After 22 years, the Fast and Furious franchise finally gets a memorable villain in Fast X, thanks to Jason Momoa.
This series needs an adversary as gonzo as its off-the-wall antics, and bless Momoa (Slumberland) for going the extra mile and then some. As the son of the drug lord whom the crew robbed and killed by hauling a vault through the streets of Rio in 2011’s Fast Five, his character has a vendetta against Fast’s extended faaaaamily.
He also has a flamboyant swagger little seen in this world of impervious biceps. With a scrunchie in his flowy mane, satiny purple shirt, and purple slacks that match his Chevy Impala, Momoa sashays up to gearhead Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3) and cocks out a hip. “I’m Dante. Enchanté,” he says.
The Toretto team has come a long way from stealing DVD players in their modest first outing. The Fast and Furious films now resemble a superhero soap opera on wheels–and that’s even before tallying the players over the years. In addition to Diesel (Marvel’s Groot), there’s Captain Marvel (Brie Larson), Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), Black Adam (Dwayne Johnson), Peacemaker (John Cena), The Suicide Squad’s Ratcatcher 2 (Daniela Melchior), Mad Max Fury Road’s Furiosa (Charlize Theron), and the indomitable Helen Mirren. Characters come back from the dead, survive amnesia, launch into space, leap across bridges, use car doors as shields …
As one character here notes: “If it defies the laws of God and gravity, they did it twice.”
As usual, grounding the zaniness is the cast’s cheerful camaraderie, this time on display at a backyard barbecue in the opening moments. Dom and his wife, Letty (Michelle Rodriguez, Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves), are happily raising Brian, a.k.a. Little B (Leo Abelo Perry, Black-ish), the child Dom had with a government agent a few films ago while Letty was thought dead. Dom’s sister, Mia (Jordana Brewster, Simulant), is still married with kids to ex-cop Brian (the late Paul Walker, alive offscreen). Between the banter, the crew sets one more place at the table for the Torettos’ grandma, played by living legend Rita Moreno.
At first, Dom is glad to stay home while Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Tej (Chris “Ludacris” Bridges), Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel), and Han (Sung Kang) jet off to Rome to steal some tech for the Agency, a government entity that previously enlisted their help. Privately, Dom confides to Letty that he worries about protecting everyone they love.
That fear materializes on the couple’s doorstep in the form of Cipher (Theron), a cyber-terrorist who toyed with them in the past. She’s wounded from Dante ambushing her to find Dom and company. And that trip to Rome? It’s a trap he’s set.
Letty and Dom hightail it overseas, where a set piece with a giant rolling bomb bound for the Vatican gets the tight-knit crew on the world’s most-wanted list—all part of Dante’s plan to make them suffer. A flashback to Fast Five, along with new footage inserting Momoa into the action, reveals that losing his dad and having a brush with death knocked free whatever loose screws he had.
The globe-trotting script from Dan Mazeau and Justin Lin, who directed 2021’s F9: The Fast Saga, bounces along so swiftly that viewers have no time to wonder how Dante pulls various threads together. Or why cars explode in some moments and not in others.
Regardless, this ensemble clearly enjoys being together. That includes Cena, returning as Dom and Mia’s older brother, Jakob, with humor and tech that would put James Bond to shame, and Larson as an Agency ally. Her part isn’t large, but she too looks like she’s having a blast, beating opponents with a shotgun before scooting in heels with glasses of beer.
Director Louis Leterrier (The Takedown) uses plenty of wide shots and drone shots to orient viewers, then drops them close to the action. He also adds some amusing closeups of Dom’s beloved Dodge Charger, silver crucifix, and hands shifting gears.
Leterrier unfortunately also incorporates the usual booty cam for the background babes during a drag race. The Fast films have always had a weird dichotomy around women, giving those in the extended family much to do while reducing the extras to body parts. In a Los Angeles Times in a story. Rodriguez and Brewster said how they’ve fought to give the series’ women more of the action. Here, Letty rides a motorcycle and pulls no punches in a fight with Cipher, Mia wields a mean kick and a frying pan, and Ramsey mediates Tej and Roman’s squabbles while trying to crack computer codes. While all that’s fun to see, the twerking closeups are evidence of lingering sexism that’s squirmy and unnecessary.
Give us more Momoa instead. Fast X ends on a cliffhanger, promising this is the beginning of the end of the road. In the meantime, watching Momoa cut loose gives this series a delicious jolt of nitrous. He’s both funny and unsettling, one moment teasing about his nail polish and whether the carpet matches the drapes, then chatting with corpses whose eyes he’s taped open. His electric energy makes Fast X worth the trip.