Maverick Life

WHAT WE’RE WATCHING

‘Fast & Furious 10’ – fast-ten your seatbelts

‘Fast & Furious 10’ – fast-ten your seatbelts
Jason Momoa is Dante in Fast X, directed by Louis Leterrier. (Photo: Universal Pictures)

A villainous, scene-stealing Jason Momoa and some solid character beats provide enough patented over-the-top ‘Fast & Furious’ spectacle to keep audiences engaged as this blockbuster franchise finally approaches the end of the road.

Fast & Furious 10 (or Fast X as it’s known in other places in the world) is ludicrously ridiculous. As Jason Momoa’s new franchise villain Dante explosively dismantles the lives of Vin Diesel’s Dom Toretto and his “FAMILY!” from one corner of the globe to the other, it’s just wall-to-wall over-the-top action bunkum. This is a universe where the laws of physics are mere ephemeral rumours, and there is simply no challenge in the world that cannot be overcome with a healthy application of “nitrous oxide” and a downshift in gears.

This is all par for the course, though, and after more than two decades of this special brand of ballistic blockbuster buffoonery, anybody walking into this recent instalment with any expectations of restraint is setting themselves up for disappointment. Yes, there is a valid criticism to be made that by now all the embedded tropes of the Fast Saga are getting long in the tooth, but this is the price fans pay to watch a Dodge Charger engage in a tug-of-war with two helicopters. And, if you’re not a fan already, Fast & Furious 10 is definitely not going to change your mind.

When it comes to fan service, director Louis Leterrier (an 11th-hour replacement for departed franchise overseer Justin Lin, thanks to pesky “creative differences”) tries to straddle the fine line between silly fun and frustrating stupidity – but isn’t always successful. An early set-piece with a giant spherical bomb pinballing through the streets of Rome stands as an apt metaphor for the film overall: big and exciting action with many moving parts, only for it to go on just a tad too long and get a little too convoluted, with its noisy outcome stretching the already stretched credulity of these movies to breaking point.

Vin Diesel and Daniela Melchior in ‘Fast X’. (Photo: Universal Pictures)

Most of the ensemble crew, including Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Tyrese Gibson, Nathalie Emmanuel and Sung Kang, are back and pretty much just doing their respective thing again without missing a beat. Michelle Rodriguez’s Letty and Charlize Theron’s Cypher do find themselves thrown together in a B-plot that allows for some great chemistry between the two. Their brutal fight scene and reluctant partnership are definite highlights. John Cena also gets to do some solid action and be more of his endearingly goofy self than before, which is much appreciated. Meanwhile, newcomers Brie Larson, Alan Ritchson and Daniela Melchior are a collective mixed bag in their contributions, with the talented Melchior being the standout as a young street racer in Rio de Janeiro.

Then there are the cameos, which extend all the way to a mid-credit scene: some will have long-term fans both smiling and scratching their heads in logistical confusion (not that the sanctity of the timeline has ever been a concern here). All these characters, new and old, pale in comparison to Momoa’s Dante Reyes though, who is easily the franchise’s most memorable new addition.

Fittingly retconned into the timeline from the genuinely brilliant Fast Five, Dante is the sociopathic son of Hernan Reyes, the Brazilian crime boss from whom Toretto and the late Paul Walker’s Bryan O’Conner stole a vault full of money before getting him killed. In a bit of flashback revisionism, it’s revealed that Dante was involved in that car chase and left for dead; now he’s back seeking revenge for the death of his father and the loss of the family fortune.

The most important thing about Momoa’s villain, though, is that the star knows he’s in a live-action cartoon and is having the most enjoyable, flamboyant time of his life with it. With dandy-like costumery and petulance idiosyncratic to his musclebound, brute physique, the queer-coded Dante steals every scene he’s in. But while he elicits major laughs, Momoa doesn’t forget why he’s here. He’s still intensely menacing, with the actor’s effortless tonal switch making Dante even more interesting as a character. “Never accept death, when suffering is owed,” he hisses.

Unfortunately, Dante is so good that he underscores the biggest problem with Fast & Furious 10: Vin Diesel. Diesel’s deathly-allergic-to-sleeves Dom Toretto spends vast swathes of the 140-minute runtime trying to convince us that this is a serious movie with serious drama and serious character stakes. The franchise star/producer/mascot is not in on the joke, thinking he’s delivering a piece of art, instead of the big-budget meme machine the Fast franchise has become.

Vin Diesel is Dom in ‘Fast X’. (Photo: Universal Pictures)

Brie Larson is Tess in ‘Fast X’. (Photo: Universal Pictures)

To be fair, you need some level of dramatic attachment to make this whole thing work, and that has always been the approach for Diesel. However, his pained stoicism seemed to be tempered when it was being bounced off a co-star such as Walker or the charismatic Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson to sell it all. Here, despite the size of the ensemble cast, Diesel’s Toretto is often in full-blown solo, leading-man mode, at the centre of the most egregious bouts of action absurdity, and there’s nobody else around to help with the heavy lifting. Ironic for a character who single-handedly lifts a car in one scene.

As things stand overall, with the turbo-boost Momoa brings, Fast & Furious 10 has enough entertaining spectacle going for it to not be a wreck, but it’s also not racing to success either. This is supposed to be the first entry in a two-part franchise finale – super evident from this movie’s abrupt cliffhanger ending and unresolved arcs – but recent rumblings are that this concluding storyline may now extend into a trilogy. If that happens, even a great villain can’t keep this whole thing from running out of gas. DM

This story was first published on Pfangirl.com

Fast & Furious 10 (AKA Fast X) is available in cinemas from 19 May.

Gallery

Comments - Please in order to comment.

Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted

A South African Hero: You

There’s a 99.7% chance that this isn’t for you. Only 0.3% of our readers have responded to this call for action.

Those 0.3% of our readers are our hidden heroes, who are fuelling our work and impacting the lives of every South African in doing so. They’re the people who contribute to keep Daily Maverick free for all, including you.

The equation is quite simple: the more members we have, the more reporting and investigations we can do, and the greater the impact on the country.

Be part of that 0.3%. Be a Maverick. Be a Maverick Insider.

Support Daily Maverick→
Payment options

MavericKids vol 3

How can a child learn to read if they don't have a book?

81% of South African children aged 10 can't read for meaning. You can help by pre-ordering a copy of MavericKids.

For every copy sold we will donate a copy to Gift of The Givers for children in need of reading support.