Monday, May 20, 2024

Family and Explosions Drive ‘Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw’

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Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw despite having one of the worst titles of the year is a big dumb happy go lucky absurd giant wheel of cheddar cheese of an action movie. Filled with forced one-liners and odd couples that aren’t that odd, and a pretty lady could who can more than hold her own. Similarly, the movie all but evaporates from our memories as soon as the light goes up.

David Leitch has directed movies like Atomic Blonde, Deadpool 2, and was un-credited for the first John Wick. All this is to say the man knows how to frame action both fake and real. Granted with Hobbs & Shaw, like all Fast & Furious movies, there is more fake than there is real. Oftentimes the suspension of disbelief comes less with the gravity-defying ballet of automobiles and more with the so-called “human drama” crammed between the explosions. 

Leitch is now working with Dwayne Johnson (Luke Hobbs) and Jason Statham (Deckard Shaw). Two actors who rarely play characters so much as variations of themselves or themselves adjacent. Johnson’s Hobbs is the larger than life streetwise blunt instrument, whereas Statham’s Shaw is a dapper and subtle larger than life streetwise blunt instrument. The premise is the supposedly absurd mismatch clash of personalities of the duo. Except, much like Tango & Cash, Bad Boys, or even Running Scared, the two are more alike than different.

Chris Morgan and Drew Pearce’s screenplay tries awfully hard to stuff the film with two hours worth of story. The result is a plot about a virus called ‘Snowflake’  that could wipe out weaker members of society which Hattie (Vanessa Kirby), an MI6 agent, injects into her body in order to keep it from the agent of ETON, Brixton Lore (Idris Elba), a cybernetic self described, “black Superman”. Oh and Hattie is Shaw’s younger, but totally the same age as he is, sister.

Kirby’s Hattie is only rarely a damsel in distress. Though it could be argued she spends the whole movie in distress. She has an apocalyptic virus pumping through her veins and needs it extracted ASAP. But aside from that, she seems to be able to carry herself just fine. Book-ended by galoots the likes of Johnson and Statham, Kirby has the preciously rare abilities to actually handle herself in a fight against both.

If Hobbs and Shaw didn’t hate each other enough already as is, Hattie and Hobbs can’t help but make googly eyes at each other. Shaw, of course, can’t handle his little sister being any kind of attracted to any kind of man. None of this matters of course. If it did Hobbs & Shaw might be unbearable.

Which is a shame because Idris Elba is a fantastic actor. Hobbs & Shaw continues his spate of movies which have no clue how to use him. Elba tries his best. Brixton is a rogue agent for the secret underground society of ETON. They’re one of those underground secret societies who think humanity is humanity’s own worst enemy. Upon hearing ETON’s plans for the virus Hobbs scoffs and shakes his head. “Genocide isn’t the answer.”

Which is more than anyone ever said to Thanos

Leitch has forgone any pretenses of reality and leans into the Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote thermodynamics. Hobbs punches a man and he goes flying into the next room and lands perfectly into a chair.  Shaw drives a Lamborghini under not one, but two passing semis going the opposite way. He succeeds of course without so much as a scratch on the paint job.

All of this is dwarfed by the climactic chase scene. Well, less a chase scene and more a fever dream of over the top masculinity involving no less than four classic cars, tow chains, a black helicopter, and Dwayne Johnson’s own rippling muscles. An absurd scene beautifully framed by Jonathan Sela’s camera and exquisitely put together by Christopher Rouse’s editing, I found myself cackling. Sometimes the joy comes from the sheer absurdity and how well it all comes together more than anything else.

Of course, none of it is real. But part of the charm of the Fast & Furious movies is, much like the old Godzilla movies, we know it’s fake but that doesn’t mean it’s any less enjoyable. Leitch has worked with Sela and Rouse to make the world of Hobbs & Shaw a strange mixture of drab and dreary with splashes of neon colors. The chase scene among the crumbling ruins of Chernobyl is so atrociously ugly it belongs in a superhero film. 

Contrast that scene with an earlier one involving Hobbs and Shaw. Rouse cuts back and forth between Hobbs in a Miami Tattoo Parlor and Shaw in some kind of lingerie art show. Sela’s brilliant contrast of neon blues and greens clashing with bright orange and reds allow Leitch to imbue the film with a zany if testosterone-fueled atmosphere. Suffice to say, visually, Hobbs & Shaw is uneven. At times bright, colorful, and worthy of the mantle “cartoonish”. While at others is dark, dreary, and underlit so as to hide the fact that the entire set is CGI. Which is silly because who walking into a Fast and Furious film cares the slightest for verisimilitude. 

In the end, Hobbs & Shaw is a nonsensical overly convoluted plot mixed with nonsensical and overly convoluted action set pieces designed in a computer but by no means dull. It has explosions, guns, cars, girls, and even a portable Nietzche. So basically exactly what you would think a movie like Hobbs & Shaw would be.


Image courtesy of Universal Pictures

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