Film Reviews

Fast X – Film Review

Strangely, it feels a long time since Fast & Furious 9, even though only two years have elapsed. That may speak simply to the series being so long running that it is getting tougher to delineate between entries. It has not helped that there has been – ever more over time – the emergence of a formula, where the dead never stay dead, and where an antagonist eventually joins the team – something even called out here by Alan Ritchson’s Aimes character.

So, in years to come we will be asking ourselves which film it was we found out such a character was not dead, or whether this was the one where Statham was the bad guy, or part of the team. They are starting to blur into one – certainly the last three entries – and this makes remembering the salient points going into each new film more difficult.

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Louis Leterrier has stepped into the director’s chair for this instalment, and makes this film most obviously a sequel to Fast Five. This is a wise move, as the 2011 entry remains arguably the series high, with a memorable villain, and a tight Ocean’s Eleven-like structure, culminating in possibly the best set-piece in any of these movies. Hernan Reyes – the bad guy killed at the end of that story – had a son we did not know about: Dante (played like the Fast franchise’s version of a theatrical Bond villain by Jason Momoa). It turns out Dante was just out of shot during the events of that film, despite never being mentioned, and now, after ten years (the timeline of this film bears little scrutiny, so is best ignored), he has decided he wants revenge.

Luring members of the crew to Rome under the pretence that they will be undertaking a mission for Little Nobody (Scott Eastwood), the crew are stripped of all finances (apart from Roman Pearce’s cash reserves) and framed for a terrorist attack on the city. Separated out across the globe – with Letty imprisoned, and the team split between London and Rio – they must find their way back together, whilst protecting the son of Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel), Little Brian (Leo Abelo Perry – a roughly ten year old boy who has one expression – shocked) from Dante, who is looking to inflict the same pain on Dom, that he feels Dom inflicted on him in taking his father from him.

© Universal Studios.

At the same time, Aimes has taken over The Agency, and is convinced Toretto’s crew are guilty of the Rome attacks, by-passing Mr Nobody’s daughter Tess (Brie Larson) to get after them, whilst she works to help them stay free from Aimes’ clutches. With an injured Cipher (Charlize Theron) collaborating with Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) to get free from incarceration in Antarctica, Dom working at the source of the problem in Brazil, most of the crew in London, and Jakob Toretto (John Cena) in the US and Portugal protecting the boy, the Fast Franchise has truly gone worldwide.

It is not a sure bet, but we would be somewhat confident of remembering more from this entry in two years’ time than we do the previous film; this would also be true of Hobbs and Shaw. Leterrier manages the series’ trademark action sequences with aplomb, even if we are getting further away from conventional physics all the time (also called out by Aimes). The film manages to be accessible to the newcomer, despite being the most call-back-heavy in the series to-date, as it carefully explains the salient points.

© Universal Studios.

If you do not know who the mother of Dom’s son was, the film will remind you. Much of the first few minutes of the film replays the end of Fast Five, a confident move, given that film’s quality. We do see Deckard Shaw; we see the kit car from Furious 6; Helen Mirren makes an appearance; Han eats in most scenes; and we do meet one character thought dead (which is probably the only beat newcomers to the franchise will not understand); and even the God’s Eye from film eight is key to our plot. This is a greatest hits Fast film, in possibly the strongest entry since the seventh.

It is also full of the factors those not fond of the series can point to as problems. This is soap opera. Watching the film, the mind wandered to the episode of Friends where Dr Drake Ramoray in the in-show ‘Days of Our Lives’ was fathering twins, but only one of them was his. This is full of logic-defying plot twists, every conversation is imbued with an almost comical earnestness (except those between Tej and Roman), and uncovering people who have either been ‘dead’ for years, or whom suddenly want revenge years after we could expect them to show up, adds to the episodic almost serial-nature of this franchise.

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Those fond of these films will find everything they love, and those not so keen will find everything they have come to dislike. It has always been odd how a series can take itself both this seriously and yet be so knowing of its essential absurdity at the same time. We would not want it any other way.

The Fast franchise is drawing to a close – at least in its current incarnation – and this film does feel like a property beginning its goodbye. It is a little too long, the cast is ridiculously large at this point, and believability has gone from low to zero, but it works. To think we were once focused on a crew stealing DVD players; no one could have predicted this trajectory, but it has been – mostly – very enjoyable.

Fast X is out now in cinemas.

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