The Best Part of Fast X Is a Sneaky Reference to a Classic Batman Villain

Dante Reyes is far and away the best Fast & Furious villain ever.

Universal Pictures

The Fast & Furious franchise has always been about gruff, growly dudes facing off against other gruff, growly dudes, with maybe a slick hotshot thrown in the mix for a little variety. Even among the female characters played by Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster, Nathalie Emmanuel, and Gal Gadot forming key parts of Dominic Toretto’s (Vin Diesel) crew, it’s hard to think of a more testosterone-laden franchise right now. But that all changes with Fast X.

Warning: Spoilers for Fast X follow!

Fast X introduces us to Jason Momoa’s villain Dante Reyes, the son of the drug lord that Dom and his crew brought down in Fast Five. Right from the start, it’s clear Dante is different from any previous Fast & Furious villains. Fate of the Furious big bad Cipher (Charlize Theron) ominously calls him the devil himself, while the opening scene of Fast X sets him up to be a looming figure. But as soon as Dante prances onto the scene wearing gaudy leopard-print jackets and skirts, defies expectations.

The best way to describe Momoa’s Dante is as a purely camp figure in a franchise that doesn’t know what “camp” is. He’s practically overflowing with charisma. He’s flamboyant, foppish, and inarguably queer-coded. The fabulous outfits are one obvious example (Momoa changes clothing no less than 10 times, each flashier than the last), but he’s also a connoisseur of the arts, gushing about his love for ballet and showing a talent for painting nails — even if the ballet involves crushed bodies and the nail-painting is on the corpses of his henchmen. Momoa delivers an outrageously giddy performance as a sociopath who wants nothing more than to watch the world burn. Sound familiar?

Want to know how I got these cars?

Universal Pictures

It’s clear that Momoa is modeling his villain off of the best bad guy in pop culture: the Joker. The amount of purple Dante wears feels like a sly nod, but the proof is in Momoa’s over-the-top, knife-licking performance, which feels like a direct rejection of the hypermasculine roles Momoa’s played in the past — and a real-time audition for the role of the Batman baddie in James Gunn’s DCU. There’s also the shared queer-coding, which has long been written into the DNA of Batman villains like the Joker.

By the time Dante pulls off a scheme that has Dom essentially recreating the most memed scene from the 1966 Batman movie, it’s impossible to deny that Dante is the Fast saga’s take on the Joker. And for a franchise so defined lately by its self-serious attitude, a Joker-like villain is exactly what Fast & Furious needs to take it over the finish line. This is, after all, a franchise that regularly drops cars out of planes. Why so serious, indeed?

Fast X is in theaters now.

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