Retcon Madness: Our Review of ‘Fast X’

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - May 19, 2023
Retcon Madness: Our Review of ‘Fast X’

Opening this week from Universal Pictures is the latest entry into one the greatest 21st-century film franchises, the box office juggernaut that is Fast X. Long evolved from realistic storytelling, the 10th entry in the Fast and Furious franchise is perhaps the most bombastic of them all, which is saying something for taking street racing cars to space in F9. In some ways, Fast X makes that gang going to space seem reasonable.

Fast X opens with a complete retcon of the end events of Fast Five, inserting the character of Dante Reyes (Jason Momoa), the criminally insane son of Hernan Reyes (Joaquim de Almeida), into the timeline. Reyes wants to avenge the loss of his father and his family fortune, for which he inexplicably waited over 10 years to exact, and starts by targeting Cipher (Charlize Theron) for her cache of technological weaponry. Cipher of course turns to her enemy, because of the old “enemy of my enemy” adage, showing up at Dominic’s (Vin Diesel) and Letty’s (Michelle Rodriguez) doorstep. The pair’s frieds Roman (Tyrese Gibson) in Rome, with Tej (Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges), Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel), and Han (Sung Kang) are on a mission. And they realize that that mission is actually a setup and head overseas with Little Nobody (Scott Eastwood) in tow.

Meanwhile, in a room that literally appears to be just a platform in the middle of an endless cavern ala X-Men’s Cerebro, we are introduced to Aimes (Alan Ritchson). He stands in the middle of a bunch of video screens with clandestine figures that appear to just be hovering in mid-air by sheer will. As the new leader of ‘The Agency’, once led by the infamous Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell), Aimes leads a vote against the Toretto gang, much to the objection of Tess (Brie Larson), aka Little Miss Nobody, the daughter of Mr. Nobody and Agency member herself. With the Agency in pursuit, on top of Reyes trying to kill the group, the gang is fractured and split up for almost the entirety of the film. Dom meets up with Queenie (Helen Mirren), Han and company look for help from Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), all while Jacob (John Cena) saves Little Brian (Leo Abelo Perry) and Mia (Jordana Brewster) from an abduction attempt back in Los Angeles. And most of that’s just the first act.

If that synopsis has your head spinning, there’s more. Fast X pulls off something I’m not sure I’ve ever heard of before. Toward the end of the film, it goes back to retcon something it already retconned during the course of this film! And then there are even more new retconned characters on top of this. There is so much restructuring done in this film it almost feels like an episode of Oprah where she goes around her audience yelling ‘You get a new backstory, and you get a new backstory’. Fast X‘s main goal seems to have been to reset an entire franchise that has been reset before, but in such a dizzying fashion that audiences will be leaving with their jaws open. And that’s not even taking into account the trademark crazy stunts, which are here but seem more subdued than Fast 9, to be honest. It’s almost like the filmmakers decided they can’t out-crazy racecars in space from the last film stunt-wise, so let’s just go for the most insane script imaginable.

There’s really no point in talking about the acting here, especially for the actors returning for the 6th, 7th, or 8th time around.  I will take a moment to touch on some of the new characters in brief though. Momoa’s Dante comes off as a cross between Heath Ledger’s Joker from The Dark Knight and Bronson Pinchott’s Serge from Beverly Hills Cop. This makes some perverse sense in that this film, more than any other in the Fast franchise, feels like it’s been ripped directly from the ’80s/’90s bombast of a Bruckheimer/Simpson production. In fact, the film practically ends in a freeze frame that would feel right at home in 80’s television shows like The A-Team.

Larson knows exactly what film she has walked into and seems content to stroll in, chew as much scenery as humanly possible in an insanely stylish jumpsuit, and then get off this ride. I don’t even want to get into the character of Daniela Melchior’s Isabel, whose true revelation as to how she pays into the universe elicited a round of laughs and ‘what the f…’ reactions from the preview audience. We also get a cameo from Rita Moreno as the Toretto’s Abuella, which was nice considering just how brief it was.

As for the direction, Louis Leterrier actually appears to have been an inspired choice. His own fetishistic lens from his Transporter films is brought along in full force as we get camera zooms and pans within and without the cars unlike what we have seen in the Fast and Furious franchise in over a decade. In fact, most of the camera work around the cars and chases seems heavily inspired by the first 3 Fast films, which is something that has been sorely missing from the last few. It all builds into the whole retro feel of the entire film, and this is not a bad thing. The filmmakers also decided to lean even heavier into the more ridiculous side of James Bond/Misson Impossible territory, taking the level of Tech and gadgetry to a more ridiculous level. But even this works within the context of the Fast universe.

This film ends with a stunning reveal, which seems preposterous to even write based on what happens before we get to the end, but there it is. But then, not content to have blown the minds of its audience enough, the mid-credits scene has yet ANOTHER reveal. And as I sat there watching the mid-credits scene unravel, I found myself yelling to myself, “They can’t do that too?!?” But after much reflection and spending some time with it, I suspect the writing team of Justin Lin and Dan Mazeau may have taken that as its mantra. Writing this review has made me realize that this film is even more ridiculous than I even thought, but it’s also insanely fun. Fast X may in fact be the best film in the franchise since the high water mark that is Fast Five, and it certainly sets us on the right path for the supposed final chapters that are Fast 11 and 12. It’s a film that’s not going to make any new converts by any means, but fans should just turn off their brains completely and enjoy the ride.

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"Kirk Haviland is an entertainment industry veteran of over 20 years- starting very young in the exhibition/retail sector before moving into criticism, writing with many websites through the years and ultimately into festival work dealing in programming/presenting and acquisitions. He works tirelessly in the world of Canadian Independent Genre Film - but is also a keen viewer of cinema from all corners of the globe (with a big soft spot for Asian cinema!)
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