sung Kang, Jason Statham, John Cena, Scott Eastwood, Helen Mirren, Charlize Theron, Brie Larson, Alan Richtson, Daniela Melchior, Rita Moreno
Runtime: 2 hr 21 mins
Rating: PG13 (Some Violence and Drug References)
Released By: UIP
Opening Day: 18 May 2023
Synopsis: Fast X, the tenth film in the Fast & Furious Saga, launches the final chapters of one of cinema’s most storied and popular global franchises, now in its third decade and still going strong with the same core cast and characters as when it began. Over many missions and against impossible odds, Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his family have outsmarted, out-nerved and outdriven every foe in their path. Now, they confront the most lethal opponent they’ve ever faced: A terrifying threat emerging from the shadows of the past who’s fueled by blood revenge, and who is determined to shatter this family and destroy everything—and everyone—that Dom loves, forever. In 2011’s Fast Five, Dom and his crew took out nefarious Brazilian drug kingpin Hernan Reyes and decapitated his empire on a bridge in Rio De Janeiro. What they didn’t know was that Reyes’ son, Dante (Aquaman’s Jason Momoa), witnessed it all and has spent the last 12 years masterminding a plan to make Dom pay the ultimate price. Dante’s plot will scatter Dom’s family from Los Angeles to the catacombs of Rome, from Brazil to London and from Portugal to Antarctica. New allies will be forged and old enemies will resurface. But everything changes when Dom discovers that his own 8-year-old son (Leo Abelo Perry, Black-ish) is the ultimate target of Dante’s vengeance.
As much as he was responsible for some of the best entries of the ‘Fast and Furious’ franchise, we cannot say we were too upset when Justin Lin walked away from ‘Fast X’ one week into production, purportedly due to a disagreement with Vin Diesel. Indeed, if ‘F9’ was anything to go by, Lin had run out of steam by the last entry, which was dull, tedious and aggravating to watch. And yet, it is for the same reason that we did not have our hopes up for what was earlier promised to be the first of a two-parter finale, which we thought needed some creatively deliberate construction by a veteran (say writer Chris Morgan) to make the send-off worthwhile.
As it turns out, ‘Fast X’ is better than what we thought it would be, though it is still nowhere near the heights of 'Fast Five’ and ‘Fast and Furious 6’. Lin’s replacement is Louis Leterrier, who demonstrated with the first two ‘Transporter’ movies that he knows a thing or two about high-octane action. To Leterrier’s credit, the set-pieces are entertainingly preposterous, including one featuring a giant neutron bomb rolling down the streets of Rome, another with a 1970s Dodge Charger falling out of an aeroplane onto a highway and then smashing two helicopters against each other, and another with the same Dodge Charger racing down the arched wall of a dam to escape from a massive explosion up top.
From Rome to Naples to Rio and to Portugal, Leterrier puts each of these picturesque locales to good use in a globe-trotting adventure that sees former drag racer turned agency spy Dominic Toretto (Diesel) confront an old enemy Dante Reyes (Jason Momoa) bent on seeking revenge for the death of his father in ‘Fast Five’. Much has been teased about the showdown between Dom and Dante, with the latter described as both “a monster” and “the Devil” and hyped up as the deadliest baddie that the Toretto crew has ever faced; and to Momoa’s credit, Dante is a flouncing, flamboyant sociopath who is one of the best, if not the best, villains that this series has ever had, his one sole objective with regard to Dom and his crew being “never accept death where suffering is owed”.
Speaking of Dom’s crew, the “family” has grown so large now that it is simply impossible to have them stay together as one throughout the film. So after the Rome misadventure, Dom heads off to Rio to confront Dante by himself, though he picks up a new ally in an up-and-coming street racer Isabel (Daniela Melchior) along the way. Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Tej (Ludacris), Han (Sun Kang) and Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) spin off to London, where they seek help from former enemy Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham). Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) is captured and held at an undisclosed black site, but gets some help from another of their former enemies Cipher (Charlize Theron) and an Agency insider Tess (Brie Larson). And last but not least, ‘F9’ villain Jakob Toretto (John Cena) shows up at Dom’s house to save Dom’s son Little B (Leo Abelo Perry) from heavily-armed agents sent at the behest of rogue Agency boss Aimes (Alan Ritchson), as well as to babysit Little B the rest of the way.
There is a lot going on just so every character the franchise has birthed along its 20-year history gets something to do, but as you can probably imagine, there is no denying how overstuffed it is. Roman’s subplot fares the worst, and not even Gibson’s glib talking can make it any more entertaining. Letty’s subplot is good only for a mano-a-mano fight between her and Cipher, which is noteworthy because it is the first time Theron has been allowed to go ‘Atomic Blonde’. Jakob and Little B’s story is welcome levity amidst the overblown action, and further confirms Cena’s comic potential (go see ‘Blockers’ if you haven’t). But the movie really only comes alive with Dom versus Dante, his utter anarchy a welcome antithesis to Dom’s sobriety about family and other lines of gravelly dime-store wisdom.
But even as Leterrier tries his darnest to keep the wheels spinning with all manner of shootouts, explosions and vehicular chases, ‘Fast X’ is ultimately handicapped by the absence of any sort of real peril. That’s what happens when too many enemies – in fact all of them, as far as we can keep track – become allies with just an act of generosity. That’s also what happens when the characters we’ve presumed dead keep coming back, and while that may have been welcome to a certain extent, it reduces their earlier demises to utter jokes – and no, we’re not talking about the much-buzzed return of Dwayne Johnson as Luke Hobbs in a mid-credits scene, but rather the appearance of one Gal Gadot in the last scene just before the end credits roll.
At this point therefore, ‘Fast X’ comes off as yet another attempt to keep the wheels of the franchise spinning, while we await the elusive finale. What had been intended as a two-parter is now apparently a trilogy; and therefore what used to be a happily-ever-after ending is now replaced with a cliff-hanger, though we’ve come to the point where we expect every character presumed dead to come back in some semi-spectacular fashion sometime down the road. Speaking of road, it’s been a long journey for the ‘Fast and Furious’ franchise, and while ‘Fast X’ does not diminish the goodwill accumulated thus far (unlike say ‘F9’), we hope it will transform its game in order to deliver a truly rousing and surprising finish.
(The set-pieces are entertainingly preposterous, but aside from Jason Momoa as a flamboyant sociopath, 'Fast X' keeps the wheels of the franchise spinning without truly raising the stakes for a rousing, even surprising, finish)
Review by Gabriel Chong