There are no dinosaurs, Universal monsters or time travelers in “Fast X,” but all of those elements would feel plausible now in this franchise. The sequel opens with a flashback to the events in “Fast Five” when Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and team pulled off the notoriously daring daytime vault heist against Brazilian kingpin Hernan Reyes (Joaquim de Almeida). The endeavor resulted in the death of Reyes and millions of dollars being stolen and split among Toretto’s “family.” A bit of cinematic reworking introduces Reyes’ scowling son Dante (Jason Momoa) who was present that day and now seeks explosive, globe-trotting, gravity-defying revenge for all that was loss.
That is the basic premise behind “Fast X” as viewers are treated to extensive (and expensive) set pieces that are over-the-top, engaging and crowd-pleasing. French director Louis Leterrier stages the action scenes with visual flair. The cinematography brings the action front row and deftly weaves around the high octane pursuits and several close calls in dizzying aerial shots. A big screen roller coaster ride that simply wants to entertain, “Fast X” includes a multi-vehicle rolling bomb chase through the populated streets of Rome, a flying child and a climactic fiery four-wheel escape down the side of a dam. No, really.
There are some fun physical fight scenes and choreography. One brutal standout involves “Atomic Blonde” herself Charlize Theron as the treacherous Cipher taking on a roomful of turncoat henchmen. Another has Cipher taking on tough-as-nails Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) as they air out their differences with their fists in a medical lab.
Performances by the core Toretto “family” are consistent across the board with the earlier films. Not shade, just not Shakespeare. Returning veteran players Tyrese Gibson, Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges, Nathalie Emmanuel, Sung Kang are on their own mission of sorts before all hell breaks loose near the Vatican. Although their comic relief is offered, it is not this film’s strong suit.
Series newcomers Alan Ritchson and Brie Larson, as personnel of The Agency, are introduced in a dry, meta, exposition-filled recap of the film series that elicits intentional and unintentional chuckles. It feels like a cutscene from a game. Ritchson’s Agent Aimes is determined to bring in Toretto and team to face justice. Larson’s Tess, who is the daughter of Kurt Russell’s agent Mr. Nobody, rightly suspects Toretto and Co. are being framed to appear as terrorists.
Jason Momoa as Dante Reyes seems to be challenging the ultra-masculine tone of the entire series by playing his hulking villain as a prancing, singing, raspberry-ing eccentric who is oddly entertaining, but also quite menacing when he needs to be. One polarizing scene involving corpses attempts to channel a campy yet macabre version of both Nicholson and Ledger’s Joker portrayals.
“Fast X” is an entertaining entry and the action is non-stop for most of its running time. The stakes are not terribly high for any of the core characters, so it is like watching someone else play a video game really well. There are hints that this is the start of a new planned trilogy. Fans will either be overjoyed or befuddled by the film’s closing moments. Be sure to stay for some of the credits.
- Brian W. Smith, FAST X