Fas(ten) your seat belts, it’s going to be a bumpier than ever ride. The first part of Fast X, the Fast and Furious finale film, is like The Avengers on steroids: every character gets a moment, every movie gets a callback and every scene has to comment on something that happened in a previous film. Trying to keep up with all these moving pieces is like trying to memorize a car manual, only with twice as many parts. After nine films, four directors and hundreds of actors, the series which started with Vin Diesel racing on the streets of Los Angeles has turned into a giant, globe-trotting adventure. And somehow all this nonsense is still a fun escape.
The Fast and Furious films have had their ups and downs, so it’s nice to see the finale tying everything together. Though no expense has been spared on production, the new movie excels by staying true to the action, muscle and melodrama that made this series a hit. Moreover, it succeeds because the franchise has grounded its story in a lesson on the importance of family, something you don’t often see in your typical blockbuster fare. These movies have gone their own heart-warming way even if fans have turned Diesel’s monologues about family into a drinking game in which viewers must chug every time he mentions the subject of bonding (don’t try this at home, kids). Now that we’ve come to the final trilogy, the relationships and connections have grown into something that cannot be denied.
Not only do the leads turn out to be great, but the screenwriters have written a though-line that actually makes sense. Amidst all the cars and carnage, there’s a tale of loners who were cast away by their parents, so they found a new place to call home. This group of gearheads we’ve come to know and love over the years includes Dom Torreto (Diesel), his wife Letty (Michelle Rodriquez), his brother Jakob (John Cena), his sidekicks Roman (Tyreese Gibson), Tej (Ludacris) and Han (Sung Kang). There’s also newcomers Cipher (Charlize Theron) and Ms. Nobody (Brie Larson), who prove that women are just as capable at kicking butt as men.
All these characters join forces to take on Dante, a villain from the previous movies, who has been planning his revenge ever since the crew took down his father in Fast Five, which sent the boy in a tailspin toward a life of crime. Jason Momoa steals the show as this wildly flamboyant, gleefully unhinged psychopath who talks to corpses and speaks in at least three different languages. Dante has more drivers on his side than Dom and more guns at his disposal than Rambo.
In true Fast and Furious fashion, all these racers are on a wild goose chase from the heart of Cuba to the center of Rome, where the Colosseum sets the stage for a battle of the biceps. If these movies were any smarter, one could read this as a treatise on the evolution of macho entertainment. Thousands of years ago audiences would pay to see two men clobber each other to death in a ring. Now that ring has been replaced by screens, with fictional showdowns that see tanks being driven through the towns of Cuba, cars being raced over the tundras of Antarctica and bombs being rolled across the streets of Trastevere like a vehicular game of pinball.
That’s not to say that everyone is taking this stuff seriously. There’s self-aware jokes about the ridiculous stunts and commentary on the impossible nature of what these characters are doing. In the film, Dante mocks Dom for coming out of brawls and explosions unscathed, and Tej always has a look on his face that says, “you gotta be kidding.” While it’s the car chases that take this franchise to the heights we expect, it’s the meta moments and the willingness to laugh at all the craziness that makes this movie so enjoyable. In fact, the gags are so well-done, one could argue that this is a comedy more than anything else.
Nevertheless, director Louis Leterrier doesn’t lose sight of the task at hand. In Fast X, all of the major narratives come to fruition, from family bondings, to sibling rivalries to the stable of villains who look like the call sheet for a Bond film. The inherently bonkers storyline makes for some incredibly silly violence, which is what we come to these movies for. Fast X crams more fights into its runtime than most franchises do over the course of a decade, and sets up the inevitable ride into the sunset that will come in a few years with the last hoorah.
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