Film Reviews

Hobbs and Shaw: Ridiculous, Charming, Numbing & Inescapable

The Fast and the Furious movies are ridiculous, but that’s supposed to be part of their charm. Universal has taken the Marvel Cinematic Universe experiment, transported it to car culture and 80s action movie tropes, upped the racial diversity, and stripped it of any attempt at actual real world commentary. What’s left are a group of movies which say nothing but are damn entertaining. As such, we’ve been treated to multiple stories about custom car shop employees saving the world through their side hustle as highly skilled government assets.

Hobbs and Shaw – excuse me, Fast and Furious Presents: Hobbs and Shaw – is the franchise’s first spin-off. It takes Hobbs (The Rock), the antagonist-turned-hero, and teams him with Shaw (Jason Statham), a villain-turned-antihero, setting them out on a mission to save the world. As Hobbs is happy to point out, this will be his fourth time doing so, which means the stakes barely seem to matter anymore. It’s just another Tuesday for him, and while Shaw is newer to this good guy stuff he takes to it with surprising ease, though less surprising when Hobbs and Shaw fills in his backstory with more sympathetic details.

In reality, this all happened because, as the story goes, there was friction between The Rock and several of his Fast and Furious co-stars, chiefly Vin Diesel, on the set of their last movie, The Fate of the Furious. That resulted in the former People’s Champion memorably taking to social media to call them out as a bunch of candy asses. After that, the movie’s plot was reportedly re-worked so that The Rock spent almost the entirety of his screentime with Statham, and audiences dug their banter so much talk quickly turned to a spin-off.

Given this origin, perhaps it’s no surprise that Hobbs and Shaw is as testosterone-driven an action movie as we’ve seen in recent memory. You can practically taste the protein powder just from looking at The Rock’s muscles. Hobbs and Shaw, forever bickering partners, make so many references to each other’s dick size – or lack thereof – that you half expect them to just whip ‘em out, measure ‘em, and declare a victor.

Just as the two title characters are in a never-ending contest to one-up each other and prove their manliness, so too is the film in a constant battle to top all the prior Fast and Furious movies. That’s a pretty high bar to try to meet, at least in terms of crazy stunts and plots.So, it might be helpful to stop the review here and just list some of the crazy, questionable, or simply peculiar things which happen in Hobbs and Shaw:

  • The very first minute of the movie displays successive title cards which read: “Universal Pictures Presents” “Fast and Furious Presents: Hobbs and Shaw.” English teachers beware.
  • An actress, Vanessa Kirby, 21 years Jason Statham’s junior plays a sister character meant to be no less than 5 years younger. We know they are supposed to be closer in age because there are multiple flashbacks showing them playing – er, not so much playing as running several amusing grifts – together as kids.
  • Eiza Gonzalez, sporting a cleavage-baring combo outfit that is one third-lingerie, one-third cocktail dress, final third catsuit, leads an all-female group of criminals who suddenly appear in the film and disappear just as quickly, though not before Gonzalez has given Statham a passionate kiss.
  • An actress who looks as if she might be younger than The Rock or at least roughly his same age plays his mother, albeit with coloring to slightly gray her hair.
  • They establish a ticking clock – Shaw’s sister has a virus inside of her which needs to be extracted before it inevitably breaks down, kills her, and then releases an aerial plague upon the entire world – but lose complete track of it until the end when, randomly, she is asked how much time she has left and suddenly knows the exact answer: 33 minutes.
  • A third act twist involves Hobbs and Shaw (and Shaw’s sister) needing help from Hobbs’ brother, and that brother is NOT played by Roman Reigns, the WWE superstar who IS in the movie but only has a line or two.
  • Roman Reigns does his signature finishing move on someone during the big finale because of course he does.
  • Roman Reigns and The Rock essentially tag team wrestle a poor guy during the big finale.
  • There’s an in-movie joke about the The People’s Eyebrow.
  • There’s an in-movie joke about The Rock always saying “sonabitch”
  • The Rock starts one of his signature “and stick it straight up your candy ass” speeches but chooses not to say that actual phrase.
  • The notion of “family” is invoked at least once every 15 minutes.
  • Multiple recognizably famous people connected to either The Rock or director David Leitch’s prior films show up to just riff their way through multiple scenes and not all of their jokes are that great. Admirably, though, none of these extended cameos were spoiled in the trailers.
  • The bad guy’s mass genocide evil plan is far closer to Thanos’ than the film wants to believe.
  • Idris Elba takes his orders from a clandestine boss or sentient AI – it’s not entirely clear which – presented as a yellow squiggly line on a wall.
  • An awesome, self-driving motorcycle which seems to be linked to Elba’s DNA is never explained.
  • A tiny Samoan town picked entirely because it is off the grid turns out to be the home base for a world class custom car shop because, as Hobbs and Shaw seems to suddenly remember, we are watching a Fast and the Furious movie after all.
  • A car mechanic figures out how to fix a broken, partially smashed, top secret, one-of-a-kind biochemical device overnight.
  • In the finale, it almost instantly turns from night/dawn to broad daylight.
  • Eddie Marsen, playing a nebbish scientist type, kills multiple people with a flamethrower. Yep, you read that right. It’s actually kind of awesome.
  • The Rock works out multiple times, literally doing push-ups to kill time when Statham takes too long to defeat a room full of bad guys.
  • There are seemingly non-stop references to The Rock’s muscles and how ill-suited he is to ever passing as normal.
  • Five chain-linked cars prevent a helicopter from fully taking off.
  • There is a climactic speech about the power of the people trumping technology even though the film has barely earned it.
  • An entire nuclear plant falls down on top of Idris Elba and it barely slows him down. He doesn’t even get at least temporarily trapped under rubble. Nope. Just standing loud and proud in the middle of it.
  • All four main characters – including Elba – suffer a car/helicopter crash over the side of a steep cliff and down into a waterfall and emerge without a single injury.
  • Actually, in general, none of the main characters seems to suffer a single injury despite multiple occasions when they really should have. Elba at least has the explanation that his character is tech-enhanced thus making him “black Superman.”
  • Characters who couldn’t possibly have heard one another through all the noise of racing cars and marauding villains converse like they’re the damn Avengers with no ear pieces.

So, in other words, it’s a latter-era Fast and Furious movie. Even though this one is a spin-off crafted as a bit of a buddy cop comedy, Hobbs and Shaw is still playing in a Fast and Furious universe which waved bye-bye to our Earth a long time ago. This film thus takes place in a heightened, cartoonish world where every set piece seems reverse engineered around the following challenge – do an epic superhero movie action scene but use cars and/or The Rock instead of superheroes – and the method to defeating every world domination scheme is quite simply and entirely improbably “family.”

However, the action here, from new-to-the-franchise David Leitch (John Wick, Atom Blonde, Deadpool 2), is more numbing – and CGI-heavy – than usual and the sense that none of this means anything or matters is more inescapable when the film has so many stop-the-action-because-here’s-a-famous-person-doing-their-schtick cameos. In general, the overall charm seems to be wearing thin.

But it’s the first weekend of August. The Rock and Jason Statham have a big, new action movie in theaters, they’re mostly fun to watch together on screen, and we all need to turn off our brains sometimes. This is just what Hollywood movies look like now.

There’s literally nothing else opening this weekend unless you live in a big city, in which case I hear Jennifer Kent’s Babadook follow-up The Nightingale is amazing. I am not sure if there’s any Venn diagram overlap between the two, but you can see both if you’d like. Or binge The Boys again. Maybe give that Netflix show Typewriter a look. It’s apparently the scariest thing since forever and that can’t possibly be wrong. You’ve got options, is what I’m trying to say here.

But if you’re still curious about Hobbs and Shaw I can at least say the nice thing about it is that it might even play better if you’ve never seen a Fast and Furious movie before. If you treat it as an insanely over-the-top buddy cop comedy starring one of the world’s last megastars and, ahem, Jason Statham, it won’t leave you too confused.

POST-CREDITS ALERT

Hobbs and Shaw has three total, two which qualify as mid-credits scenes and one which is a genuine, old-fashioned after-the-end-of-the-credits-we-have-one-last-joke scene. None, however, serve any larger story purpose or try to set up a sequel. The film’s normal closing scene already does that. Thus, the post-credits bits feel like extra jokey things they threw in during post, which would explain why the facial hair on one of the characters is totally different.

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