Alex Reviews "Fast X"
Vin Diesel has long been the star of the Fast and Furious franchise, but Fast X is absolutely a Jason Momoa film. (Yes…I wanted to say vehicle, but that felt too punny.) He absolutely drives this film as a brilliant, yet deranged, terroristic villain hellbent on punishing the family of protagonists with his crosshairs directed at Diesel’s Dominic Toretto whom he seeks to make suffer for some of his past actions.
I have long used the Fast Cinematic Universe as a beacon of hope in the entertainment industry beginning with Fast Five. From that film forward, the cast and crew leaned heavily into the idea of making fun, ridiculous films without concern for awards or staying grounded really in any way. That being said, when a Pontiac Fiero was metaphorically launched over a shark and literally into space during the events of F9: The Fast Saga, I became concerned that the fantastical nature of the films had gone too far. Fortunately, Fast X swerves things back to the “real world” as arguably the most intense and grounded entry in the last decade. Granted, it is still all the way removed from any rails that may have existed in most films of its ilk, but this is the least “outside the box” they have put forth. For any other film it is complete insanity, but this feels more akin to a gritty Mission Impossible than its predecessors.
In his first turn in the director chair for a Fast film, Louis Leterrier crafts a very intense and visceral experience which may be the best entry in the series. Much of the aforementioned grounded connection rests with him, whose biggest successes in Now You See Me and The Transporter have balanced a feeling of authenticity with absurdist set pieces. In almost all of the situations within Fast X, I only found a single element that felt like a bridge too far, though even it is far short of the space travel from F9: The Fast Saga.
Vin Diesel is still very measured as Dom but does slow the movie to a grinding halt during a couple scenes meant to emphasize the humanity involved while I just wanted to get to more action. Michelle Rodriguez, Ludacris, and Nathalie Emmanuel also remain consistent with their character work, but there were two individuals who had some big changes. Tyrese Gibson’s Roman continues to struggle with the burden of what it means to be a leader and the consequences of that leadership is a well-done layer to be added to his comic relief in prior films, which speaks volumes as the narrative layers that crisis of confidence onto his consistently funny character. On the other hand, the change in John Cena’s Jakob from wildly intense mercenary to funcle in this movie felt too inconsistent and drastic. While I don’t care how hard it made me laugh that “You Can’t See…” him when he first arrives, the choice to lean into the most lovable of real-world Cena traits felt too disconnected with what seems to be a lack of the “why”. Knowing that there will be more Fast movies (this is the “beginning of the end”), Jakob may have needed to be pushed back a film to give the audience some character development where he struggles with re-assimilating to a family that now includes Rita Moreno (West Side Story)… just because they can.
Brace yourself for the next statement, as it is something I said to multiple press members at the screening and was met with some very animated responses. Jason Momoa’s Dante might be the best Joker (of DC fame) performance I have ever seen. It is as if someone told him that he was to be completely unhinged but always in control, followed by the directing of him to be crazier with each take, and the results are awesome! While I have not seen any interviews he has done since they wrapped, I bet he looked at all of the best characteristics from the various Jokers and chose to incorporate ALL OF THEM from Cesar Romero’s colorful appearances, Jared Leto’s modern gangster style, Jack Nicholson’s mood swings, the imposing nature of John DiMaggio’s and Kevin Michael Richardson’s maniacal delivery, Heath Ledger’s tactical brilliance to Mark Hamill’s comedic delight, he crushes it. There is A LOT to unpack in that one sentence, but Momoa used all of it to create a villain who was truly terrifying and yet so likeable that my brain was equally concerned about what he would do while at the same time desperately wanting to see what was next.
This entry may be a bit polarizing to its audience, illustrated for me during a discussion with another member of the press stated that this one was too intense and violent for her liking of a Fast film. For me, this is one of the things that sets Fast X apart from what had been the standard “super entity/advanced soldiery” of the past few Toretto trips. I honestly cannot wait to see the next entry, as Fast X might be the new answer to “What is your favorite FCU movie?” as it seems to have dethroned Fast Five after a twelve-year run, but the contender possibly being an almost direct sequel from this one it seems almost poetic. Familial, if you will.