The Fast and Furious franchise has expanded intensely over the course of its 11 films (and counting). Humble street racers who hijack DVD players have evolved into godlike superheroes who can leap vehicles from skyscrapers, cliffs, and planes without flinching. They walk away from car crashes and explosions without injury or even smudging their furrowed brows. With each adventure, more crooks and cops are welcomed into their “family.” Many of these are played by stars so big — or prestigious — that it’s laughably astounding yet expected when Fast X has EGOT winner Rita Moreno swinging by to swig Corona and talk about — what else? — family.
Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his Fast and Furious crew have faced off against crime bosses, submarines, and astrophysics. In Fast 9, they launched a car into space. But the nature of these movies is to eternally top themselves. So how can you beat Tej (Chris “Ludacris” Bridges) and Roman (Tyrese Gibson) as DIY astronauts? You cast Jason Momoa as the latest Fast foe and let him go absolutely wild with the flamboyant charisma we’ve seen more on red carpets(opens in a new tab) than in his most popular roles.
Buckle up, because Fast X is absolutely outrageous, and fans will be elated.
Jason Momoa steals Fast X from Vin Diesel.
Credit: Peter Mountain / Universal Pictures
Fast and Furious villains are often cut from a similar cloth of stoic and intimidating, like Charlize Theron’s whispering cyber-terrorist Cipher (who returns in Fast X for fresh fights and biting barbs). But for every Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and Shaw (Jason Statham), this franchise has a glowering antagonist or three lost in the haze of snarling threats. Clearly, Jason Momoa refuses to be forgotten. Where they zig, he zags, creating a foe that is fearsome, but more classic Disney villain than dastardly Dom doppelganger.
Dante Reyes (Momoa) is the surviving son of the Brazilian crime lord that Dom and his crew toppled in Fast Five — after stealing the dude’s massive safe, dragging it through the streets of Rio like a punishing flail. Set on revenge for his father’s death, Dante doesn’t just want Dom dead, he wants him to suffer. So Dante’s globe-trekking plan of terrorism, kidnapping, and collateral damage is all aimed at stripping away everything Dom loves, including his family. (Except for Paul Walker’s Brian, who is still living happily off-camera with his and Mia’s kids!)
Dante doesn’t play by Dom’s rules. While the bald and bold hero will repeatedly risk his own life to save others, Dante will risk his life to wreak havoc and cause slaughter. Dante’s differences extend past his principles (or lack thereof) into his sense of style. In one gloriously gonzo sequence of street racing and trash-talking, he meets the tank-topped Dom while wearing a lovely ensemble of a lavender silk shirt, bright purple palazzo pants, a kicky scarf tied around his wrist, and not only a matching manicure but also a matching muscle car in a shimmery lavender.
The appreciation for pastels(opens in a new tab) and painted nails(opens in a new tab) are references to Momoa’s personal style, playing with the gender norms of how muscle-bound men — particularly in this film series — tend to present themselves. Within this, Momoa taps into a freedom of expression that sets him apart from Dom’s circle of friends and foes.
Where they stride, he skips into action. They scowl or smirk. He beams with a cartoonishly broad grin, whether he’s threatening the lives of children or the whole of the Vatican. Dom’s crew favors a lot of bald heads, glistening in the sun and streetlights. Momoa not only brings his signature long locks to the role but also dons them in scunchied space-buns, while delivering a villain monologue and doing a deadly pedicure.
It’s madcap mayhem, and it’s divine, giving this 22-year-old franchise a breath of fresh — if not air — then laughing gas.
Fast X explodes with epic action sequences and all the soap opera drama we’ve come to expect.
Credit: Universal Studios
Fast and Furious films are adored not only for their eye-popping action sequences, but also for the mind-snapping plot twists that repeatedly involve unearthed secret family members, scorching grievances, and resurrections from the dead, no matter how conclusive one’s demise. Director Louis Leterrier (The Transporter, The Incredible Hulk) may be new to this franchise, but F9 screenwriters Dan Mazeau and Justin Lin, who has been a writer/director on the series since Tokyo Drift, and — along with newcomer Zach Dean — set him up with a story that is ripe with exactly the kind of revelations, retcons, and unhinged opportunities for stunts that have driven audiences mad for these movies for two decades and counting.
The action ranges from jarringly hard-hitting hand-to-hand combat to high-octane car chases to the kinds of vehicular derring-do and devastation that only the Fast movies can dream up. Sure, you’ve seen Dom drag a vault around like a giant’s punishing fist. But what might he do with a pair of helicopters hooked to his ride?
These action sequences are so good that they put Marvel and its recent misfires to absolute shame. Who needs mutant baddies and space battles when you’ve got masterfully composed highway brawls, where every enemy or explosion is an opportunity for awesomeness?
It’s not just Leterrier’s skills at keeping action geography clean through precise coverage and editing. Fast X excels because the director understands the dizzying humor of these films, which treats its heroes as everymen and invincible demigods. There’s blue-collar gruffness to their close-ups and one-liners. But a gleeful humor allows for space so the audience might cheer or guffaw at how the franchise mocks the very concept of physics, biology, or mortality. The Fast movies laugh in the face of death, and so too do we!
Sometimes, however, those laughs might not be what the filmmaker intends. Because as fans of this franchise know, no matter how dead a character might seem, there’s always a chance for a return. (WE LOVE YOU, HAN!) So, certain scenes that should be harrowing land with a soft thud instead of a boom because we may well assume our sacrificing angel won’t be gone for long. While the lows may not be all that low because of all this assumed invincibility, the highs are still exhilaratingly dizzying.
Fast X proves this franchise hasn’t run out of road.
Credit: Peter Mountain / Universal Pictures
Be prepared to laugh, scream, and cheer, because Fast X is absolutely stuffed with the plot twists, big stars, and bonkers action fans expect. Plus, thanks to Jason Momoa, the franchise has a new villain who is not only absolutely extra but also relishes in being deliciously evil.
There’s an enchanting excitement in watching Momoa declare himself the devil, giggling over a wicked plan coming together, using “you butthole!” as an insult, or blowing raspberries at his flustered foes. This script sizzles with the kind of over-the-top action dialogue that made ’80s movies so stupendously quotable and outlandish. Much of the cast — including newcomers Brie Larson and Alan Ritchson — make the most of them with steely confidence and snarling sharpness. (“Everyone becomes family. It’s like a cult with cars!”) Yet Momoa takes his lines to the next level.
You might be ride-or-die for Dom and the family til the end of the road, but it’s impossible not to revel in Dante’s destruction as he chirps, “What are we blowing up? The Vatican? Wow. You guys are going to hell.”
With his irreverence colliding with whimsy, Dante is a unique vision of nihilism, facing off against Dom’s quest to build a family and a legacy that can withstand the evils of the world. He’s so unlike those who’ve come before that he’s refreshingly unpredictable. And freed from the stodgy machismo of Aquaman or Game of Thrones, Momoa’s verve for this villainy taps into an exaltation of vengeance, primal and petty.
In short, this is what summer movies should be! It’s spectacular! It’s thrilling! And it’s the kind of movie you can’t wait to yammer about to your friends. Truly, I walked out of Fast X with a big Momoa smile on my face, so wide it hurt. I may go again this weekend.
Fast X opens in theaters May 19.