Maybe it’s the leaden way in which director Louis Leterrier treats these beloved characters, but the opening scenes of “Fast X” are among the worst in all ten films, a cavalcade of conversations about family, legacy, and other FF tropes. It’s one thing for a character like Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel) to preach the importance of family, but it’s another with notes of Charlie Puth playing over gauzy shots of him looking at press stills of Paul Walker. There was an opportunity here to give us “Old Man Dom”—he is 56, after all—but it’s as if Diesel and his team have no idea what that looks like other than to make their tough guy a little wistful. There’s an odd construction to these early scenes that use the oft-parodied trope of Dom saying “family” as a constant whipping post. They diminish what these films were at their best (installations five through seven) by reducing Toretto and his gang to their most obvious qualities. No one expects great character depth at this point, but do we need so many scenes of Dom grunting “family” and looking worried when he sees his son ‘Little B’ (Leo Abelo Perry)?
“Fast X” improves greatly when Momoa’s Dante Reyes begins his plan to torture Dom and his furious family. Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Tej (Ludacris), and Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) head off to Rome on a mission, but it’s a trap designed by Reyes, the son of Hernan Reyes, who was killed when Dom and company rolled a safe through Rio in “Fast Five.” Dante says repeatedly that he doesn’t want to kill Dom; he wants him to suffer. That apparently entails an elaborate scheme to frame the gang as terrorists after a bomb explodes in the Italian capital. Following the construction of these films, at least since Vin and The Rock broke up, it’s just a way to divide the crew. Roman, Tej, Ramsey, and Han (Sung Kang) flee to London, where they run into Shaw (Jason Statham), of course. Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) ends up captured, and only Mr. Nobody’s daughter Tess (Brie Larson) and Cipher (Charlize Theron) can get her out. And that crowded synopsis doesn’t even include John Cena, Jordana Brewster, Daniela Melchior, Helen Mirren, Rita Moreno, or Alan Ritchson. It’s a crowded street race of a blockbuster.
And yet all of these famous faces are given so little to do. The Roman/Tej banter has never felt more tired; Moreno & Mirren each get one “supporting Dom” scene that sounds like AI wrote it; Cena gets trapped with Perry on an awkwardly conceived and executed road trip; only Theron and Rodriguez get to have any real fun in their subplot, fighting it out in one of the film’s best combat scenes. For the most part, “Fast X” is the Dom & Dante Show, and the film is at its most effective when it bounces Diesel & Momoa’s very different screen personas off each other. Diesel seems more stoic than ever while Momoa plays to the back row, going for flamboyant psychotic with every scene. He’s like a giant child in a superhero’s body, sticking out his tongue and gleefully hopping into chaos with a “Here we go!”