Fast X is very much Dominic Toretto’s Infinity War

For a franchise which features more heel/ face switcheroos than WWE (and, to be fair, more than its fair share of WWE alumni too), it’s fun to see it push its villains so far that even the seemingly endless Fast & Furious family willingness to embrace redemption seems beyond reach. Such is the introduction, through the artfully contrived retconning flashback opening (which slyly ensures appearances by both Paul Walker (deceased) and Dwayne Johnson (estranged) in this tenth film of a series that few would have predicted to get past a third) showing that unbeknownst to all, Dante Reyes (Jason Momoa) was there all along and boy is he pissed. His threat credentials are established very early on with all the subtlety of the Spinosaurus snapping the T-Rex’s neck in JURASSIC PARK III.

The SPECTRE-esque retrospective reveal that there has been someone manipulating things in the background has, of course, been tried before in this series, with every successive villain revealed to be merely the willing or unwilling puppet of the next level of foe, like some kind of malevolent matryoshka doll but here, as milometer rolls over to a tenth movie, this cruise down memory lane serves to underline just how threadbare the front line roster of this franchise has become. There are precious few heavy hitters left and Diesel’s increasingly aged brawn is visibly trembling with the strain of keeping this mawkish motoring soap opera on the road, helped and sometimes hindered by some shonky special effects work.

Fortunately, it pulls way, way back from the ludicrous pretension of FAST & FURIOUS 9 where Dom reached superhero levels of strength, speed, endurance and invulnerability. Mind you that last one is kind of part of the DNA of the series now, a series which is rapidly approaching the point where it’ll have revived more corpses than THE WALKING DEAD. Instead, it borrows from another superpowered playbook and centres the entire adventure on the villain, echoing AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR as it does so.

Like Thanos, Momoa’s Dante Reyes has blithely sat on the sidelines through at least three movies (and a spin-off) before taking action but now that he’s ready to “do it himself”, he’s making quick work of Dom and his crew. Momoa throws himself into the role with real gusto, chewing the scenery with all the nuance of a pro-wrestler and declaiming dialogue to match. Centring on, and subverting the enemies to allies trope, the bad guy here works really well. As the members of Dom’s crew fall one by one, it obscures the absence of some of the bigger names and imbues the unevenly paced adventure with a real sense of menace. The regulars all acquit themselves well, but the introduction of new players is more of a mixed bag, albeit one that probably can’t be judged properly until we get to see the conclusion of this tale which leaves almost everything up in the air by the end of its cliffhanging conclusion.

Where the previous installment saw the series strain for risibly stupid heights, FAST X feels like it comes back down to earth a little and is all the better for it. Thigh-slappingly silly action mixed with over-earnest growling about the importance of family is what the series has built its success on and judging by this preamble to it grand finale, it’s planning to go out on its own terms. After FAST 9, I didn’t really care. FAST X has me firmly back in my seat, riding shotgun again.

score 7

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