At the end of F9, 2021’s entry in the Fast and Furious, the most common question — after watching two street racers from the hood fly a car into space — was, “where do we go from here?” It’s something of a recurring question with the franchise — each entry works to up the already ridiculous ante set by the previous one. Surely at some point, they either need to fight robot dinosaur-riding zombie Taylor Swift clones in the Phantom Zone or something, right? We can’t possibly get more preposterous than that, right? … right?
The answer, according to the Louis Leterrier-directed Fast X, is to continue to ramp things up in terms of speed, explosions, and gravelly proclamations about family, but to also be something of a return to the series’ roots. Fast X brings (almost) everyone back home, to that L.A. good life of Coronas and barbeques, although now with the strangely brief addition of Rita Moreno as the matriarch of the Toretto siblings. Things quickly go haywire as they learn that they’ve been drawn into a wildly overly complicated plot put into motion by Dante Reyes (an absolutely and gloriously unhinged Jason Momoa), the psychopathic son of Herman Reyes — yep, the one who died in 2011’s Fast Five.
Reyes wants to torture Dom by taking his friends and family from him via a series of increasingly insane scenarios, from bombs rolling toward the Vatican to kidnapping to framing the team for terrorism to good old fashion street racing (with a touch of murder thrown in). Somehow, through all that lunacy, we’re also visited by old friends and enemies, including Cypher (Charlize Theron), Queenie (Helen Mirren) and her son Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), and of course newfound brother Jakob Toretto (John Cena).
It’s predictably insane, if such a thing is possible, while also working hard to remind us of all the things that brought us to this point, almost like a pastiche of homages to the prior films. We revisit the bridge in Rio, cars driving out of planes, through explosions, and jumping across bridges. The line between homage and simply reusing assets and ideas gets very blurry, very quickly, but it all happens so fast that it’s hard to even realize it in the moment. Yet despite those reminders of feats of past derring-do, there’s still a good bit of fresh content here, enough to keep things from getting too repetitive. Director Leterrier and writers Dan Mazeau and Justin Lin (who has directed five of the previous entries) know their audience well enough to know that if the cars are quips are coming at an equal pace, they can continue to wallpaper their houses with money.
There are some fresh faces too, and they serve the franchise well. Momoa is absolutely wild, a garishly dressed lunatic who is surprisingly funny in addition to being completely deranged. Yes, the character suffers from that irritating trend where he is seemingly omniscient, but it’s done with such goofy panache that all is ultimately forgiven. Throw in a quirky-yet-deadly Brie Larson as Tess, a government agent who wants to help the team and Alan Ritchson as Almes, the brutish new head of The Agency who wants to hunt them, and you’ve got quite a crowd. Unfortunately, it’s almost too crowded, since we still must make room for series regulars Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), Tej (Chris “Ludacris” Bridges), Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel), Mia (Jordana Brewster), and of course the resurrected Han (Sung Kang). Even with the film’s 141-minute runtime, it’s hard to give everyone a fair shake (which is probably why for much of the film the team is splintered and spread out across the globe).
Yet as always, everyone seems fully committed to the madness, and that’s half the fun. Fast X is unquestionably fun, even when it’s at its most unbelievable. With each passing sequence, you find yourself somewhere between rolling your eyes and grinning, knowing how preposterous it is and yet forgiving it anyway, like a dog who pees on the floor but is just so damn cute. How can we get mad at Vin Diesel’s increasingly exhausting and — frankly, increasingly stupid — rumblings about family when there are so many shiny things exploding and pretty people making us laugh? You can’t. You just clean up the mess and keep playing. That’s all the Fast and Furious franchise wants, anyway - to make a mess and keep you happy. Fast X is no exception.