Family, corona beers and the self-aware ridiculousness are part of the charm of the “Fast and the Furious” franchise, and its latest film, “Fast X”, is another enthralling entry into its legacy.
There is no illusion in anyone’s mind that the films in the “Fast and the Furious” saga aren’t just blockbuster soap operas. They hook you the same way, and part of what makes soap operas so enjoyable is the awareness of its campiness, while still retaining immense heart.
One of the reasons why this saga has managed to reinvent itself, and why people enjoy coming back are its intense action, epic fights but also the soap opera clichés where villains become family, villains become allies, storyline history is retconned to help give new introductions more substance, with life and death stakes always at play.
If you have seen any of the “Fast and the Furious” movies after “Fast Five” (considered by many to be a soft reboot) and you enjoyed it, then you will love “Fast X”. If you didn’t then this film won’t be worth your time.
“Fast X” delivers on upping the ante with the explosions and intricate fight choreography that will leave you pumped up. Charmingly, though, where the film hooks you most is the heart and love of family.
“Fast X” benefits from new characters who are able to ground the story because the actors made a conscious effort to deliver sincere performances.
This is in large part thanks to performances by Daniela Melchior who plays as a Brazilian street racer with ties to Dom’s (Vin Diesel) past, Leo Abelo Perry as Dom’s 8-year-old son, and also Rita Moreno as Dom and Mia’s Abuelita Toretto.
The cast deliver enjoyable and fun performances, but the aforementioned actors help the movie remain emotionally connected and grounded.
However, I didn’t fully enjoy Jason Momoa’s performance as Dante, the son of Brazilian drug kingpin Hernan Reyes. My perspective on Momoa’s performance may be a minority view, as there are many who already love it, but the umbrage is a rather layered one.
Momoa’s character is one who has spent the last 12 years masterminding a plan to make Dom pay the ultimate price. On paper that makes for a great villain but Momoa’s performance lacks nuance.
His character is an eccentric sociopath, who we’re told experienced numerous trips to a psychiatric hospital. Added to that is a layer of effeminacy to the character who paints his nails, who wears double/pigtail buns, displays a penchant for theatricality, and who also gets flirty with Dom.
It’s obvious that he is attempting to deliver a camp performance but the reason why this doesn’t work fully in my view is because he is relying on too many caricatures of eccentricity.
It seems like he plays it over-the-top to stop himself from getting bored and not because it’s rooted in character work.
There is a strong argument to be made that his character reads as queer-coded, but a character processed through the heteronormativity lens.
Queer coding is the imbuing of characters with queer traits and stereotypes recognisable to the audience. Such traits are greatly varied, but traits of exaggerated masculinity and femininity, vanity and hypersexuality are frequent tropes.
Though such a character's sexual identity may not be explicitly confirmed within their respective work, or they may in fact be straight despite their queer mannerisms, a character is usually coded as such to allow filmmakers leeway.
They can have a character for queer audiences to identify with, but can get away without having to wade into the growling contentious debate around identity politics, which is exactly what “Fast X” does.
The film is treading that similar line to the recent “John Wick: Chapter 4” film, and Javier Bardem in “Skyfall” with its depiction of eccentric and arguably feminine men as weak/evil.
Worth reiterating here, action movies are usually never the type of films that one can view through any queer lens or come away with queer interpretations as they are too steeped in the glorification of hyper-masculinity and violence (of which queerness is seen in opposition too), but if there are examples of films that get it right, such as Netflix’s “The Old Guard”, one has to wonder why are so many others being lazy.
It needs to be stressed that there isn’t anything wrong with campy or theatrical performances as they can be a standout, but Momoa’s campiness reads as something to laugh at, not delight in.
While it may be worth considering that none of the above criticism actually matters, because it’s just a popcorn action flick, it it worth noting that these films make hundreds of millions and sometimes a billion dollars.
Many people put great weight in them, and conscious or subconsciously, they do leave an impact. Maybe that impact should sometimes be used for good and not ambivalence.
Director Louis Leterrier deserves an honourable mention for how he skillfully maintains the story’s scope, especially given how he stepped in after Justin Lin departed the film due to his reported frustration at on-set dramatics.
He gives audiences a fun and engaging experience at the cinema.
The film spans so many locations and is truly a globe-trotting film, but it all works well, and the action scenes are truly a visual buffet.
The film also includes some fun and cool cameos with Paul Walker’s daughter, Meadow, and Twenty One Pilots’ drummer Josh Dun and former Disney star Debbie Ryan, who happens to be his wife.
There are more cameos that won’t be spoiled here, but really add to the film’s enjoyment and also shows just how many Hollywood stars love the cheesiness and campiness of these films.
There is a cool post-credit scene which features a delightful surprise for viewers.
The somewhat vexing portrayal of Momoa’s character aside, the film is great, and worth watching. There are possibly two more films to be expected as producers begin the journey to wrap up this money making franchise, but it will clearly not be going out without a bang.
So long as the movies maintain such soap operatic storylines, with elevated action and self-aware writing then audiences will likely return for more.
“Fast X” is now showing at cinemas