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'Fast X' is a wild, over-the-top sequel that delivers the most shocking ending of the franchise so far

Kirsten Acuna   

'Fast X' is a wild, over-the-top sequel that delivers the most shocking ending of the franchise so far
  • Warning: There are minor spoilers ahead for "Fast X."
  • Jason Momoa is the MVP in the"Fast and Furious" sequel, delivering the franchise's best villain.

"Fast X" concludes on a moment so shocking that it may take a few minutes to process the ending's multiple big twists, occurring only minutes apart.

The latest installment in the "Fast and the Furious" franchise includes much of what we've come to expect from Universal's over-$6 billion franchise: Explosive stunts, fast cars, ridiculous one-liners, multiple twists, retcons ("Fast" has essentially become a telenovela), record-number mentions of the word "family," and a zany villain.

However, these movies typically end happily with Dom's crew gathered together, throwing back Coronas with family and a reformed villain.

That's not what you get here.

In fact, quite the opposite.

Originally announced as two parts (which now may turn into a trilogy), "Fast X" takes us back to 2011's "Fast Five."(If you haven't seen any other "Fast" movie you'll be fine, but I recommend at least checking out or rewatching "Five" before heading to the theater.) This time, Dante Reyes (Jason Momoa) is out to destroy Dom (Vin Diesel) and his crew, seeking vengeance years later for the death of his father.

And by the end, it's clear this guy means business.

Directly inspired by Marvel's final two "Avengers" movies, which also star Diesel, "Fast X" plays like an "Infinity War'' wannabe, right down to its massive surprise ending and purple-clothed antagonist. But while "Infinity War" was a massive success at the box office, stealing its playbook isn't necessarily going to produce the same numbers now.

"Fast X" faced a major hurdle during production — just days into filming, franchise director Justin Lin decided he'd had enough and quit. Louis Leterrier ("The Transporter") stepped in, but the end result isn't as clean as it should be. Disjointed at times, the setup for the finale comes across more as a strategic box office ploy than an organic conclusion.

Though a fun time, "Fast X" isn't the best in the franchise; I'd rank it near the middle. Despite a few exciting reveals and a must-see mid-credits scene, the cliffhanger is a risky move. I could easily see some viewers walking away feeling like they were only delivered three-quarters of a movie, unnecessarily dragged out to keep Universal's most successful franchise running.

Jason Momoa is the MVP of 'Fast X' as a vengeful villain

The lovechild of the Joker and Thanos, Dante is so wildly unpredictable and dementedly chaotic – licking faces, tasting blood, and blowing up vehicles – you never know what he'll do next, but every moment is gold.

Constructed as an antithesis to Dom, Momoa's a tour de force as a sadistic mastermind who's always several steps ahead of everyone around him, making him a terrifying threat. Unlike other franchise baddies, this guy's not getting invited to any of Dom's family gatherings — not that he'd want that anyway.

The film does a good job of poking fun at Dom for befriending most of his enemies. Relishing every moment in this role, Momoa's not only the franchise's top villain but also the most stylish, often adorned in silks or leopard print.

But the movie suggests Dante's violent tendencies are rooted in mental illness and even tries to elicit a cheap laugh about it during a morbid nail-painting party where he speaks to dead bodies. It's a gross stance to take in general, but even more audacious considering the movie premieres during mental health awareness month.

Though Momoa's the scene-stealer, Charlize Theron is finally given more to do than staying boxed in a prison cell or walking menacingly through a jet. The Oscar winner's action-film skillset is utilized in two big fight scenes.

Just about everyone in the "Fast" fam — from Jakob (John Cena) and Mia (Jordana Brewster) to Han (Sung Kang) and Deckard (Jason Statham) — gets to throw down here. But the standout fight between Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) and Cipher is a showdown that's been years in the making.

'Fast X' slightly forgets its greatest strength: Seeing the Fast Fam together

Cameos and new additions start to take away from the franchise's core: Family.

An unnecessary appearance from Pete Davidson could've been trimmed in order to focus more prominently on an ensuing scene with Han and Deckard that's been heavily anticipated since "Fast 9." Instead, we get a brief, baffling sequence that's an insult to those who demanded "Justice for Han." (For what it's worth, Kang and Leterrier told Insider more justice is on the way.)

Oscar winner and "Fast" newbie Brie Larson delivers the sequel's weakest performance. Subbing in for Kurt Russell's Mr. Nobody here, Larson's Agent Tess is stiff and awkward, seeming like the odd man out in the saga.

Dom also spends half the movie with yet another new character, played by Daniela Melchior.

The only cameos worth screen time are from Paul Walker's daughter, Meadow, and a brief sequence with Rita Moreno as Grandma Toretto.

This late in the franchise, the movie should focus on the core cast instead of introducing more new faces. "Fast" is at its best when Dom's extended family combines forces to save the world or a family member, and, other than the sequel's first 30 minutes or so, that's largely non-existent.

Letty's paired up with Cipher. Dom's younger brother Jakob (John Cena), a "Fast 9" antagonist, finally gets to work with the good guys, but is on his own fun side quest most of the time. Dom mostly interacts with new characters. The only crew largely paired together are Roman (Tyrese), Tej (Ludacris), Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel), and Han.

It's a brilliant villain move to separate Dom's crew from one another (because in the "Fast" franchise, the family is unstoppable together), but "Fast X" is noticeably missing what makes the franchise so beloved.

If you consider yourself a 'ride or die' for the 'Fast' saga, you'll enjoy yourself. If you've never cared for this franchise, it's not for you.

People love to trash the "Fast" franchise. Sure, some things are silly while others don't make sense, like Dante waiting a decade to get revenge or Jakob seeming to have an entirely different personality in this movie (Cena's basically playing Cena here). And yeah, there are some weird transitions.

But that should be nothing new for a "Fast" fan. If you're familiar with the franchise, you're likely not expecting a cinematic masterpiece. But if it's entertainment you're looking for, the 10th installment delivers in that department, jumping from one action-packed explosive scene to the next.

"Fast X" may not top going to space, but they did cover a one-ton metal ball in gasoline, set it aflame, and let Diesel chase after it as it rolled down the streets of Rome. The early sequence is goofy and absurd in the best way as Dom uses some combination of sheer luck, confidence, and the superpower of family to stop a bomb from blowing up the Vatican.

It's like a giant Hot Wheels set has come to life, and that's what these movies are all about: having a good time.

For the entire two-hour and 21-minute runtime, Dom makes you feel like any problem in the world can be solved — as long as you're behind the wheel of a car.

"Fast X" is in theaters Friday.

Grade: B-

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