When The Fast and the Furious first premiered in 2001, I don’t think anyone would have expected to still be writing about it in 2023. Not only that, but to also see it as one of the largest soap operas in modern cinema, powered by imagination and a giant heap of NOS. Before it would be given the prefix The Fast Saga, they’d solved crimes, stolen millions from a drug kingpin, prevented the theft of a high-tech spycraft, and even waged a vendetta against the man who killed their friend Han (Sung Kang). With the release of The Fate of the Furious (2017), audiences could finally declare what we’d suspected — logic is a thin thread holding together a tapestry of absolute ridiculousness. Not only that, Fate, the eighth installment, made it clear that everyone gets a second-chance, even if they don’t deserve it. With rumors suggesting that The Fast Saga is nearing its end, the latest feature, Fast X (pronounced as either, Fast X, Fast Ten, or “fasten”), pushes the envelope on everything, reason be damned, resulting in the high-octane excitement you expect, though it makes the least amount of sense out of the entire series. Whatever you think of the film, Universal Pictures brings to the home release eight featurettes, two music videos, a gag reel, and a feature-length commentary track from director Louis Feterrier (Unleashed) to help extend the glory that is Team Toretto in action.
They started off as a street team that stole VCRs off trucks and managed to turn themselves into freelance spies working for a covert U.S.-based organization. Through all of it, Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) has done his best to protect his family, blood and chosen, to the best of his ability. Now, though, there may be no protection possible for the rage that burns inside Dante (Jason Momoa), the son of Brazilian kingpin Hernan Reyes (Joaquim de Almeida) who Dom and the team stole from in Fast Five (2011). Separated by continents, with the law after them, too, Team Toretto may finally be out of gas.
Though there was no spoiler-free theatrical release review of Fast Ten published on EoM, what follows will be entirely spoiler-filled in order to address some of the visible and present issues of the film.
It’s a weird thing to acknowledge, but the *ideas* of these films are often better than the films themselves. More often than not, they forget what made them engaging in the first place and become a parody of themselves, espousing “family” at every opportunity, leaning into heavy CG, and trying to replace meaning with logic-defying moments. These work sparingly (Letty’s not dead!?!?), but begin to lose their steam over time (Han’s not dead?!?! Gisele’s not dead?!?! Hobbs is back?!?! Kurt Russell’s Mr. Nobody is constantly referenced as “missing” when he was seemingly killed in 2021’s F9 – he is not dead?!?!). One can hand-wave away the fact that the Toretto family is of questionable background (Italian? Mexican? Cuban? Dominican?), though I’m not sure who Little B’s (Leo Abelo Perry) supposed to be the child of as he looks nothing like Dom or Elsa Pataky’s Elena Neves (still dead), because we love the ever-expanding cast and the characters who get to play in this world. One can hand-wave away the fact that this team gets bested in ways that either suggest they weren’t as good as believed or they got too relaxed in their success (the latter more plausible than the former), except that they keep getting played over and over. With Fast Ten originally the first of a two-parter (jury’s still out if it’s going to be the first of three instead), it makes a certain amount of sense that Team Toretto would be on their heels for much of this film, but to the degree at which they are behind Dante makes less sense against their history.
These films have a tendency to re-write their own history, seen in instances like making Tokyo Drift (2006) a future story in the main Fast Saga timeline versus when it was released, bringing Letty back and then Han. They’ve even found a way to make the enemies-to-lovers pipeline a way to extend their ranks to a varying degree of entertainment. But even soap operas need to provide logic that doesn’t defy itself (But Calculon! I thought you were dead!). An example of the good: Little B expresses to his uncle that he doesn’t like planes, a possible nod to his mother’s death or Deckard Shaw’s (Jason Statham) aerial fisticuffs saving Little B as an infant during Fate. Helen Mirren’s Magdalene Shaw appearing in Italy to advise Dom on his situation, a playful nod to the characters’ connection from F9 and a way to explain why Dom would still be in Italy when he’s a wanted man (she provides the info on Letty’s location after being arrested). Speaking of, where the hell is Hattie (Vanessa Kirby) in all of this? This is not the first time the operative has had a relative in the thick of things and hasn’t gotten involved. It’s not that Hattie *has* to appear, but we know she exists, has been demonstrated to be a character that *would* get involved, but isn’t mentioned at all. But what doesn’t make sense is having two different films include a narrative thread of Deckard looking for redemption for what he did to Han only to then immediately attack Han when the formerly-deceased appears on his doorstep, especially when *twice* Han displayed no intent to attack. It doesn’t make sense for the team to ever side with Cypher, even if Dante is a greater threat, as it would betray Elena and Little B, yet there’s a general sense that the Toretto Sunday dinner is about to need an extra chair. There’s no argument that more Charlize Theron in a film is a good thing, especially when she gets to chew the scenery in a role like Cypher, but even by soap opera standards, this feels low and dirty. I would understand some rehabilitation on the part of Owen Shaw (Luke Evans) since we know he was being manipulated by Cypher (and it would be great to see all three Shaw siblings on screen together kicking ass), but Cypher feels like a bridge too far.
The script was reportedly at the heart of the problems that led original Fast X director (and savior of the series) Justin Lin to leave the project. Given the choices made throughout, the surprises that try to up the emotional ante, it makes sense that there are larger inconsistencies throughout the film. Granted, it should be viewed as one part of a two-film story, so it’s fair to acknowledge that Part Two could effectively course correct some of the issues present in X, but it would be hard to do. For instance, it’s canonical that Elena was after Hernan Reyes, so she would’ve known and therefore told Dom that Dante existed. This should’ve been known info during Five and the handling here creates a few holes. Some could be avoided by simply having Dom say something instead of, say, Daniela Melchior’s Isabel Neves, Elena’s never-seen-before sister providing the exposition. Just a few tweaks in who says what, a few switches in scene order to smooth the flow, and less reliance on CG for the action sequences, Fast X could really be something. When you couple all of the inconsistencies with a series of action sequences that lack the tangibility of the previous films, one begins to believe less in the power of Dom and more in the inevitability of 101010101s to design action sequences. It’s a shame, because Fast X likely would be able to be as memorable for audiences as the emotional arc in the film wants it to be by relying less on special effects to make the action great and engaging.
The good thing is that Universal Pictures didn’t skimp on the bonus features, a practice becoming more and more scarce lately for some unknown and frustrating reason. Whether you’re a casual fan, someone who could write a guide to Fast Saga newbies, or you just like to learn about movie-making, the home release includes roughly 87 minutes of behind-the-scenes materials. Want to learn how they staged and shot the stunts? Covered. Want to hear from the cast regarding their feelings on making the movie? Covered. More of Momoa being deliciously dastardly? COVERED. You get the sense that there is a lot of blue screen work done on the film, but when it’s done well (like on the bridge in Rio vs. the rolling bomb sequence in Italy), we get to appreciate how the Fast Saga can really tell strong and engaging stories when they want to through the magic of cinema.
Fast X certainly has its moments, and I’d like to think that the reason so many of the things which bother me about the script (the absence of characters, even by mention; the inclusion of others) is because the prior nine films inspired a sense of ownership of the world and here, it’s clear from what’s on screen that there’s an attempt to make everything memorable, everything heavy with intention and emotion, yet it forgets in its attempts to tell this larger mythos to go back to what made it strong in the first place. Perhaps with Part Two a conclusion can appear that will see Team Toretto come together like the Avengers post-Blip, pumping NOS and blasting Marky-Mark and the Funky Bunch in Jakob’s (John Cena) honor, driving down on Dante like Heaven’s angels on a mission to end all missions. As cool as that would be, I’d settle for a story that didn’t rely on soap opera tropes that didn’t undercut years of character investment.
Only time will tell which one we’ll get.
Fast X Special Features:
- This Is Family – Family bonds are always the strongest. Reunite with your favorite Fast family members as we introduce new characters, travel across continents, reveal intimate views of epic stunts, and get personal about the beginning of the end of the Fast franchise. (35:14)
- Fast Breaks: Scene Breakdowns with Louis Leterrier* – Director Louis Leterrier gives insight into some of the magic that went into making Fast X, breaking down how he filmed these unforgettable action scenes in legendary locations around the world. (7:46)
- Xtreme Rides of Fast X – In Fast, we cast cars like we cast characters. Take a closer look at how classic Fast cars were rebuilt for Fast X, and which new vehicles are customized and introduced to enhance the lifeblood of the franchise. (12:55)
- Belles of the Brawl – The women of Fast X are not to be messed with. Watch as they add their special talents to huge fight scenes, from rehearsal to the real thing. (7:14)
- Tuned Into Rio – Revisit Fast‘s past as our story takes us back to Rio de Janeiro, where we’ll experience a non-stop party, exotic cars, and a classic Fast quarter mile street race. (5:06)
- Jason Momoa: Conquering Rome* – Jason Momoa joins the Fast franchise to portray a villain that pushes the team to the brink of disaster. Watch as Momoa discusses his approach to the character, biking down the narrow streets of Rome, and performing his own stunts. (3:03)
- Little B Takes the Wheel – Get to know the youngest member of the Toretto family as we dive into Little B’s journey in Fast X and introduce Leo Abelo Perry. (3:05)
- A Friend in the End – The Fast franchise has a history of shocking end-credit tags, and Fast X is no different. We take a special look at this scene and why, if you’re watching a Fast movie, you never want to get up before the end credits are finished! (1:30)
- Gag Reel* (4:57)
- Music Videos (6:23)
- “Toretto” by J Balvin (3:17)
- “Angel Pt. 1” BY Kodak Black & Nle Choppa (Featuring Jimin of Bts, Jvke & Muni Long) (3:06)
- Feature Commentary with Director Louis Leterrier* (2:20:49)
* Included on all formats including DVD
Available on digital August 1st, 2023.
Available on 4K UHD, Blu-ray, and DVD August 8th, 2023.
For more information, head to the official Fast Saga website.
Final Score: 3 out of 5.
This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, the movie being covered here wouldn’t exist.