When looking up the definition of “momentum”, the description given is something along the lines of – “strength or force gained by motion or by a series of events”, a definition that could be easily shifted over to the miraculous continuation of the Fast & Furious saga. Since the franchise started rolling way back in 2001, its momentum has steadily grown, taking it from slick, DVD player stealing crime flick to planetoid-sized, globe hopping action extravaganzas that now match the average space opera or superhero team movie in terms of scale and general silliness. However, after nine movies, one spin-off, a ride at Universal Studios and an animated series that literally no one gas ever talked about, the proposed finishing line is finally in sight – but Dominic Toretto and his incessant rumblings about family have reached something of a problem. After a somewhat lackluster ninth episode, is the franchise’s much vaunted momentum finally beginning to slow? Time to push the nitrous button and find out…
A new enemy has targeted Dominic Toretto and its dangerous to reduce previous big bag, Cipher, to scurrying to her hated, bald enemy for help. Its seems that if we roll back the clock all the way back to Fast 5, the vault flinging climax of the Rio Heist created a vengeful survivor of the deranged Dante Reyes, the son of the drugs Kingpin pancaked and shot at the hands of our heroes.
Dante’s plan is simple in its absurd complexity: torment and deconstruct das familia to the point where Dom is agonisingly vunerable – and then kill him. He gets off to a romping start framing the entire crew for trying to nuke the Vatican thanks to the fact that their government agent benefactor, Mr. Nobody is no longer around to protect them and as they scatter all around the globe, Dante tries to single out Dom’s son, Brian, in order to put that extra special vengence-cherry on top of his insane-o sundae of chaos.
During the neverending stream of plot mechanics, Dom finds himself back in Rio; his wife, Letty, ends up in an Arctic supermax with Cipher; Dom’s equally hulking brother, Jakob, escorts little Brian across country to the family’s rendezvous and the rest of the team (Roman, Tej, Ramsay and Han) make their way through London, trying to reap back lost funds in order to rejoin the fight.
With the new, meat-headed head of the Agency, Ames, believing Dante’s hype and targeting everyone for a concrete cell or a body bag, the gang soon find that they’ll soon run out of places to turn unless they can figure out some funky counter plan featuring cars and explosions to get them out of this deep shit they’re most definitely in – but how can the ill-defined power of family work its magic, when the family in question is spread wider than a Playboy centrefold?
Apparently, there were more problems than usual when it came to roping this latest installment of the gasoline and testosterone cocktail that is the Fast & Furious franchise which actually led to five time helmer Justin Lin jumping ship in order to allow Louis Leterrier to make his F&F debut. It’s actually not all that difficult to guess why, because in an attempt by the series to try and ape the sprawling style of Avengers: Infinity War, it ends up resembling the other definition of sprawling and lurches from cast member to vast member and back again like a speeding muscle car with a burst tyre. If the precise plot machinations of Infinty War was a intricately balanced ballet, Fast X is as ungainly as a rocket powered, three wheeled shopping trolley attempting to negotiate the Monaco Grand Prix and yet improbably – no, screw that – impossibly, the movie not only holds together (just), but it actually regains some of that all-important momentum lost by part 9.
At this point, with the end in sight with only one film, maybe two, to go, the franchise is literally too big to fail, but the fact that F9 was weirdly po-faced despite featuring John Cena travelling on a zip-line half the length of Glasgow, meant that the series was running precariously low on fun – something that is vital when preventing these movies being laughed clean out of cinemas around the world. Give a huge round of applause to Jason Mamoa then, as his cackling, deranged and amusingly feminine villain almost single handedly makes all this crap remotely palatable by pirouetting around the place like a loon, painting the toenails of corpses like he’s on a sleepover and basically chewing any part of the surrounding set not due to be obliterated by vast and multiple CGI explosions. Simply put, he’s a fucking god send and he’s a huge breath of psychotic fresh air when compared to the stoic, rumbling easter island head that Vin Diesel’s hero has become.
Elsewhere, cameos and new roles jostle for space among the regulars with Brie Larson’s agent in particular struggling to tread water in the increasingly crowded deep end of the metaphorical pool – however, John Cena’s almost instant shift from bitter, villainous, younger brother to goofy, rocket launching, cool uncle is actually inspired, if utterly illogical.
But then, logical is this franchise’s middle name and at this point it’s almost impossible to tell when the movie is broadly taking the piss out of itself (one character winkingly suggests that everyone is a mere beer and barbecue away from being absorbed into the nucleus of Dom’s voraciously growing family), or if we’re expected to actually take the sight of Toretto’s car slamming two tethered helicopters together like a pair of fucking conkers seriously.
However, Fast X’s biggest issue is one that weirdly can’t be helped and it’s that old conundrum that’s caused by the usage of a shamelessly bold cliffhanger before the credits roll – basically, what we have here is a very loud, very long movie that has no ending and that amusingly tries to stun you with some shock deaths literally five minutes before it rocks you with yet another unlikely resurrection. Will those deaths stick? Gee, let me think…
Still, if this truly is the beginning of the end, then we’re off to a solidly decent start thanks to some typically cartoonish action (a car chase through Rome involving a flaming, rolling neutron bomb isn’t something you’re likely to see in Oppenheimer), an off-the-scale villain who rhymes enchanté with Dante and a director who somehow manages to wrangle a ridiculous amount of cast and plot threads into something that only slightly plays like a hurricane in a writer’s room.
Where we go from here is uncertain – whatever form Fast 11 takes, it’s still at least two years away – but with some somewhat steady hands on the wheel, the franchise’s heaving trunk of baggage looks like it still might have a chance of going out with an appropriately huge bang.