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Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw is a big loud missed opportunity

Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw is a big loud missed opportunity

That’s it. I’m done. I’m tired of getting ridiculously pumped for movies starring The Rock. I love the guy, but I’m no longer interested in watching him grow bigger and bigger while the films he makes wallow in mediocrity. Some are better than others, but none are great, and all have the potential to be awesome. Yet despite having the world’s most bankable star and more money than I could ever fathom behind their production, the films he’s been starring in these past few years don’t have any ambition at all. None. They exist to give us our fix of increasingly veined, sweaty muscles, and then be forgotten amidst the unwashed masses of similar money grabs. It’s tiring. It’s boring. It’s a waste of talent.

His films follow the same path as his musculature. They get bigger and bigger and bigger but their function remains the same: being big.

Some may say “but Dan, shouldn’t you go into a movie such as this one with pretty low expectations to begin with?”

Sure. Absolutely. Without a doubt. And typically, I am amongst the ranks of those who can’t be bothered with complaints about a film that should be considered nothing but dumb fun, but I guess my goodwill has run out. Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw really is ‘just a bunch of dumb fun,’ but just about every scene contains at least one bafflingly stupid choice, and more than a few missed opportunities. It’s unfair to say that this spinoff of the most endearingly silly franchise ever made could have been great, but it certainly should have been better than this. Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw is a messy, overlong cash draw that despite having a general air of fun about it, pales in comparison to even the worst chapter in the proper saga of the Fast Fambly (The Fate of the Furious to be specific).

I should note that I will not be abbreviating this film’s ridiculous title either. It they wanted it to be called Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw, then I will refer to it as Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw, because this movie was pretty lame and I need to mine as much entertainment out of it as possible in order to feel okay about things.

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The setup is simple, but the subsequent plot is not. Don’t worry, it doesn’t matter even a little. This whole movie is just an excuse to get Dwayne “The Protein” Johnson and Jason “Jason Statham” Statham into the same room together where they can bicker, compete in escalating acts of machismo, and frequently be replaced with rubbery CGI stuntmen. Let me walk you through it as best as I can

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There’s exists a super virus which can be programmed to destroy the entire world. A team of soldiers has figured out its location and is sent to intercept it and bring it to a safe facility. Unfortunately for them, an evil super soldier by the name of Brixton (Idris Elba) shows up and murders everyone in their group. One of the soldiers manages to escape, and in an effort to protect the world from potential infection, she injects the virus into herself and goes into hiding. The powers that be get wind of these events and decide to call upon the only people who can track this woman down and secure the apocalyptic virus before it gets into Brixton’s mechanically enhanced hands. 

Yes, Idris Elba has superpowers in this, which calls into question what superpowers look like in a cinematic world where everyone ostensibly has superpowers already. What do they look like? Well, he can punch harder and his eyes have Google Glass capability. Also his motorcycle drives itself and can slide under trucks better than most motorcycles.

The best tracker in the world is Luke Hobbs (The Rock), even though he has failed miserably at tracking and capturing people ever since his first appearance in the franchise. Also called into action is Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), who you may remember as the unforgivably evil motherfucker who killed Han and is now somehow a good guy. Here’s the catch: the woman who currently possesses the virus is Shaw’s sister Hattie (Vanessa Kirby). Hobbs and Shaw don’t really get along, except when they do, and together they zip around the world to a variety of locations in an effort to evade Brixton, extract the virus from Hattie’s system, and clear their own names because Brixton somehow got them labeled international terrorists, but I don’t remember how and I don’t care and you don’t care either.

Director David Leitch, one half of the duo that brought us the first John Wick movie, is a good reason to have high hopes for Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw. As demonstrated by John Wick and his follow-ups Atomic Blonde and Deadpool 2, the dude knows his way around an action sequence. He and John Wick co-director Chad Stahelski have made a career off of focusing on pre-production. By rehearsing action choreography to perfection before the cameras start rolling, the material they’ve put out both as a duo and as individuals has been the saving grace of mainstream action cinema, which has fallen into a toilet lined with hyper-cut shaky cam ever since Paul Greengrass sat on a jackhammer and made a name with the Bourne series.

It saddens me to report that the action in Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw shows very little of the stamp that made Leitch such a draw. Perhaps this is due to deadlines inherent to franchise filmmaking or the fact that both Statham and The Roid, er, The Rock, are too busy trying to be in every movie ever to pin down for rehearsal. I don’t know what the deal is, but the lack of preparation really shows. The hand to hand combat is presumably solid, but with there are so many cuts per second that it’s dizzying and disengaging (thankfully, the camera remains static on a shot to shot basis). The larger scale action suffers too. Not from hyper cutting, but from rubbery CGI stuntmen and rubbery CGI vehicles, neither of which obey the baseline rules of physics set forth by the franchise. I really thought we were past this. I thought that in a post-Mad Max: Fury Road and The Raid world, we were finally starting to appreciate stunt performers enough to use them. I thought wrong.

And really, if you’re going to put a HALO jump in your movie, you would do well to at least try and top Mission: Impossible - Fallout, a movie which had its star ACTUALLY HALO JUMPING. In Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw, the leading duo are about to do the jump, and then it cuts to rubbery CGI versions of them landing on the ground. I almost refuse to believe how powerfully lazy it is.

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But it’s not all bad. In fact, for the first forty minutes or so (which doesn’t even put us at the halfway point), I was on board. I made peace with some of the corners being cut in the action department, simply because the leads have such great chemistry together. Both The Rock and Statham have good comic timing, and their decidedly different takes on masculinity keep them hilariously at odds with each other. Chemistry, however, only goes so far, which is when material needs to step in. It doesn’t. There are only so many permutations of “you’re big/you’re small” and “you’re American/you’re British,” and Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw burns through them pretty quickly. 

The tone changes too. At the outset, Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw presents itself as a self-aware, goofy comedy. In the moment I found it refreshing, confident that this spinoff was making an attempt at branding itself as something decidedly different than the Fast Fambly Franchise thus far. This, too, does not last long. By the midpoint of the first act it becomes very tonally similar to The Fate of the Furious, albeit with more attempts at humor (and a handful of cameos which range from kinda silly to butt-clenchingly cringey).

Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw is not outright bad like the other buddy cop riff of the summer Stuber, but it hurts more because Stuber wasn’t supposed to be good. Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw had so much potential, and all of it is squandered on “good enough for the plebes.” I demand better. If everything I love is going to be sucked into either the Fast Fambly or the Disney behemoth, then these giant entertainment entities better step their game up.

Stray observations:

  • The choreography and direction for Vanessa Kirby’s fight scenes look so much cleaner than either The Rock’s or Statham’s. Perhaps it’s because the two of them are too old and big to be balletic on screen?

  • The final action setpiece in Samoa takes place at nighttime and then it switches to daytime and then back to nighttime for no reason I can see outside of no one caring enough to notice.

  • The final beatdown between Statham, Rock, and Elba has all of the pieces to be something truly hilarious, bonkers, and exciting. Instead it’s silly, slightly heightened, and just another half-pretty obstacle in the way of this lame affair reaching the closing credits.

  • There are 3 extra scenes during the credits. None of them matter. None of them give a window into where this franchise is headed, and two of them are pretty much the same scene repeated.

  • I guess #JusticeForHan will have to wait. Although they do sort of address it here, but only insofar as regarding the need to kill people against our will with a “sometimes it really do be like that” mentality. Weak.

  • Brixton has a boss that takes the form of a digitally altered, disembodied voice. An anonymous Mr. Big, if you will. This is never explored, nor is there any sort of reveal as to who this person is or why they choose to present this way. It’s the laziest sequel bait I’ve ever seen, existing solely as a hole into which the filmmakers can insert whichever actor/actress they can acquire by the time the next movie comes out. Proof positive that these are being written on the fly.

  • If the next entry isn’t called 2 Fast 2 Furious Presents Hobbs & 2haw, then what the fuck are we even doing?

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