By James Murphy
Over the last 22 years, the Fast & Furious franchise has been consistently hotted up in the garage, with every new model more pimped than the last; what began as a serviceable, street level crime drama cranked up into an international blockbuster spy caper of increasing absurdity. The series, having already recruited the who’s who of action stars, including WWE superstars The Rock and John Cena, The Transporter’s Jason Statham and Mad Max’s Charlize Theron crams even more into the trunk of this Vin Diesel led vehicle, adding Ms Marvel, Brie Larson, Aquaman’s Jason Mamoa Jack Reacher’s Alan Ritchson and Suicide Squad’s Daniela Melchior. Outnumbering Bond, Batman and Bourne releases in the same time span, there’s a reason audiences keep coming back for more: it’s mainly the car chases.
In interviews promoting the franchise, Vin Diesel compared the process of crafting Fast lore to Tolkien’s creation of Middle Earth; an overreach, undoubtedly, but nonetheless, Fast X is the culmination of two decades of world building. In summary, though, Diesel’s Dominic Toretto began as a criminal street racer who was all about family, BBQs and drinking Coronas, he built a diverse crew of fellow rev-heads, became a driver for hire for a shadowy spy agency, and made enemies along the way. In Fast X, one enemy, Jason Mamoa, seeks vengeance.
Plot development and dialogue in Fast X, like its previous iterations, often just feels like it’s in cruise control, serving to drive us to the next breathtaking action scene. Vin Diesel in drama mode can be painful to watch. Mamoa plays the son of South American drug lord Hernan Reyes, one of Dom’s thwarted rivals. Mamoa, and John Cena (playing Diesel’s assassin brother Jakob), deliver charismatic and comedic turns that lift the otherwise pedestrian dialogue into something that is entertaining for more than just teenage boys. Mamoa, especially, as a flamboyantly camp sociopath, revels in showing he can play more than just a heavily muscled brute.
New additions Melchior, Larson and Ritchson, though, struggle to weave the straw they’ve been given into gold; all three have shown they are blockbuster dynamite when given the material but they just don’t have it here. Mamoa’s mastermind plot is well crafted and keeps audiences and protagonists guessing, and the film ends with an Infinity War-style cliff hanger. You just wish, though, that Diesel took Mamoa’s lead and had fun with the franchise for what it is: this isn’t Tolkien: it’s James Bond, it’s fast cars, cartoon villains, exotic locations and frivolous thrills. It’s not about family and faith; it’s about fun.