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‘Fast X’ review: You can’t have summer blockbuster absurdity without family and Jason Momoa

There’s Vin Diesel, a big returning cast of characters, an eccentric villain, and cars—lots of car explosions.

Universal Pictures

Once upon a time, there was a film about an undercover cop’s mission that led him into the world of illegal street racing. He meets a thief he later becomes friends with (and later gets in trouble letting go), falls in love with his sister, and away we go with the Fast and Furious franchise. At least initially, we loved the Fast films for the souped-up muscle cars racing down the streets of different cities. Twenty-two years later, these films have driven into a space of delightful absurdity. We’re talking characters pushing torpedos, going into space to shoot down a satellite, and attaching a bank vault in the back of two cars and using it like a battering ram down the streets of Brazil.

We have long left the comforts of reality, and that’s part of the charm of this series. Fast X knows this and basks in the lore built before it. Plenty of “how will our heroes get out of this one” aesthetic present exists within this iteration. However, so many characters, fake-outs, and moments combine not to give anything pause to take them in thoroughly. Director Louis Leterrier had a massive task in trying to tie all these parts, personalities, and trademark franchise bombast into the first part (there are supposedly three) into a three-act trilogy. One way he’s successful is by banking on you still wanting to see these characters all find each other and team up – the desire is still present.

Well, most of the film is segmented into different parts of the world – a return to Brazil, London, California, and Portugal are a few. It’s meant to give this massive cast something to do, and unfortunately, it takes away from some of their development or scatters it in entirely. To go forward, you have to go back to the middle, and I’m referring to the conclusion of 2011’s Fast Five. Deceased drug lord Hernan Reyes (Joaquim de Almeida) had a son named Dante (Jason Momoa), and seeing Dominic (Vin Diesel) and his crew kill his father and take his money has made him thirsty for revenge. If there is one notable thing in Fast X that you’ll notice, it’s Momoa's total commitment to the maniacal force of this character. He is tethering to the bit of being an androgynous, zany foil, and it’s fun to see him battling it out with the family - even if his methods seem to be very “villain bridge to the new episode.” It's almost astounding the level of meticulous planning this man has gone through to avenge his father.

Universal Pictures

There’s one instance where you see most of the family together at the storied dinner table in the backyard - then it's off to the races (heh). Dom has resigned to a quiet life with Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), giving his son Brian (Leo Abelo Perry) driving lessons. That’s until the ensemble of Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Tej (Ludacris), Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel), and Han (Sung Kang) catch wind of a high-paying heist in Rome. Come to find out; it was all an elaborate ruse orchestrated by Dante to get the group implicated in the act of terrorism.

That’s where much of Fast X hangs its hat in terms of the film’s progression. You watch all different groups of characters in various exotic locations in what feels like four different films happening simultaneously. Newcomers like Brie Larson as Mr. Nobody’s daughter Tess and Daniela Melchior, playing the sister of Dom’s former lover and mother of Brian, Elena, seem to be having fun and trying to inject some continuity with past films. There’s a complete tonal shift in John Cena’s character Jakob as he’s portraying more of his likable side as he’s on a separate “keep Brian safe” uncle mission. It’s probably one of the most entertaining aspects of the film in general.

At this point, if you are going to see a Fast oriented film, you know what you will get. The laws of physics and what a car can achieve will exceed the crevices of your mind—significant action set pieces, maybe some contemplative moments, some utterances about family, and a sense of awe at how the finality of death does not apply here. It’s incredible how this franchise has been implanted into the pop culture event film psyche. These films are forgone into the sanctums of exciting absurdity that you have to see at least how they wrap all of this up.

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