Fast X (2023) Review

It was startling to see such a bloated cinematic travesty of Fast & Furious 9, easily one of the worst movies in the franchise since 2009’s Fast & Furious 4 (and among the worst movies of 2021) still managed to rake in US$726.2 million (!) at the worldwide box office. The movie may fail to crack the US$1 billion mark previously achieved in the seventh and eighth entries but the fact it could earn this much at the height of the pandemic era is beyond me. I guess no matter how outrageously dumb and silly a Fast & Furious movie gets in each instalment, there’s always a loyal fanbase large enough and audiences alike to prove it otherwise in terms of its sizable box office earning.

Now here comes Fast X, which is supposed to serve as the first entry of the two-part conclusion before Vin Diesel recently teased the possibility of a twelfth instalment, making it a trilogy if everything goes well as planned (read: depending on the box-office outcome). The initial idea of concluding the franchise with a two-parter has already overstretched and not to mention overstayed its welcome because frankly, it should have ended on a high note in Fast & Furious 7 a.k.a. Furious 7 after Paul Walker’s untimely death in 2013.

This time, Louis Leterrier from the first two Transporter as well as The Incredible Hulk and Clash of the Titans fame is in charge of the direction after franchise mainstay Justin Lin chose to step down due to creative differences. Leterrier is no stranger to directing big-budget Hollywood blockbusters and even trashy B-level actioners seen in the Transporter movies, making him the right candidate for the job.

Just like how Fast & Furious 9 managed to find an excuse for a plot shoehorning Vin Diesel’s Dom Toretto’s long-lost brother played by John Cena (yes, he’s back in this one too), the tenth instalment continues the same tradition by retroactively adding a new role connected to the past character or story in the franchise. That role in question is Dante Reyes (Jason Momoa), who turns out to be the son of Brazilian drug kingpin Hernan (Joaquim de Almeida). If the latter’s name sounds familiar, that’s because he’s the main antagonist in Fast & Furious 5: Rio Heist a.k.a. Fast Five. For a quick recap, the last time we saw Hernan was seriously injured from the result of a vault hitting his car before Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) executed him point-blank to avenge his team’s death.

Jason Momoa plays the new villain as Dante Reyes in "Fast X" (2023)

With the “magic” of retroactive continuity (retcon), we learn that Dante happened to be there at the time when Dom and his gang pulled off the Rio heist and they were the ones responsible for his father’s death. He orchestrated a long-term plan for vengeance by not only targeting Dom but also the rest of his family including Dom’s tween son, Little Brian (Leo Abelo Perry).

So, the whole story — credited to Dan Mazeau of Wrath of the Titans fame and Justin Lin, who also co-produced the movie — is about Dante’s ultimate quest for vengeance and the good news is, Jason Momoa certainly has a field day playing the long-running franchise’s latest antagonist. His Dante is all flamboyant and sadistic — a full-blown psychopath that Momoa portrays his role with gleeful abandon and a dash of devil-may-care charisma. It was as if he already knows well he was in a franchise where logic barely matters and simply here embraces the silliness by going full throttle.

As much as I enjoy Momoa’s performance in Fast X, the movie’s 141-minute length sure feels like it’s unnecessarily overstretched. Dante’s elaborate revenge plot may see him unleash everything he has at his disposal, leaving a trail of destruction in his wake. And yet, for all the chaos that he caused throughout the movie, he accomplishes so little when comes to inflicting serious pain or trauma against Dom and his family.

Make no mistake, casualty does happen in this movie but it hardly matters who survives or dies at the end of the day. Blame it on the franchise’s penchant for resurrecting some of the past characters whenever the filmmakers see fit regardless of whether it makes a lick of sense or not. Sung Kang’s Han is one of them, where we last saw him return in Fast & Furious 9 even after his character was killed off in a car explosion in The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift.

One of the wildly over-the-top action scenes in "Fast X" (2023)

Because of this, I no longer care about any character’s demise unless the franchise stops with all the retconned nonsense and made them stay dead. Speaking of the retcon, the ending got me all baffled with the what-the-heck-did-I-just-saw moment on the big screen. Seriously, I couldn’t stop laughing about it. I get that a Fast & Furious movie is reminiscent of a big-budget, over-the-top telenovela with action. I can tolerate movies that contain over-the-top elements and John Wick: Chapter 4 was a recent example, which did a great job at it. The ending in Fast X? It’s just too much to swallow.

For an action movie that costs a mammoth US$340 million, the CGI is pretty inconsistent in some scenes. The action is a mixed bag (Dom’s souped-up muscle car vs. the helicopters highway chase scene feels like it tries too hard to upstage the tank chase in Fast & Furious 6), even though credit still goes to Louis Leterrier’s flair for some wildly extravagant action set pieces and spectacular stunts (the extended Rome chase scene revolving around the tonne-heavy rolling metal-ball bomb is easily the most entertaining moment here). The hand-to-hand combat scenes such as Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) vs. Cipher (Charlize Theron) in the lab are well-choreographed, thanks to Patrick Vo’s thrilling fight choreography, who previously collaborated with Leterrier in the underrated Jet Li-starred Unleashed (2005).

Back to the cast, Momoa steals the show here while the recurring stars of the franchise from Vin Diesel’s Dominic Toretto to the usual comic-relief duo played by Tyrese Gibson and Chris “Ludacris” Bridges are all business as usual. Franchise newcomer Brie Larson, who plays Mr Nobody’s (Kurt Russell) rogue-agent daughter, Tess looks typically robotic as if she can’t get rid of her Captain Marvel’s deadpan persona.

Since Fast X is originally conceived as a two-parter (before it was later revealed to be a possible trilogy), the movie ends with a cliffhanger and it even comes with a mid-credits scene that will most likely get the fans excited. Fast X may have been a slight improvement over the severely lacklustre Fast & Furious 9 but even with Jason Momoa’s scene-stealing performance and some worthwhile moments, I’m not sure how much gas they have left to (forcefully) stretch this into a trilogy.