Directed by Louis Leterrier | Written by Dan Mazeau and Justin Lin | 141 min | ▲▲▲△△ | Amazon Prime
So, what is my Fast & Furious ranking — I hear nobody ask.
I’ll get to that, but if you’d like a fuller picture — I did a franchise review on this well-oiled machine about 10 years ago when it was already six entries deep: Check this out.
And here’s the ranking, from best to absolutely abysmal. It also includes this most recent entry in the strangely resilient series of movies:
- Fast Five
- Fast & Furious Six
- The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (#3)
- Furious 7
- Fast & Furious (#4)
- Fast X
- The Fast and the Furious (#1)
- The Fate of the Furious (#8)
- 2 Fast 2 Furious
- Hobbs & Shaw
- F9: The Fast Saga
Seeing that whole list it suddenly occurs how the producers have struggled with the titles to these movies — they’re clearly terrified of any kind of continuity.
As you can see, Fast X ranks somewhere in the middle of this pack, which is a pleasant surprise since the recent pictures have been pretty damn awful — they’ve gone from fun and stupid to just plain stupid. I appreciate that the brand is robust and the movies have to deliver what the people want — car chases, crazy, physics-defying stunts, international locations, and Vin Diesel going on about family like he’s an evangelical priest espousing the word of god. (In this movie someone finally points out it’s “like a cult, with cars.”)
I also recognize the reasonable argument that they’re the nadir of a bankrupt, sexist culture obsessed with glamorizing criminal behaviour and firearms while showing none of the consequences of either, but let’s not go down some alley we can’t turn around in.
The first thing the filmmakers of Fast X do right is make it a direct sequel to the single best Fast & Furious movie, Fast Five. The first 10 minutes are a replay of that picture’s climactic thrill ride through the streets of Rio de Janeiro, where Dominic Toretto (Diesel) and Brian O’Conner (the late Paul Walker) drag an enormous safe behind their supercharged muscle cars, leading to the death of the key antagonist, kingpin Herman Reyes (Joaquim de Almeida). It turns out, in a deft bit of retroactive editing, Reyes psychopathic son, Dante (Jason Momoa), was also a part of that chase. Now he’s got his vengeance on for Dom.
Dante’s father taught Dante a lesson, a good one for any megalomaniacal baddie that helps to compel his particular aggressive tendencies: “When suffering is owed, never accept death as a payment.”
In the present day we’re in Los Angeles, and Dom and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) have a son, B (Leo Abelo Perry). They’re living the comfortable home life while the crew is still taking heist assignments, including liberating tech from some folks in Italy.
A subsequent chase scene through the streets of Rome — some ropey CGI notwithstanding — is pretty damn sweet. French filmmaker Leterrier directed two Transporter films. He’s well-versed in vehicular insanity (though maybe best to forget the few terrible movies he’s made since then) so delivers all that and more.
It turns out the tech was actually a bomb set by Dante, and Dom and his pals get blamed for the resulting damage. Once again they’re on the run, with characters I’d completely forgotten were in these movies (played by Scott Eastwood, Helen Mirren, and John Cena) showing up, with space allowed for a few new faces — Rita Moreno, Pete Davidson, Alan Ritchson of Reacher fame, Daniela Melchior, and Brie Larson, who doesn’t get to do too much — joining the now-sprawling cast of regulars: Sung Kang, Ludacris, Tyrese Gibson, Jordana Brewster, Nathalie Emmanuel, Jason Statham, and Charlize Theron.
The fact they all get character moments is something of a miracle given the obscurities of the plot — they chase each other, or get chased, around the world, revisiting at least a couple of the familiar highway locations from previous movies in Rio and Portugal.
This is the kind of movie where the “Agency ” (read CIA) operates Black Sites as high tech dungeons and your average international dive bar is a place where someone can shoot a shotgun but nobody seems to mind too much. Don’t look too closely here for coherency, or sense, you won’t find it.
You might be wondering: Does the noticeable CGI glaze over everything make it less fun? Absolutely. Diesel is no Tom Cruise, and of course he’s not doing all these stunts himself, but the movie would definitely be more of a good time if I could believe it was an actual ’69 Charger driving off a dam and not a mass of badly rendered ones and zeroes.
Is Dom’s constant growling about the importance of family become tiresome? 100 percent. (The narrative conceit that Walker’s character isn’t dead, just retired, fails in this movie where the villain is coming for *all* the people who are important in Dom’s life, more so when even characters who are presumed dead, or at least sworn off this franchise, just keep turning up.)
But does the 10th Fast & Furious manage to recapture a measure of the bonkers playfulness of the best of this series, a quality that’s been markedly absent in the past couple pictures? Definitely.
And at least some of that fun is credit to Jason Momoa’s Dante. He wears a stunning selection of slacks and snakeskin jackets and gets to say all the things about Dom and his crew that we’re all thinking — that “cult” comment is his. He’s flamboyant and attention-grabbing and genuinely entertaining, and he gooses the movie whenever he’s on screen — check the creepy-funny scene where he props up two dead dudes to share cocktails and paint nails.
I suppose there’s some question around the whether it’s a good idea this series’ first signalling-as-queer character should be a total maniac, but Momoa is having so much fun it’s hard to begrudge it — and with any luck he’ll upset all the right people with his real gift for a sashay.