Review: Louis Leterrier and Jason Momoa add thrills to ‘Fast X,’ but series may be out of gas

Vin Diesel and Daniela Melchior in the movie "Fast X."
(Peter Mountain / Universal Pictures)

In the last exciting installment of the “Fast and Furious” franchise, 2021’s “Fast 9,” the gang drove a car into space, tangled with a long-lost brother and pushed the physical limits of various vintage Dodge Chargers in far-flung locations around the globe, as Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) is wont to do. Since then, there have been a few external shake-ups in the “Fast” world: longtime director Justin Lin departed the franchise only a week into filming on “Fast X” — now billed as Part 1 of a three-part finale — and he’s been replaced with a franchise super fan, “The Transporter” director Louis Leterrier, who swooped in to save the day like a member of Dom’s family piloting a muscle car out of an aircraft.

But rest assured, family, in “Fast X,” the Coronas are cold, the booties are shaking and sleeves remain optional. Leterrier, working with a script credited to Lin and Dan Mazeau, takes his turn behind the wheel with the enthusiasm of a kid with a new set of toys, excitedly crashing together cars and characters. He clearly has a reverence for the lore of the franchise, which sprouted out of a tale of drag races and DVD player heists, but he doesn’t exhibit the restraint of Lin, which is somewhat hilarious considering that director’s automotive antics in this series.

The female stars of Universal’s $6-billion action saga, such as Jordana Brewster and Michelle Rodriguez, are still battling for their own story.

May 16, 2023

If Leterrier is making “Fast” fan-fiction, then Jason Momoa is doing parody as the franchise’s wildly flamboyant new villain Dante Reyes. In the opening of “Fast X,” Momoa has been ret-conned into the finale of Lin’s “Fast Five,” in which Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) and Dom dragged a bank vault full of drug money belonging to Hernan Reyes (Joaquim de Almeida) out of a Rio de Janeiro police station with cables attached to their Chargers, naturally. Dante is Reyes’ son seeking revenge on Dom’s family because his own was destroyed.


It must have been the head injury that turned Dante into the queer-coded bro Joker that he presents in “Fast X,” swanning about in satin blouses and scrunchies, giggling like Snidely Whiplash as he forces Dom to choose which members of his family to save, and yelling things like, “that’s awesome!” at particularly huge explosions. At one point he sarcastically refers to someone “in peril,” taunting Dom while inadvertently referring to the long history of action-adventure filmmaking. Because what is the “Fast” franchise if not “The Perils of Pauline” on steroids? If only Buster Keaton could get a load of this.

Jason Momoa rides a motorcycle down a cobblestone street.
Jason Momoa in the movie “Fast X.”
(Giulia Parmigiani / Universal Pictures)

At least Momoa and Leterrier are having fun in “Fast X.” The rest of the gang seems a bit lost, haplessly scattered about the globe, getting into pointless fisticuffs with one another. Diesel seems vacant, and at this point, he is merely the vehicle to keep this franchise moving forward, staring stoically at his new family members that seemingly pop up out of nowhere, and dutifully drifting the Dodges.

Leterrier has a facility for car-based action sequences, and there’s a playful quality in the racing scenes as the camera swoops around windshields and wanders into windows to link close-ups of the various drivers. An early sequence where Dante sends a giant bomb pinballing around Rome is delightfully silly, and of course, the signature drag race scene in Rio delivers that reggaeton-flavored “Fast and Furious” thrill that we’re seeking.

A scene from the movie "Fast X."
(Giulia Parmigiani / Universal Pictures)

But the problems with “Fast X” exist on a more structural story level. It feels like Leterrier and the writers are just digging up loose familial relations and celebrity cameos and throwing characters together for the heck of it, tossing Oscar-winning actresses (count ‘em: four) in the audience’s face to create a distraction from the other weaknesses in the script. Brie Larson has all of four scenes in what is essentially a cameo appearance in a meaningless role; Scott Eastwood pops up then disappears; characters cross and double cross and then cross again, all while longtime franchise standouts Tyrese Gibson, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges and Sung Kang are left to wander around London for some reason.


Leterrier and Momoa bring an energy and excitement to “Fast X” that juices the engine to deliver the goods that fans want. But the jumbled lore and odd treatment of characters may leave audiences with more questions than answers, and wondering whether the franchise is running on fumes.

Katie Walsh is a Tribune News Service film critic.

After a high-profile exit shook up one of Hollywood’s biggest franchises, Louis Leterrier received a late-night phone call that changed his life.

May 12, 2023

'Fast X'

Rating: PG-13, for intense sequences of violence and action, language and some suggestive material

Running time: 2 hours, 21 minutes

Playing: Starts May 19 in general release