‘Fast X’s John Cena Is in a Totally Different Movie Than Everyone Else

Editor’s Note: The following contains Fast X spoilers.

In the last few installments in the series, The Fast and the Furious has assembled a new Toretto family clan that rivals the superhero teams of The Avengers or Justice League, and they might be gifted with many of the same superpowers. Vin Diesel certainly deserves some credit for bringing in such a diverse set of heroes, but that doesn’t mean that the Fast & Furious saga doesn’t need a few more muscle-bound dudes. F9 marked the first appearance of John Cena as Jakob, Dom’s long-lost brother that had been in league with the dangerous terrorist Cipher (Charlize Theron). While Cena played stone-cold serious in F9 effectively enough, his role in Fast X allows the Peacemaker star to add some of the comedic beats he’s been perfecting over the last few years. It certainly makes for an entertaining Cena performance, but it’s one that feels completely separated from the rest of the cast.

Jakob is given a fairly serious task in Fast X. After Dom heads to Rome and Vatican City to avoid springing a trap, he tasks Jakob with protecting his son Brian Marcos (Abelo Perry) after Mia’s (Jordana Brewster) home is invaded and his wife Letty Ortiz (Michelle Rodriguez) has decided to come with him. The criminal mastermind Dante Reyes (Jason Momoa), whose father was killed at the end of Fast Five, has made it a personal mission to get revenge on the Toretto clan and watch the world suffer the consequences. Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Tej (Ludacris), Han (Sung Kang), and Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) are all headed into a trap that Dom has to warn them about, but he needs to ensure that Brian is safe, as Dante’s tactics include targeting his victims’ families and using them as leverage. Despite the somewhat serious stakes (at least by The Fast and the Furious standards), Cena adds a level of absurdity that doesn’t fit within the pseudo-seriousness that the rest of the cast is committing to.

John Cena Is Hilarious at the Wrong Times in ‘Fast X’

John Cena as Jakob Toretto, driving a car in Fast X
Image via Universal Pictures

While his cinematic career outside of the WWE ring was dominated by action movies towards the beginning, John Cena soon discovered that he was just as talented as a comedian. With hilarious performances in Trainwreck, Blockers, Sisters, and Daddy’s Home 2, the former wrestling champ had found his acting groove by lampooning the hyper-masculine persona that he’d had in the ring. While Cena has scaled this back for a few more dramatic performances in action films like The Wall and Bumblebee, something like Peacemaker and The Suicide Squad allowed him to mix kicking butt with cracking jokes. Ironically, his performance in F9 was relatively serious compared to the rest of his performances, which makes the shift toward comedy in Fast X more confusing as a result.

John Cena’s role seems to transform between the two films completely; in F9, he’s a near-silent, brooding henchman who lingers in the shadows and holds a close personal vendetta against Dom for “abandoning” him. Of course, even after Jakob has caused significant collateral damage and leveled entire cities is when Dom decides to forgive him, leading to a period of healing between the siblings whose lives were dominated by the death of their father, one that they’re both recovering from emotionally. It’s certainly melodrama, but it’s the sort of self-seriousness that sparked so many comparisons to Point Break that the Fast and the Furious franchise has been using for years. It makes Cena’s work in Fast X stick out like a sore thumb, because he adds a self-awareness that is simply smarter than the movie that he’s in.

John Cena Doesn’t Fit in ‘Fast X’

To say that a Fast and Furious film is “toned-down” is a claim that requires many caveats, but Fast X is at least a little bit less extreme in its absurdity than its two predecessors and their respective trips to an underwater nuclear submarine and Earth’s atmosphere. John Cena arrives like a breath of fresh air; after saving Brian from Dante’s ruthless assassin, Cena begins doing a comedy schtick where Jakob has turned into a happy-go-lucky camper. There’s an amusing sight gag where he reveals his grand escape tool to be a run-down minivan, and proceeds to entertain his nephew with a few bouts of karaoke. It doesn’t matter that they were nearly killed moments earlier by conspirators working for the most dangerous villain they’ve ever encountered, or that Jakob’s task is his first chance to prove his loyalty in Dom’s eyes.

Comedic relief is important to The Fast and the Furious franchise, and it’s something in Fast X that Ludacris and Gibson are able to pull off after Roman reveals he has a secret supply of cash. The difference here is that saving Brian is the emotional crux of the story; it’s a film intended to set up a three-part conclusion where the stakes are higher because Dante is specifically targeting Dom’s family. Adding in so many jokes, despite Cena’s aptitude for them, was simply a strange decision; Jakob shouldn’t be adding so many one-liners about his favorite bands when Dante is closing in on them. It also makes it hard for him to shift towards dramatic stakes towards the ending, as Jakob’s final escape alongside Dom to get Brian feels like he’s once again changed characters for the sake of the plot.

The Fast and the Furious franchise needs to add some legitimate stakes to the series as it heads into its three-part conclusive trilogy. It’s something that the MCU pulled off perfectly, as Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame were able to find an appropriate adjustment to the right tone where the actors were still allowed to have some comedic beats, but made the shift to legitimate emotion at the right moments. It’s something that the Fast X cast has been trying to do, but not entirely successful when actors like Cena are allowed to give such wildly entertaining, yet tonally distinct performances. Either the series needs to accept its inherent ridiculousness or try to cater to fans who are emotionally dedicated to the franchise and its characters; Cena is simply doing work that’s leaps and bounds above his co-stars to the point that it’s distracting.

Read More About ‘Fast X’

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