Let it be known that Hobbs & Shaw is a film that runs over two hours. I implore all movies to stop. Take a good hard look at your run-times. What could be taken out, trimmed, reassorted to make for a smoother viewing experience? As it turns out in Fast and Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw, a lot.
Following the backward folding events to weave Jason Statham into the “family” themes and narratives of the series in Fate of the Furious, Luke Hobbs and Deckard Shaw must team-up with a third Shaw sibling to stop a deadly programmable virus. The good thing about a movie this stupid (both a positive and negative statement) is how it tends to reboot itself every 20 minutes or so. Like a child playing with their favorite toys and deciding “and then thishappens!” in order to get to the next exciting idea they had. It’s not the worst approach to a Fast film, but like the fundamentally flawed Fate, this entry also lacks the beating heart of the series. Maybe that wouldn’t be such a bad thing if the film had anything to replace that heart. Or even a commendable structure, narrative beats that feel truthful and some semblance of conflict that is extrapolated outside of two (admittedly great) action stars riffing and cursing at one another.
By headlining Deckard Shaw as a full on protagonist and not reluctant anti-hero, the big problem is no longer that Shaw killed Han) his family was at war with the FAST FAMBLY or that he was a mass murdering terrorist) it’s that he and Dwayne Johnson just don’t get along. How kooky! Remember when Shaw’s introduction involved murdering a bunch of interpol agents and destroying a hospital while threatening two nurses?
In a weird way, that meanness is almost welcomed from me. It’s vastly different from what we have in the traditional Fast series and harkens back to something like The Last Boy Scout, a hard-boiled sleazy action joint whose characters hate each other until they don’t. So for H&S tofold it all together in a finale that should feel right at home with the best Fast films by literally bringing it to a character’s childhood home, loving reunion and all, it further breeds conflict within the film’s soul.
Narratively this has nothing going for it. Just a bunch of mishmash action set-pieces that don’t contribute to anything other than Leitch’s fascination with neon color coordination. A trait I admire, to be sure, but they also continue for what feels like generations. But the majority of the big set pieces in the first two hours take place in a sterile, drab looking London and even more drab looking Russia (I think. I’m not watching this again). There are three major chase/escape sequences and they’re all continuations of prior action scenes! If anything, I’d actually wished this film could avoid the chases entirely. Further separate from the Fast brand as a standalone spin-off that makes great advantage of different action choreography. Chase scenes in general are hard to pull off. Three coming off some moderately paced physical fights just makes them look worse. At least the first two because the action up until the last half hour was a major disappointment for me.
The third act, however, while built on the worst foundations of the series, is where H&S finally takes off. The bulldozer quality of Hobbs against the more tactical, keen precision making of Shaw comes into play in fun ways. Up to that point, the film acts as though they’re different, but we’re literally shown how they’re methods are the same in different locations. It’s such an odd decision that never pays off, even when the film finally comes into focus. But even then, there are sequences that feel almost choreographed out of order. Deckard checks up on his sister after fighting two henchman, a feat we know she’s capable of. Then a building blows up behind them, tossing them aside, and they go their separate ways without a single instance of Deckard bothering to check on her? Utterly bizarre. But the family ties are still there, even when they ring false with the Shaw’s. The ties are best personified in the Samoa showdown, with Hobbs’ family literally supporting their brother through a chain of vehicles holding them together. It’s classic Fast film stuff buried in a pile of haphazard, digital trash masquerading as a film. That might sound harsh but H&S also has that inevitable sequel tease because they clearly want this to be a franchise with no clear indication what any events that have occurred even mean to the characters.
I will not apologize from bringing this up again but I think this kind of narrative is something Shane Black would’ve shone at. The characters are inherently unlikable and cause conflict just by their presence, it makes sense that people would pair them up. They don’t need to learn to care about one another, they just need to learn not to kill each other. That’s it. How refreshing would it be for just some characters to be fucking assholes? (#LetCharactersBeAssholes) Lest we forget, one of these men is a terrorist and mass murderer.
Who needs a rock and a hard place when you’ve got The Rock and Jason Statham? But even those fan favorite meatheads can’t compare to the real stars of the film: Idris Elba and Vanessa Kirby. Elba gets to shout shit like “I’M BLACK SUPERMAN!” and it totally works, so he comes out of this unscathed. Vanessa Kirby is also innocent. Her action scenes are appropriately choreographed to her height and stature, exemplifying a more nimble ferocity than the bull in a china shop approach the others have. It’s a reminder that this film was directed by one-half of the original John Wick duo. I can’t help but imagine what this film would have looked like on a budget of 75 million instead.
Is anyone else really off-put by the current blockbuster trends where “Actually, the villains have a point about some social commentary.” But the narrative doesn’t actually attempt to reconcile harder truths or prod at faulty beliefs? Outside of letting the heroes and villains pummeling each other until one side pummels harder, this feels like the laziest attempt at playing smarter when in reality it looks so much dumber. And not the charming kind, like in 2 Fast 2 Furious. “Oh, Thanos actually had a point about environmentalism!” Unless you have something to comment on or address it a meaningful way, go fuck yourself. That’s why Black Panther has a genuinely compelling villain that doesn’t just make points about black liberation, T’Challa actively learns from the character and experience, his final moment as a punctuation of the conflict and growth.
I don’t have an ending for this movie review but in all fairness, the movie doesn’t seem to have one either and ends like a minute after they beat the bad guy. -30- I guess?
Shane Black would have dominated this material.