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Here’s a fun thing you can do. Every time you meet someone who has seen only the first Fast & Furious movie, try to explain to them what happens in the nine pictures that follow without having them say, “Wait, what?” The first three films are not a problem, and numbers four and five, though outlandish, are easily explained. But then in number six the characters turn into international superspies, contracted by a CIA-like government agency, and it all goes topsy-turvy. Eventually they vanquish a nuclear submarine in a frozen Russian lake. Everyone who dies miraculously returns to life; villains in one film become friends in the next. The whole thing is bonkers. It’s also a boatload of fun, pumped directly into our eyeballs. 

In the ninth film, they go into space. With a car. Space! 

 So where can the saga go after that episode? How can you top reaching the final frontier? The answer is not to try to. So, as it’s hinted that the series is finally ending, Justin Lin (who directed most films in the saga but co-wrote only the latest one) and director Louis Leterrier look at the past, to the moment when the saga finally reached its peak. And take that as the blueprint for this tenth chapter. 

Fast X starts with that incredible chase sequence at the end of Fast Five, where Dom (Vin Diesel) and Brian (Paul Walker) drag a massive vault across the streets of Rio. We see the highlights of that whole bit, but this time through the perspective of a new character – Dante (Jason Momoa), the son of drug lord Hernan Reyes (Joaquim de Almeida) – who witnesses his father’s death. 

To start with one of the series’ best moments is a bold choice, but Leterrier frames it so it serves as a reminder of the franchise’s potential. It sparks an emotional reaction in an audience who have been chasing that high ever since they first saw that scene. 

The story is the usual Fast affair. Dante wants revenge for his father’s death, so he targets Dom’s team. After they are blamed for a bomb attack in Rome, the whole group goes undercover to clear their name and put a stop to Dante’s plan. It’s a globetrotting action-adventure, from Rome to London, Brazil, and finally Portugal. It’s as if James Bond and Mission: Impossible had a cousin who drinks paint thinner as a dare, and is more fun to hang out with than either of them  

The whole crew is back: Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, Nathalie Emmanuel, Sung Kang, Jason Statham, Helen Mirren, John Cena and Charlize Theron. They are joined by newcomers Brie Larson, as the daughter of the Agency’s director, and Daniela Melchior, a Brazilian street race driver connected to Dom’s past. I have a feeling that every single actor here will gladly take a couple of months of their schedule to hang out with the team and film those barbeque scenes that always bookend the films. 

Fast X is oddly apolitical. Dante’s camp charm can be misconstrued, as the film stands up against modern masculine ideals, against the burly testosterone fest of our heroes. But none of what Dante does is related to that spirit. His position is personal only, which makes his personality completely irrelevant. This is hilarious, because Fast X  works only when it tries to be as politically neutral as possible. After all, its masculine power fantasy is now non-existent, replaced by an immature disposition to create havoc. Nothing in the script has a deeper meaning, which ironically is kind of meaningful in the film’s pursuit to act on visceral impulse. At some point, Dom drives down a Portuguese highway with two helicopters attached to his muscle car, and the thing plays out precisely like a child playing with hot rod toy cars. I like to think that when the Lumière filmed the arrival of the train, this is what they had mind for the potential of the medium. Deranged, but measured, insanity. 

Is this the end? Of course not. The film ends with a cliffhanger to promise at least one more chapter, but it’s clear the team is gearing up to reach a conclusion. Because at the end of the day something has to give. Someone has to grow up. It may sound hypocritical for someone in their late 30s like myself to say they still enjoy romps like these, but it’s only because the saga still scratches that itch. But eventually, the itch becomes a rash, and while Fast X hasn’t gotten that far, it may be time to let the whole thing rest. 

Well, after the next one. 

Verdict: 3 out of 5
For those who persevered through nine films so far and didn’t complain. I’ll say this much: number 10 is better than number 9.