Review by Daniel Blackaby May 19, 2023
Fast X (Christian Movie Review)
Verdict: A series that has gotten more mileage than anyone could have expected is spinning its wheels in a tenth entry that pushes the limits of its simplistic premise.
About The Movie
The Fast and Furious franchise is like that used car you bought cheaply in hopes of getting a few good miles out of it, but find yourself still driving fifteen years later. Starting in 2001 as a simplistic film about fast cars, the series continues to race down the road two decades later, now in its tenth entry. While it should be commended for its achievements, Fast X suggests that the finish line is—or, at least, should be—not far off.
Let me say that I have an unapologetic love for European heavy metal in which the musicians dress in battle armor and sing about dragons. You like what you like, and there’s no shame in that. Obviously, a lot of people get their engines firing with these movies, and that’s great. Unfortunately, I am not one of those people, and Fast X is an embodiment of many of the reasons why. Despite some thrills and wholesome character dynamics, Fast X is mostly a silly, bloated mess.
Let’s start with some positives. The car chases are occasionally exciting, even as they become increasingly outlandish in an attempt to stay fresh. Jason Momoa has garnered praise for his role as the film’s villain. While there are aspects of his character that may make him less appealing to Christian audiences (see below), he is entertaining and brings needed energy to his scenes. Once again, there is also a wholesome theme of family, with Van Diesel and other characters dispensing snappy proverbs and uplifting wisdom.
Now, the negatives. The film is clearly self-aware of its silliness, but it frequently veers over the solid yellow line into the lane of “parody.” It is difficult to feel invested in the high stakes the film is trying to establish when so many of the scenes seem like an SNL sketch of a Fast and Furious movie.
Perhaps a bigger issue is that the movie has so many undeveloped characters and subplots. New characters pop up every few scenes (many of them being old characters from earlier in the series), and the plot quickly becomes repetitious (heroes find Momoa, they banter, they fight/race and gain the upper hand, Momoa reveals some secret plan to foil them, rinse and repeat x5).
The main cast is split into four different groups and parallel subplots, but only the Van Diesel “A-plot” has any real significance for this film, while the others merely wander toward a rendezvous point without ever arriving. The movie is nearly 2.5 hours and feels like it’s spinning its wheels for most of the runtime. Then it jarringly ends in the middle of the climax. Yes, a movie that already felt like one hour of plot stretched into a 2+ hour film will be bloated even further with a Part Two. A silly story about over-the-top car racing is inexplicably striving for the epic scale of films like Dune, and the overreach leaves Part One lacking.
In the end, I suspect that ten films in, most people already know what to expect. Fans of the franchise will likely enjoy it, as it feels like a “Greatest Hits” album. Yet, I suspect that many who have been along for the ride may start feeling some fatigue. That used car may have accrued more miles than expected, but nothing lasts forever, and eventually we need to just let go, keep the fond memories, and move on.
On the Surface
Language: There is plenty of profanity scattered throughout, including “s—,” “bulls—,” “d—,” G— d—.” I did not hear an F-bomb—a rarity for a PG-13 film these days— although many of the characters speak in gravelly mumbles, so I may have missed one.
Violence: There is plenty of action and violence, although most of it isn’t shown. Characters die in explosions or presumably die as cars are totaled. Some characters are bloodied during brawls or gun fights. The most aggressive instance of violence involves two corpses that have been positioned like dolls at a tea party by Momoa’s character, with bulging eyes and smiles taped in place (a fly eventually lands on one of the lifeless eyes). It’s a darkly gruesome scene at odds with the rest of the film’s tone.
Sexuality: One scene set at a drag race features many characters dancing and gyrating in tight, revealing outfits. There are several short but gratuitous close-ups of female buttocks and bare midriffs as they dance and twerk at the screen. Also, although Jason Momoa’s character’s sexuality is never directly addressed, it is heavily implied that he is gay (or at least falls outside of traditional gender distinctions). In an interview, Momoa described the character as “androgynous and a bit of a peacock.” His flamboyance becomes the defining feature of his character.
Beneath The Surface
Engage The Film
Religious motifs and language play a role throughout the film. The conflict between Dominic (Van Diesel) and Dante (Jason Momoa) is framed as an almost biblical holy war between good and evil. Dante is referred to as “the devil.” The name Dante itself may also be a symbolic connection to hell. An early part of his evil masterplan involves an attempt to blow up the Vatican, which prompts him to tell his henchmen that for their (unwilling) compliance, they’re “going to hell.” In contrast, Dominic is established as a symbolic Christ figure. He carries a cherished crucifix necklace and makes several declarations about the importance of faith. The film repeatedly establishes that he is driven “to save everyone,” and Dante lectures him about the self-sacrificial price of becoming a “saint.”
While Dominic is presented as a metaphorical Christ figure, the character seems to possess a faith in some other higher power. Yet his faith never probes much deeper than inspirational platitudes: “Nothing is impossible. You just have to have faith.” Although, for Dominic, it is never clear what—if anything—the actual subject of that faith is. There is much talk of faith and belief, but no mention of God. At times, his faith is more humanistic, a general sense of faith in “goodness” or people.
Even so, there is something endearing about the film’s handling of an almost childlike faith. His crucifix necklace becomes a central image in the movie. His wife (played by Michelle Rodriguez) tells him, while focusing on the crucifix, “You know what you miss if you keep looking through the rearview mirror? Eternity.” Thus, there is a sense that these characters do believe in some higher power or authority in the world.
Masculinity has always been a component of the Fast and Furious movies (for better or worse), and it is again evident in Fast X. The film both affirms it and attempts to recontextualize it. Dominic’s son wears a shirt with lettering on it, and the camera often frames the scene to isolate the first word, which says “protect.” This framing underscores that what really matters to Dominic is fatherhood and protecting his family. On the other hand, Fast X also deconstructs traditional masculinity. Jason Momoa’s character, while painting the toenails of two dead henchmen (yes, it’s weird), tells them that the bright color “helps tone down the masculinity, which we can all agree is needed right now.” The statement works as a sort of meta commentary. Of course, Momoa’s character is an unhinged psychopath, so he is perhaps not the best spokesperson for that message. Therefore, John Cena (who feels like he’s acting in a completely different film), serves as the “good guy” equivalent, presented as a macho-looking male who is nevertheless sensitive and gentle.