Skip to main content
film review
Open this photo in gallery:

Vin Diesel, left, and Daniela Melchior in FAST X, directed by Louis Leterrier.Peter Mountain/Universal Pictures

Fast X

  • Directed by Louis Leterrier
  • Written by Justin Lin and Dan Mazeau
  • Starring Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez and Jason Momoa
  • Classification PG; 141 minutes
  • Opens in theatres May 19

Critic’s Pick

If family is everything to the Fast & Furious films – as lead lunkhead Vin Diesel would surely posit – then Fast X is a nuclear family reunion that goes atomic.

The latest film in a remarkable megafranchise that is as gloriously stupid as it is stupidly glorious, this new entry is overflowing with burst-artery affection for its many fathers, mothers, sons, daughters and capital-F family members both real and metaphorical. While the first F&F movie was the cinematic equivalent of a backyard BBQ, Fast X is a love-in so magnificently huge that it can only be stadium-sized.

Ten films deep – 11 if we’re counting Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw, which we definitely are – you should already know by now whether the F&F films are your speed. Gravity-defying chases, skull-crunching fights, extra-gooey melodrama, copious shots of women’s butts and lots of Diesel’s marble-mouth mumbling about saving his fam: These are the high-gloss elements baked into the brand’s bones. The question that a new F&F chapter must answer, then, is whether it can pull off all that violent sexy nonsense with a renewed sense of energy, vigour, inventiveness and more self-aware ridiculousness than the instalment before it. This is not a movie requiring discipline, but out-of-control relentlessness. Go crazy, or go home, bro.

Which Fast & Furious movie is the best? We rank them here

Thankfully, and against all industry and existential odds, Fast X hits like a souped-up Dodge Charger whose engine runs on rocket fuel – a beast that knows no brakes. Once it starts, you’re strapped in till the jaws of life (the end credits) can set you free. And true blockbuster fanatics – audiences who can check their brains at the door with no compunction – will thank our lord and saviour Vin for every shard of twisted metal.

Opening with a retcon of the franchise’s still-best chapter, 2011′s Fast Five, Fast X finds a new villain in Dante Reyes (Jason Momoa), the son of the Rio de Janeiro crime lord who Dom Toretto (Diesel) and his family of do-gooding thieves ripped off a decade ago. Turns out that Dante is still holding a grudge, and is now on the hunt for revenge, targeting Dom’s young son, Little Brian (Leo Abelo Perry), as well as anyone who might have collaborated with the crew over the years. This includes Dom’s wife, Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), buddies Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Tej (Chris Bridges) and Han (Sung Kang), plus such foes-turned-friends as superhacker Cipher (Charlize Theron) and Dom’s once-estranged brother, the jacked mercenary Jakob (John Cena).

Open this photo in gallery:
This image released by Universal Pictures shows Jason Momoa in a scene from "Fast X." (Giulia Parmigiani/Universal Pictures via AP)

Jason Momoa in a scene from Fast X.Giulia Parmigiani/Universal Pictures/Universal Pictures via AP

Dante’s superevil plan is so dependent on everything going just exactly right that it recalls the “oh, c’mon now” antics of the Joker in The Dark Knight – a thread that Momoa seems particularly keen on picking up as he plays his Fast X villain as if Heath Ledger replaced his war-paint makeup and green hair dye in Christopher Nolan’s film with toenail polish and pink scrunchies. Momoa is having such a decadently flamboyant time here that his performance as the genderqueer psychopath Dante skates right past swishy stereotype into something resembling highbrow lunacy. In the same way that Dwayne Johnson injected the F&F franchise with a battalion’s worth of testosterone in Fast Five, Momoa electrifies the series with a jolt of unpredictable energy that takes the enterprise to new, heretofore unimaginably ludicrous heights.

The rest of the story, it may not surprise you to learn, doesn’t make a lick of sense, even by F&F’s notoriously loose narrative standards. With Dom on the run for much of the film, his friends separated by circumstances both convenient and incoherent, it feels as if the plot’s splintered structure might have simply been Diesel’s vainglorious excuse to give himself more solo screen time. But in actuality, carving out separate globe-trotting stories for the series’ sprawling cast ends up showcasing everyone’s individual strengths. Once you start to think of Fast X as the Avengers: Infinity War of the F&F-verse, it all clicks.

So, Roman and Tej get a banter-heavy buddy comedy in London that coasts on Tyrese and Bridges’s easy chemistry. Jakob is tasked with playing bodyguard to Little Brian, giving Cena the kind of gentle-giant comedy that the charming slab of beef excels at. And Letty finds herself in a prison-break thriller with Cipher, allowing Rodriguez and Theron to do what they always do best: beat everyone up, including each other.

And if that’s not enough, Diesel has persuaded not one, not two, but three way-beyond-this actresses (Rita Moreno, Brie Larson and returning player Helen Mirren) to come along for the ride, too. The film’s ambitions are as big as Diesel’s biceps.

But Fast X is all the more impressive given that it shouldn’t exist. Not in the existential sense – though that, too – but more in how regular F&F director Justin Lin abandoned the project shortly into shooting last year, reportedly no longer able to cope with Diesel’s many demands. For a moment, it felt like the film might fall apart or perhaps become the first studio tent pole to be directed by AI (it’ll happen eventually). Yet French director Louis Leterrier, best known for his Jason Statham-starring Transporter films and recruited in a studio-panic move that feels unprecedented, has made an F&F movie that is both a one-upped continuation of the franchise and a deeply affectionate, powerfully weird tribute to the series itself.

Leterrier’s dual ambition is best illustrated during a mid-film scene in which Dom’s new secret-agent pal, played by Larson, meets up with her hard-headed boss (Alan Ritchson) to recap the gang’s previous exploits. After exchanging some deep-groan, exposition-heavy banter (the dialogue here is as bad as it’s ever been), the pair pause to watch clips of Dom’s various races and heists that don’t for a second pretend to be culled from, say, security-camera or newsreel footage. These are instead real-deal movie scenes ripped from the earlier F&F flicks and pasted into the new film, a bizarre bit of meta-cinema that is both narratively lazy and aesthetically inspired. It is, like much of Fast X, so stupid that it works.

As the Marvel Cinematic Universe sputters and Star Wars can’t seem to get its act together on the big screen, F&F is a kind of blockbuster balm. You can choose your friends, and you can choose your enemies. But you can’t choose your family. If you’re already with Dom and his brood, you’re with them for life. Ride or die.

Follow related authors and topics

Authors and topics you follow will be added to your personal news feed in Following.

Interact with The Globe