Back in 2018, there was a movie called Avengers: Infinity War. It was billed as the first of a sprawling two-part epic — alongside Avengers: Endgame the following year — that would wrap up roughly two dozen films and supplemental materials across a decade of history as the dominant force of global pop culture. But of course Avengers: Endgame wasn’t really the end of the MCU, even though it maybe arguably should’ve been. Even at the time, we knew that Phase Four was mapped out and in production, and Phase Five is well underway as of this typing. (Though presently on hold for the ongoing WGA strike, but that’s another story.) The point being that Endgame was only ever going to be a transition into a new era, and Hollywood was always going to keep the MCU rolling for as long as it was going to take in money.
And now we have Fast X, billed as the penultimate entry in the highest-grossing franchise of Universal’s history. Bullshit. Even as of this typing, they’re already talking about splitting the last movie into two parts. Regardless of whether or not they actually do that, this was always going to be the end of one era and the beginning of a different form for the same franchise. Even if we have to wait ten years or so for a reboot, no way is this franchise going to stay dead for long.
But kudos to the filmmakers for going hard enough to sell the lie.
The film opens with a retcon involving the climax of the fifth movie, conveniently using archival footage to get us a posthumous appearance from Paul Walker and an opening action sequence that doesn’t cost anything from the production budget. Anyway, the retcon introduces us to Dante Reyes (Jason Momoa), who was apparently one of the nameless faceless henchmen in the climax fighting alongside his father, the late Hernan Reyes (a returning Joaquim de Almeida). Except that Dante miraculously survived while his father didn’t, so now Dante is prepped and ready to take his revenge.
Bullshit. I know that’s the stated reason, but I don’t believe for a minute that Dante is truly motivated by vengeance for his asshole criminal father. No way is Dante causing all this collateral damage, putting all this time and effort and money into all these intricate plans, toying with our heroes over a 150-minute runtime (and remember, the story’s still only half-over) because of a revenge plot. No, Dante is doing this because he’s a four-color psychopath who wants the sadistic fun of toying with a worthy opponent.
To sum it up as quickly as I can, Dante’s grand plan can best be summed up in three points.
- Divide and conquer. Isolate Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel, of course) away from his friends and associates, and then break his family down further into smaller units that are easier to take down.
- Take away every super-powered MacGuffin and exorbitant fortune of the movie to date, and then using it against Dom. In other words, Dante is literally turning the whole damn franchise itself into a weapon against Dom. Which brings me to…
- Take everything known about Dom and his family, then use that knowledge against them. After so many high-profile stunts across so many movies, anyone worth a damn already knows how the Toretto Gang operates, how they think, and where they’re weak. That puts them at a severe disadvantage against someone as ruthlessly unpredictable as Dante.
Would it be fair to call Dante a Gary Stu villain? Given how he’s a two-dimensional villain who miraculously has everything he needs in the moment with no explanation whatsoever, and he’s overpowered to the point where there’s no plausible way to beat him, I’d say that’s totally fair. But then, we’re talking about the ultimate threat in a franchise so ludicrously absurd that only a Gary Stu could’ve fit the bill. Of course, it certainly helps that Jason Momoa is turning his well-practiced devil-may-care screen persona toward chewing the scenery as a heightened supervillain, and it’s glorious fun to watch.
Otherwise, it’s a Fast and Furious movie. You know what you’re getting. Vin Diesel and Michelle Rodriguez could play these parts in their sleep at this point (and probably have). Tyrese Gibson is still annoying and unfunny as the stupid, incompetent, all-around useless preening “comic relief” idiot of the group. (Seriously, FUCK ROMAN!) Nathalie Emmanuel, Ludacris, and Sung Kang are all visibly too cool for this gig.
Jason Statham shows up to play Jason Statham some more. Helen Mirren plays Helen Mirren for one brief scene. Rita Moreno gets a glorified cameo, but it’s nice to see her. John Cena is basically playing himself, but at least he’s genuinely funny this time.
(Side note: Speaking of glorified cameos, check out Meadow Walker — actual daughter of the late Paul Walker — making a small but prominent cameo as a helpful flight attendant. Also, don’t you dare leave before the mid-credits stinger.)
Oh yeah, Brie Larson shows up to kick ass and show some charisma as Tess, while her father (that would be Kurt Russell’s character) has somehow gone missing. Speaking of which, Scott Eastwood briefly reprises “Little Nobody” until he suddenly and inexplicably drops off the map. Between the established characters who get erased out of nowhere and the new character (namely Aimes, played by Alan Ritchson) who comes in out of nowhere, it’s pathetically obvious how far the filmmakers had to go out of their way to put the Agency into an antagonistic role.
Then we have Charlize Theron, reprising her role as Cypher. I have mixed feelings about Theron’s turn this go-round. While I appreciate that Theron is given more to do as an actor, Cypher was always meant to be imperturbably cold and calculating. Theron gets multiple chances to show her astronomical action chops, but Cypher’s whole gimmick is that she’s a world-class hacker who doesn’t get her hands dirty with fisticuffs. On the other hand, pushing Cypher so far out of her established comfort zone helps to demonstrate the stakes we’re playing with here. Moreover, it adds new layers to the character and makes for a better performance from Theron, so who am I to complain?
Jordana Brewster is once again running interference so we can all pretend Paul Walker is alive and well somewhere offscreen. That’s not gonna fly for much longer. This movie went to so much trouble bigging up Dante to such a powerful extent, hyping up Dante’s crusade against everyone Dom ever loved as such a crucial selling point of the sequel, no way in hell could Brian O’Conner be safe from all that. I don’t know what trick photography Deepfake soundalike body double Hollywood magic it’s going to take, but this storyline can’t be complete until we see how it affects the O’Conners.
That said, this movie sends the message loud and clear that nothing is off-limits. Anyone could die, and anyone could come back from the dead.
(Side note: I hate that I’m limited by spoilers, but it kills me that this is the second time in five months I’ve seen the same particular actor show up out of nowhere in the closing minutes for a laughably bad deus ex machina. Makes me wonder how many movies could benefit from a last-minute deus ex machina from said actor. Can we get somebody to meme that shit?)
And of course the sky’s the limit for the action scenes. Literally anything that could be done with a vehicle in an action scene, now’s the time to roll it out. As it is, everybody’s clearly having a blast trying to find the upper limit as to how big and explosive and destructive an action scene could possibly be. In particular, the entire city of Rome gets thoroughly destroyed, and John Cena’s prototype battle wagon is great fun.
Ultimately, I give Fast X the same verdict I gave to Avengers: Infinity War: Its quality ultimately depends on how well the second half sticks the landing. Until then, we’re only left with half a movie. More to the point, we’re left with half of a movie specifically built as a payoff for those who’ve stuck with the franchise up to this point. Though it works damn well as such a payoff.
If you’ve seen the past nine movies, you should definitely give it a watch. If you’re not already on board, this is not the time to jump on.
Oh, and the eleventh movie isn’t even in production yet, and we still don’t have a title or an exact release date. See you in 2025!