Monday, November 18, 2019

Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw. A Review


Now, I would call The Fast and the Furious franchise a very guilty pleasure. They have grown increasingly idiotic, outlandish and cartoonish. Despite that, I have loved them all...until now. I've seen dumb action films that I could still appreciate, but Fast & Furious Present: Hobbs & Shaw is dead-set on being insulting. I don't think there was a desperate need to have a spinoff franchise for two characters who weren't even in the original The Fast and the Furious and showed up in Fast Five and Furious Seven respectively (I'm not counting Shaw's Fast & Furious 6 cameo).

Even that I could forgive if Hobbs & Shaw were goofy fun instead of just goofy.

A team of MI6 agents attempt to confiscate 'Snowflake', a dangerous super-virus that could wipe out millions if it fell in the wrong hands. Out to stop them is Brixton (Idris Elba), an augmented human closer to a cyborg. He kills the whole MI6 team save for one female agent, who has injected herself with Snowflake to stop him taking it before fleeing into the night.

Enter Lucas Rebecca Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham). The American and the Brit are forced to work together to find the 'rogue' MI6 agent framed for her team's deaths. Hobbs & Shaw however, despise and loath each other, so the idea of working together, even if it to save the world, is anathema to them. Nevertheless, work together they must, especially when we learn that the MI6 agent is Hattie (Vanessa Kirby), who happens to be Shaw's sister.

Now, with Helen Mirren, Ryan Reynolds and Kevin Hart popping in to join in the hijinks in cameo roles (Mirren the only one even tenuously connected to the Fast & Furious Cinematic Universe), Hobbs & Shaw must battle against Shaw's frenemy Brixton and ETEON, the shadowy organization bent on world domination by committing genocide via Snowflake. This takes them all over the world, ending in Hobbs' native Samoa, where between repairing relationships with his estranged family they battle Brixton's army in an epic confrontation. Fate of the world resolved, the shadowy ETEON mastermind must now await for a new champion to take down Hobbs & Shaw.

Image result for hobbs and shawAgain, let me be clear: I have loved every Fast & Furious film, even the much-derided Tokyo Drift. They are fun and frivolous, involving cool cars, hot chicks and wild action sequences with an undertone of 'family'. None of those elements, however, are in Hobbs & Shaw. The question that should be asked is, "if the Fast & Furious franchise didn't exist, would you care about Lucas and Deckard? Would anything in Hobbs & Shaw be of such interest as to want to invest time in this, let alone suggest that this spinoff to an unintended franchise should itself get its own franchise"?

My answer is a solid, firm "No". I could roll with 'dumb'. I can't roll with 'stupid', which is what Hobbs & Shaw is.

I think my main issue with Hobbs & Shaw is that for men who are 47 and 52 respectively, they behave and think like a parody of teenage boys. How can I take even the most basic element of Hobbs & Shaw seriously if the title characters won't take the premise seriously? Here is the potential death of either Hattie or millions of people in the balance, but Hobbs & Shaw would rather rattle off bad one-liners and/or pull bad jokes on each other than get the job done.

Take for example when they have to go to Ukraine to break into the ETEON secret lab for the extraction machine to get Snowflake out of Hattie. Shaw has created fake passports, and given his hated rival Hobbs the name "Mike Oxsmul", which when read out loud reads "My cock's small". To make matters worse, or at least to cause Hobbs more irritation, Shaw deliberately has Hobbs' passport trigger security, with his plan to have Deckart and Hattie storm the secret base without him.

Image result for hobbs and shawAt this point, all I could think was 'why is Shaw being so small?' (and no, that isn't a Jason Statham height joke, though officially at 5'10" he does look small next to the 6'5" Johnson or 6'2" Elba). It just seemed so juvenile for him to do something so childish, let alone do it at that precise moment.

Needless to say, Hobbs gets out of his predicament because...reasons, but throughout Hobbs & Shaw the fixation with their metaphorical dick-measuring contests becomes tedious. Some quips and snide remarks can be expected, but a nearly two-hour parade of it becomes almost boring.

As they storm the secret base, with a detonator set, Hobbs sees Shaw struggling to both take down more henchmen than he had AND struggle to open the door that requires facial recognition. Again, despite the lives of millions hanging in the balance with time not on their side, Hobbs merely looks on in amusement rather than so much as help Shaw with either. I can take a joke, but not when the characters are the jokes.

Moreover, Hobbs & Shaw can't be bothered with trying to be even remotely clever. You expect that writers Chris Morgan and Drew Pierce with director David Leitch would know better than to put in cliches, such as having Hobbs have a nice heart-to-heart telephone conversation with his daughter Sam (Eliana Sa'u) while oblivious to how Hattie is behind him in a sealed but clear-glass room beating the crap out of a poor CIA agent in particularly brutal ways. That is the level of 'witty' Hobbs & Shaw goes for.

Over and over we have a film that is too lazy to care, mistaking long bits of monologue for humor. Sure, maybe seeing Ryan Reynolds and Kevin Hart pop up to rattle off quips could be fun, but neither adds anything to the film. As a side note, I'm old enough to remember when Ryan Reynolds was an actual actor, not a quip-spouting animatronic figure who has an expressionless face when delivering said quips.

Image result for hobbs and shaw
Hobbs & Shaw clearly left the door open for a sequel, down to a post-ending scene of a besieged Reynolds. However, the mind boggles at exactly who would want more adventures with the Fast & Furious' version of Dr. Claw and M.A.D. I'm not trying to be funny: the ETEON director, never seen but with a digitally altered voice that appears as a sound graph, might as well have said, "I'll get you next time, Hobbs & Shaw! Next time!" with a cat's meow accompanying it.

I don't know what it says about a movie spinoff/franchise when it reminds you of Inspector Gadget.

I'm not even going to bother looking at Hobbs & Shaw when it comes to acting. I'll give credit to Johnson for having nice scenes with Sa'u when he plays the loving and slightly goofy dad. Statham is and has never been an 'actor' (though I'm sure his version of say Prospero or Willy Loman would be a lot more fun to watch than this). He's an action star, there to brawl and show off that Cockney swagger. Elba is about the only one even trying to play his Terminator-reject seriously, making me wonder whether he would have been better-served playing the actual Terminator in something like Dark Fate. I don't know enough about Kirby to make a definitive statement, though I didn't leave the theater much impressed.

Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw is a cash-grab, riding the coattails of an accidental though quite enjoyable franchise. It gives audiences big action scenes, some of which I did find quite good such as a chase scene through London where cars slide under trucks. As much as I have enjoyed every Fast & Furious film I think I'll skip more adventures with the Oxsmul Brothers...unless Dr. Claw literally shows up and turns out to be Ryan Reynolds or Kevin Hart.


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