Does X mark the spot for this Ostensible “Beginning of the end of the road” for the Fast and the Furious Family?


ERIK YATES: Well, we are back for the all-new 10th installment of the Fast and Furious series that again tries to push the pedal to the metal and deliver another high octane ride or die experience, one quarter mile around the globe at a time. The family is all back and this time they’re bringing everyone back (even from the dead), and adding in a few new characters for good measure. With 10 films, you won’t be able to just jump right in, but for all of those needing a boost of NOS to keep up, there is enough recap in the opening scenes to catch you up to speed.

If you go back to Fast Five, the family took on drug kingpin Hernan Reyes (Joaquim de Almeida). It now seems that Reyes had a son on that fateful bridge who was almost killed by our “Furious” family, who now wants revenge for the death of his father. He is Dante Reyes (Jason Momoa), and while we are told he is the devil, he also likes to paint nails, choregraph helicopter snipers to Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake, and of course, blow stuff up. For him this is personal and he is targeting everyone in Dominic Toretto’s (Vin Diesel) life.

This includes Dom’s wife Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), son Little Brian (a son Dom had with Brazilian police officer Elena, Elsa Pataky, played here by Leo Abelo Perry), brother Jakob (John Cena), sister Mia (Jordana Brewster), Brother-in-law Brian (off screen Paul Walker character) and Brian and Mia’s kids, Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Tej (Ludacris), Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), Han (Sung Kang), Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel), Little Nobody (Scott Eastwood), Cipher (Charlize Theron), Queenie (Helen Mirren), Elena’s sister Isabel (Daniela Melchior), Mr. Nobody’s daughter Tess (Brie Larson), possibly Dom and Mia’s Abuelita (Rita Moreno), and anyone, anywhere who ever popped up in one of these films. Including two cameos who make their grand reappearances in final and post-credit scenes. My only question is where is Mr. Nobody, and more importantly Tego and Rico?

This film features a script that actually looks like it will set up the end of the Fast-n-furiousverse. If you have seen the latest trailer, then you know that this film fully embraces its utter ridiculousness, with agency head Aimes (Alan Ritchson) declaring that this crew has defied “God and gravity”….twice. As he describes this, we go on to see all of the insanity that has this family has endured and somehow survived over the 20 years of films on his screen, including the crew going to space.

Justin Lin, while not back in the director’s chair for this, has co-written the story, with Dan Mazeau, and has finally pulled every loose thread from this series and weaved it into a cohesive whole, which is no small feat. While most of Fast X is ho-hum, and starting to demonstrate that this series is running out of gas, Jason Momoa provides a new hilarious spark as he finds his comedic side and possibly saves the film from its own absurdity…by being absurd. When you know that this has all gotten preposterous, why not embrace the buffoonery and relish in it all?

JIM TUDOR: I guess so.  While most everyone at my screening came out raving about Mamoa’s over-the-top schtick, I was the voice of dissent.  For me, a little bit of his over-caffeinated sneakiness and pirouetting to murder & mayhem went a long way.  I thought I was onto something unique when it occurred to me that he’s going back to action movies the early ‘90s when every villain was trying to channel Jack Nicholson’s Joker, laughing dancing psychopaths everywhere.  But in the lobby afterwards, several of my fellow critics were defending his performance as Joker-esque.  At least Mamoa has found a way to inject some sort of spark into this.  Like you say Erik, for all the effort and pulled-out-stops, Fast X still manages to feel ho-hum for stretches.

Making Fast X a direct harkening back to series high-point Fast Five might be both an epiphany and a curse.  It’s great because it zips us back to those glory days when this series had just realized that it could evolve beyond it “humble street racing beginnings”.  If there’s one Fast and Furious film worth replaying moments of at length (which Fast X begins with), Fast Five is it.  The big downside is that we then spend the rest of this new entry thinking about a better movie.  But, Fast Five isn’t that much better… it’s more that this one is basically waxing the daylights out of a vrooming muscle car that’s on the brink of being tricked out to death.

Another local critic made a point of venting her irritation at how dumb these movies are.  My immediate response was that “They really don’t matter.  Few things really matter less”.  So it goes with the stakes of these movies.  For all the effort and coordination that’s gone into the world-class stunts that set pieces that make these movies the events that they are, the simple fact that on multiple occasions death itself isn’t permanent nullifies the presumed danger of whatever Big Action Moment we’re watching.

All that said, I didn’t dislike Fast X.  It’s middling Fast and the Furious for sure, and makes the mistake of frontloading its best action sequence, a chase through Rome with a big round rolling weapon of mass destruction (I found myself quoting a Batman of an even earlier era than Jack Nicholson, saying “Some days you just can’t get rid of a bomb!”).  The fact that the bad guy targets The Vatican and makes several anti-God comments while Torreto’s blinged-out cross necklace takes on particular significance within his circle shouldn’t be overlooked.  Although my own internal jury is still out on whether there’s any real depth to such as inclusion, or if it’s just pandering to middle America and whoever else may bite.  That Mamoa is depicted as both anti-God and anti-macho is something of a red flag, honestly.

ERIK YATES: With Theron’s Cipher calling Mamoa’s Dante “the Devil”, then his anti-God schtick seems to fall in line with that. There isn’t dualism here where if Dante is the Devil then Toretto must be God, but I’d argue that the Toretto “family” seem to be His agents, angels of a sort defending the world against the schemes of this devil-like figure who is targeting children and the like. Anti-macho also seems to be more of a mockery of the machismo that pervades these films through its male characters, although the Fast-and-Furiousverse has always had strong women at the center of it, even as it equally saturated with objectification of women throughout the racing culture it was born out of.

With one more installment to go (or 2 if you really read into Vin Diesel’s description of Universal wanting the final installment to possibly be a trilogy), the stakes are indeed high for this Fast and Furious Crew. Death seems to lurk at every turn, but this film desires to impress us that death could be a very real possibility with this final two-part installment. That notion is immediately undercut with the re-emergence of a past fan favorite just before the credits roll, however. This of course reinforces your sentiment, Jim, of how this nullifies the danger at hand in any given scene…especially when Toretto just has to growl, “Watch this…” and perform a stunt that would kill anyone else who actually did what he is going to do.

Your comment that the tying of Fast X to Fast Five being both a blessing and a curse rings true for this film. I hope that having a two-part installment will allow Fast and Furious‘ final entry in 2024 to lay its own path (track?) to escape the heavy anchor Fast Five holds over Fast X from the opening frame onwards. Something tells me that Fast X part 2, or whatever name it ends up being called, will be a large enough team-up to rival The Avengers: Endgame in terms of how many characters are going to come out of the woodwork from Fast and Furious‘ past to bring this story to its inevitable conclusion.

JIM TUDOR:  We shall see.  Naturally, any such reunion/pile-on of characters should be motivated by the plot, but I’d say that that truism blew out the window of Vin Diesel’s car at least two movies ago.  As Fast X goes on, more and more characters  simply show up or turn up regardless of literally anything else.  If you haven’t learned to roll with that sort of thing in regard to the “Fast Saga” by now, we can’t help you.  (Or, maybe you’re the one who doesn’t need help?)  

With Fast X being heralded as “the beginning of the end”, it should be no surprise that it ends with a huge cliffhanger (though I doubt anyone is that worried) rather than the typical Corona-soaked backyard cookout.  Instead, we get the friggin’ cookout at the beginning (hosted by Rita Moreno in some sort of Vegas Elvis outfit).  Which means that by the time we reach said cliffhanger, it’s probably been a while since the family has had a decent meal.  Maybe the follow-up could be called “The Fasting Furious”?  Or perhaps “The Final Fast”?  Time will tell.  While none of this could really matter less, Fast X remains a familiar drift down that old immediately forgettable road.