By JASON MARTIN (@JMartZone – July 31, 2019)
Going into Hobbs & Shaw, I had expectations. As nonsensical as much of the Fast and the Furious franchise has been, it’s also been relentlessly and consistently fun. Dating back to Fast Five in 2011, the series took a hard drifting turn to the right and became as much Ocean’s Eleven as anything else. It was a welcome change, because that movie might have been the most pleasant surprise to be found at the theater all year. Since that point, the stunts and the action sequences have only gotten more ridiculous.
Another key to Fast Five‘s success was the introduction of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as Luke Hobbs, a super-cop that proved to be the most formidable foe our speedster thieves and grifters had dealt with. In addition, we saw nuance emerge between more of the characters, and the cast proved its chemistry could work, even with new characters being added to the mix. The Rock sells tickets, even when his films falter. Some do better than others, but that’s the case with every entertainment entity. When Hobbs & Shaw was first announced, I immediately knew at WORST it would be decent.
Johnson’s on-screen banter with Jason Statham, who joined the series in the sixth film, was immediately endearing and grew exponentially in Furious 7. Deckard Shaw is the antithesis to Luke Hobbs, choosing a more strategic approach to his capers and going with arson over muscle when need be. In these two characters, particularly in the last entry, the franchise found its spin-off future. Here we have a buddy comedy mixed with a legitimate Odd Couple style, but with top flight action stars that people like to watch.
There’s only one prerequisite to enjoy a Fast and the Furious movie, and that’s simply to shut off your brain and just enjoy the ride. Provided you can do that, you’re going to have a ball with Hobbs & Shaw, which brings more of what makes the complete franchise such a box office powerhouse, but with the added dimension of requiring absolutely no knowledge of the past to enjoy it. While you know these characters better if you’ve seen a few of the recent movies, this is much more a new beginning than it is another Fast and the Furious installment. Sure, there are vehicles and a few chase scenes, but this is a new entity, borrowing just as much from your favorite 80s or 90s action movie than anything starring Vin Diesel. In fact, there’s more XXX (the character) than nitrous.
The plot isn’t particularly thick, centering around a virus that could basically take out much of the world in some kind of futuristic, reset society version of eugenics. The villain is Brixton Lore, AKA “Black Superman,” played by Idris Elba. I found the character very reminiscent of both Robert Patrick’s T-1000 and Sebastian Stan’s Winter Soldier. He’s souped up and he’s been modified and as a result, he’s the perfect bad guy. In fact, his first words in the film are describing himself as “a bad guy.” He’s great. He’s the perfect foil to Hobbs and Shaw, who are indeed perfect foils to one another.
The quiet star of the film MIGHT be Vanessa Kirby, who holds her own from beginning to end with Johnson and Statham, and whose character should have staying power of its own. There’s not much to say without giving away portions of the story, but her initial importance comes from being the one that possesses the virus and as such, becomes an asset on all sides. Add in a sprinkling of Helen Mirren and a few fun big-named cameos, which I won’t spoil for you here, and you’ve got a solid cast full of A-listers that know how to command a screen.
Oh, if you’re looking for Joe “Roman Reigns” Anoai, he pops up in the film’s final third, which brings a family element and a “heart” to the story, which as cheesy as it is, works because this movie isn’t about depth. It’s about playing the hits. Reigns, by the way, doesn’t speak ONE WORD in the movie. He’s in it, but other than one tribal scream, he says nothing. Think The Scorpion King, but in The Mummy Returns…then take about 50% of that impact away, and it’s still more than Reigns in this movie.
Just as you would expect, Hobbs & Shaw is just as funny as it is action packed. While some of the quips and insults land far stronger than others, with a few that seem like bad wrestling promos, generally Luke and Deckard remain witty throughout, and even have some solid moments apart from one another in conversations with aforementioned redacted characters you’ll learn about in the movie. David Leitch knows how to direct action, although there’s not too much John Wick or Atomic Blonde level carnage to be found here. The writing is largely good, with a few reaches and moments where it didn’t entirely click, and yes, hoo boy are there some plot holes.
But, remember what I said, you shut your brain off and just enjoy these movies. Attempting to parse them or dissect them takes the fun out of the experience, regardless of how insane some of the story can be.
Speaking of insane, towards the end of the film, there’s a long action sequence involving a helicopter and multiple vehicles. This is as Fast and the Furious as it gets, and I think it might be the single most preposterously unbelievable scene in the history of motion pictures. I laughed like a fool watching it, because I had closed off my mind, but it was still telling me how absurd this was. “Hey, I’m still in here. This is your brain. Dude, this is a LITTLE much, don’t you think?”
No, brain… no I don’t. It’s way too much, but that makes it perfect. Have you ever seen these movies before? This is even more nuts than the nuclear submarine in Furious 7.
It’s loud, it’s fast, it’s fun, it has the hallmarks of the franchise but doesn’t rely on anything other than the most basic of history, and even that is explained. All you need to know is these are frenemies that don’t like each other, but like each other, and when they work together, they’re formidable and they comprise a great 1-2 punch. Similarly, Statham and Johnson have great timing as a pairing. As long as they keep making these mindless summer escapes, I will continue to watch them, I’ll continue to sing their praises as the blockbuster entertainment machines they are, and I’ll continue to look forward to them.
You can nitpick if you want. I choose to just forget about all that might be wrong with Hobbs & Shaw, sit back, hold on for dear life, and enjoy a movie for what it is. In this case, a B+ action film (not a B movie, that’s a grade) with plenty of comedy (albeit some of the toilet variety), likable characters, crazy set pieces, and 133 minutes to just experience, rather than find reasons to dislike.
I love these movies. They’re so imperfect and implausible. They’re so preposterous and over-the-top.
It’s a beautiful thing.
I’m @JMartZone -eeeeeeeeeeeeeee (Read it like it’s a car engine.)