Fast X Review: Jason Momoa Steals This Bloated Sequel Like DVD Players on a Truck

Fast X almost immediately begins on the wrong note, setting the stage for Jason Momoa's big villain and the plot of this movie by replaying a major sequence from Fast Five. This is designed to catch audiences up on where things are in the world of this franchise, but also to retcon the existence of Momoa's character as having been waiting in the wings ever since the events of that movie. What this ends up doing, however, is showcasing one of the best set pieces from the entire series almost in full for the audience. It also reveals how few ideas there actually are for the rest of Fast X, because even the action beats are retreads with new paint jobs.

Picking up from F9, the family is all together again and prepping their next globe-hopping adventure. Roman (Tyrese Gibson) is leading a crew made up of Tej (Ludacris), Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel), and Han (Sung Kang) on a mission to Rome that quickly reveals itself to have been a trap set by Dante (Momoa). As a result, the family is fractured, scattered to the wind through contrivances that only happen because that was the pre-agreed-upon plot for the movie. Clocking in at about two hours and twenty minutes, this side-story consists of maybe forty minutes of the entire movie, and contributes minimally overall.

One might consider that, thematically, separating Dom from his family is a good idea for the tenth movie in a series to try and reinvent itself, but the series already did this with The Fate of the Furious, and it already had a decades-long revenge plot just two years ago with F9. In short, the wheels are spinning in more ways than one. To make matters worse, almost none of the sequences with the cast that aren't Vin Diesel amount to anything throughout the entire movie, with all roads leading to nowhere. The group of four from Rome is sent on a goose chase that includes such pointless pit stops as a Pete Davidson-run internet cafe, while Jordana Brewster pops up in two scenes total. John Cena appears opposite the young Leo Abelo Perry as little Brian, Dom's son. The wrestler-turned-actor is starring in an entirely different movie from everyone else, as his baby-sitting scenes take on a tone that is antithetical to literally every other sequence.

Center to the entire movie, and its best part by a quarter mile, is Momoa as its chief villain. Comparisons to The Joker are incredibly apt given the way that the Aquaman star plays the character, but he's more Cesar Romero than Heath Ledger. Fluttering about with an over-the-top flamboyance that is immediately merged with psychotic tendencies, Momoa is the best thing that could have happened to this franchise after several prior movies failed to really deliver something new. There are enough hilarious one-liners from the character that the explosions and car chases won't be what people recall about Fast X; it'll be Momoa's delivery of dialogue like, "Pretty please with me on top," and, "You butthole!"

Fast X is at its best when it's not taking itself too seriously, even mocking its own brand of machismo. Momoa contributes to this in spades, naturally, but newcomer Alan Ritchson is introduced to the series with a memorable sequence that recaps the entire franchise to date. Ritchson's Agent Aimes delivers this extended monologue about the family by not only recalling their escalating feats from thieves and racers to super spies that once went to space, but by delivering one of the best lines in series history: "If it violates the laws of God and gravity, they did it twice." Very funny! You're in on the joke like we are! Unfortunately, Vin Diesel continues to strut around with his jaw wired into a grimace, confronting every ounce of fun with a dour look that fights against the movie's instincts to just have a good time.

Another key issue is the movie's cast. The Fast franchise is already filled to the brim with characters, but Fast X, of course, has to add even more – and because the cup is running over at this point, a lot of them are given thankless pursuits. Four Academy Award-winning women appear in Fast X – Helen Mirren, Charlize Theron, Rita Moreno, and Brie Larson. The only one with any scenes that really matter in this is Theron's Cipher. To make it even more thankless, her role in the movie is just introducing Momoa's character into the present day before being shuttled off to a B-plot that only sets up what's to come (though that B-plot does feature maybe the only title card in film history that earns the laugh it's aiming for).

All of these problems compound in the film's conclusion, and, though no spoilers will be confirmed here, there is an underlying issue with how it chooses to end ahead of Fast X Part 2, or whatever the next one ends up being called. How can the audience feel any of the stakes that happen at one moment in the movie's ending when the very next scene is one that confirms previous stakes didn't matter at all? It's an issue baked into a series that's made it this far, but Fast X shines a spotlight on it in a major way.

At its core, Fast X has strayed entirely from what people like about the best movies in the franchise: the ensemble cast together, the world-traveling scope that was shot on location, and the practical car effects. There are pieces of all these things, but not enough for a movie that has clearly spent hundreds upon hundreds of millions of dollars to make it to the big screen on this particular release date. Is the action still slick and fun? For the most part. Are you going to have a good time at the movies while watching it? Probably. But if you consider the mechanical elements that made your favorite movies in this series what they are, you will notice their absence here. Fast X has fundamentally dropped the ball in terms of what made it so special from other franchises. Even if Fast X appears to have lost some of its identity, if it's promising us at least one more movie where Jason Momoa is running around like an unhinged goblin that's watched too many Saw movies, that's not the most awful thing. 

Rating: 2.5 out of 5

Fast X hits theaters on May 19th.