The Fast and Furious Saga is the closest we'll ever come to seeing a live action anime. There is an expansive cast, one that only grows larger as one film's villain returns as the next film's hero, drivers dying in fiery explosions, coming back in even bigger ones, fathers, sons, and brothers crawling out of the woodwork for revenge, and more lore than anyone knows what to do with. I watched this movie with my sister, who hasn't seen a single one of these films. Every time a character stepped onscreen, I would have to answer the following questions:
a) Is this character a good guy or bad guy?
b) Is this character from a prior movie?
c) Has this character died before?
D) Is this character at all consistent with their prior appearances?
Most of the time, the answers didn't matter at all. Because anyone walking into a Fast and Furious movie seeking character drama is better off trying to trick Vin Diesel into drinking a Heineken. For in this movie, the Corona flows smoother than any of his dialogue, his grunts sputtering out of his mouth as if dropping his voice by a few notes will give his biceps a couple more inches. Perhaps I'm being too harsh on the other eternally race-less Vin Diesel, who plays the saga's hero, Dominic Torreto. But without him, these movies would not have gotten to where they are now and for that, we have to both thank and curse him.
"Fast X" opens by revealing that "Fast Five" (that's FIVE movies ago) had a secret character, in Jason Mamoa's Dante, the sadistic, psychotic son of that film's criminal villain. Now, Dante, having bided his time for FIVE movies is out for blood on Dominic Torreto's family. He'll hunt them down, frame them as terrorists, and execute a plan so needlessly complicated it makes the Joker from "The Dark Knight" seem as clever as Dominic Torreto. If you try to consider a single step of Dante's plan for too long, nitrous oxide is liable to come out of your ears. That same smoke stack is equally in the cards if you try to consider the many twists of fate that have made Dominic Torreto's family so massive.
If, like my sister, you know nothing about these films, they're about two things: family, and how cool Vin Domsel Torreto is. Every character, including Dante, will repeatedly state that these are the movie's themes. Often, they will say so in response to a completely different prompt, because this movie's dialogue feels less like a smooth ride down the highway and more like a limousine trying to make a three point turn. The effect of this is that each scene of dialogue, of which there are too many, are extremely comedic as you try to connect the dots between the prior shot and the next line. Lines are not delivered. They simply happen, as if each shot was made in a vacuum.
But nobody's here for the dialogue. Everyone's here for the action. The death-defying, physics-breaking, automobile action. And on that, "Fast X" delivers. As the franchise has gone on, the rides have become increasingly more outlandish, going from urban landscapes to rope bridges, arctic tundras, and the great expanse of space. But the drawback of these grand escalations is that the sequences have felt less grounded. And I don't mean realistic; I'm not here for the laws of gravity. What I am here for is action sequences with stakes and speed, both of which are absent in barren landscapes, where we have no markers to see how fast we're going. Thankfully, this entry returns to tires on asphalt, rubber burning without losing the franchise's signature ridiculousness.
For all my lampooning of Vin Diesel, this franchise is only possible because of him. For all its faults, the film remains unabashedly earnest about its messaging. You may not buy into the Familia, but you cannot deny that Vin Diesel does. And even as it falters, as directors leave, as actors feud, and in the face of real world tragedy, the Familia stands strong. So if you want to leave your brain behind, and watch mechanized machines of death speed over pot holes and plot holes, pop that Corona open, and race to "Fast X."