Race Weekend Central

Reel Racing: ‘Fast X’ Heightens Ridiculousness of Franchise

Again, the Fast and Furious movies aren’t technically racing films, but I’m gonna write about the new one anyway!

It’s been almost exactly two years since I last wrote about them, so we’re doing it again (even with the absolute sliding scale of ridiculousness and suspension of disbelief we’re using).

Fast X came out a couple of weeks ago, and I saw it on its opening Friday in IMAX. Its borderline insanity — and recurring themes (memes?) of family — were worth every single penny (and hey, there’s street racing in it, so it kind of does qualify, plus the franchise has had its own representation in NASCAR as well).

I’m 100% using this platform to encourage anyone that hasn’t seen it yet to go see Fast X on the big screen. It helps if you’ve seen the other installments, but I won’t say it’s absolutely necessary; here’s a quick breakdown of how I view the movies:

  • Fast Five and Furious 7 are legitimately great films, the two best of the franchise.
  • F9 skates on the line of ridiculousness (OK, a car in space crosses it), but it’s an absolute blast.
  • Hobbs & Shaw rolls in around fourth or so. The combo of The Rock and Jason Statham is great, plus the badass addition of Vanessa Kirby completes a fantastic lead trio.
  • Fast & Furious 6 and The Fate of the Furious both slot in on the list next, with some solid action and far-fetched moments that still somehow work.
  • The Fast and the Furious comes home in the middle of the list — despite being very of-its-time (2001), it sparked the entire franchise.
  • Tokyo Drift falls somewhere around the bottom tier; great to see a divergence from the first two movies and to the drifting world of Japan, but still mediocre.
  • Fast & Furious and 2 Fast 2 Furious make up the bottom two of the list by a long shot.

Ahead of the breakdown, I’ll go ahead and say that Fast X falls somewhere in the middle, likely tailing toward the back half of the list. I’d slot it in with the sixth and eighth installments, since it crosses the line into being a little TOO ridiculous (There’s that sliding scale again!).

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All that said, I still have a blast with these things and can’t wait for what’s now a three-part finale. It was supposed to end with the next one — the 11th film. Now it’s a three-part conclusion that starts with X and ends with a 12th movie. Hell yeah.

Plus, there’s apparently a film in the works centered around Dwayne Johnson’s Luke Hobbs (now that he and Vin Diesel have reconciled whatever differences they had), as well as a female-led spin-off.

We already had several badass actresses for the latter, primarily Michelle Rodriguez and Jordana Brewster, but that cast got even better with the additions of Brie Larson, who won an Oscar for Room and has a number of other credits to her name, and Daniela Melchior, whose rise to fame began with portraying Ratcatcher 2 in The Suicide Squad (2021).

Back to the movie at hand!

It’s likely not in IMAX at this point, given the releases of The Little Mermaid and Across the Spider-Verse, and we have a new Transformers, plus The Flash, the seventh Mission: Impossible and Oppenheimer all releasing soon, but it’s absolutely worth a theatrical watch.

First off, Jason Momoa is the central villain of this movie (and maybe more of them) as Dante Reyes, a retcon back to Fast Five, and it marks another notch on Momoa’s blockbuster belt. He previously appeared in the DC Extended Universe films as Aquaman, as Duncan Idaho in Denis Villeneuve’s Dune and Khal Drogo in Game of Thrones.

Momoa is having an absolute blast playing the villain, making the movie all the more fun, and legend and EGOT winner Rita Moreno shows up for a few scenes as Dominic Toretto’s grandmother. Larson’s addition is one of the best in the recent films, too, as she plays the daughter of Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell), who I hope returns before the conclusion of the franchise.

I’m not the biggest fan of Diesel’s performance in this specific film, though I still enjoy his presence; John Cena returns too, of course, continuing his competition with Dave Bautista for the best wrestler-turned-actor in the industry.

Look, I love the Rock, but Bautista’s and Cena’s transitions from ring to screen have been so much better. Bautista’s more comedic turns as Drax in the Guardians of the Galaxy movies have given way to dramatic horror (Knock at the Cabin), comedies (Glass Onion) and more straightforward action like Dune.

Cena, meanwhile, has mostly done action and comedy, plus combinations of those two like The Suicide Squad (plus Peacemaker). Shoutout as well to his performances in straight-up comedies like Blockers. Range-wise, Bautista probably takes P1, but Cena’s always a joy to watch.

The biggest detriment to the film is Justin Lin’s departure as director after helming the third through sixth films, plus F9. Lin’s direction of the action was one of the biggest positive aspects of his time leading the franchise, and while Louis Leterrier doesn’t do a bad job, it’s very clearly missing Lin.

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That doesn’t mean it’s not fun! Only the Fast and Furious films could get a nearly-15-minute action sequence out of a big metal bomb rolling through the streets of Rome as Momoa’s character tries to blow up the Vatican. Dom literally jumps his car off a bridge to smash into a crane so that the other side of the crane deflects the bomb into the Tiber River. We’ve gone full Rube Goldberg on these setpieces.

Jason Statham and Helen Mirren are both back, as is Sung Kang as the resurrected Han, and Larson kicks ass as Tess. Honestly, Brie Larson is an underrated action star: turns in Kong: Skull Island, Free Fire and this (plus Captain Marvel, obviously) make me want to see her take more of these roles.

More credence to the female-led spin-off idea: Rodriguez is great as ever, especially given her turns in Machete, Avatar and this year’s Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves. And Charlize Theron complements her well, especially with past action turns of her own in Mad Max: Fury Road and Atomic Blonde.

The one racing scene — kicked off by Diesel simply going “Let’s race!” — is pretty fun, a callback mostly to the four-car duel in 2F2F. Same number of cars, but this time the stakes are higher since one or more of them are wired to explode.

There’s only so much you can do differently than prior racing scenes in these movies, but they still find ways to be inventive with it.

I won’t spoil everything, not quite yet, but it ends on the wildest, dumbest, most enthralling cliffhanger it could’ve … for a Fast and Furious movie. Being in a crowded theater was 100% worth it.

I love these movies, and I will defend them forever.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a LEGO Dodge Charger and a LEGO Nissan Skyline GT-R to build while I wait for Fast 11. Couldn’t resist buying them, and they’ll soon sit beside the Le Mans Ferrari 512 M on my desk.

About the author

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Adam Cheek joined Frontstretch as a contributing writer in January 2019. A 2020 graduate of VCU, he covered sports there and later spent a year and a half as a sports host on 910 the Fan in Richmond, VA. He's freelanced for Richmond Magazine and the Richmond Times-Dispatch, and also hosts the "Adam Cheek's Sports Week" podcast. Adam has followed racing since the age of three, inheriting the passion from his grandfather, who raced in amateur events up and down the East Coast in the 1950s.

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Deacon Blues

Thanks for another interesting and enjoyable Reel Racing installment, Adam!

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