“Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw” (2019)
Running time: 135 minutes
Written by: Chris Morgan and Drew Pearce
Directed by: David Leitch
Featuring: Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Idris Elba, Vanessa Kirby, and Helen Mirren
Deckard Shaw: “This job requires stealth. Look at you.”
Luke Hobbs: “I’m trying to save the world, which, for the record, will be my fourth time. ‘Cause I’m really good at it.”
If there was any time a movie proved that ego trumps talent or even common sense it is exemplified in this week’s release of the rather wordy but accurate “Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw” (2019) which takes two of the stars from the main ‘Fast’ franchise who are either too big to shoehorn into that main movies or simply don’t get on with the majority of other actors in that same set of movies. “Hobbs & Shaw” does something that most sequels or spinoffs do to entice moviegoers, that is cash in on what is now a global brand, attempt to up the ante with special effects as well as action, cram in as many recognisable faces as well as cameos so it distracts from the fact that these are fairly unoriginal as well as set up possible sequels and spinoffs so the brand is pushed forward (or at least that is the great trick of the studio, stars and producers). It may be hard to believe but it has been two years since the box office smash “The Fate of the Furious” (2017), which like its predecessors and this spinoff created a space where CGI surpassed physical stunts, the actual plots introduced new characters and moved into having MCU/Mission Impossible style stories and for some reason the idea of family was doubled down on even though there were serious ructions within the cast.
What is not surprising with “Hobbs & Shaw” is that the writers, stars and director have all forced the family narrative so far that the Shaw character has his mother and sister in the movie and of course Hobbs has his daughter and his entire family, so only that the finale of the movie is set in his ‘home’ of Samoa. In terms of story none of this makes the slightest bit of sense but if you are watching this in cinemas at this stage as an audience we simply do not care. This isn’t a slight at all it is just obvious that if you firstly believe that these two are the ones recruited to get whatever it is that are supposed to do, that their entire families would be introduced, that the laws of physics that are in play here would make the MCU blush, that there are 1960s James Bond villains here and that with all the action nothing is accomplished and that the amount of destruction that is displayed would make Roland Emmerich blush then you will the theatre happy, but possibly a little bewildered.
This film franchise has been on the precipice twice, once after the third entry was released “Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift” (2005), secondly after the sudden death of star Paul Walker, when “Furious 7” (2015) was still in production. But now against all odds the billion-dollar franchise returns with its ninth (sort of) instalment, “Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw”, apparently the start of a new set of movies for both Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham, both having proved over the past few years that they have much to offer potential audiences. The franchise that began as a cautionary tale about street racing has re-invented itself at least twice, once as a heist series and now as some kind of hybrid franchise, balancing a few time-honoured genres.
This movie’s plot, if you could call it that, begins with a crew of MI6 agents attempting to retrieve a virus, Snowflake, which can be programmed to decimate millions of people, from terrorist organization Eteon. Brixton Lore, an Eteon operative with advanced cybernetic implants kills all agents except for their leader, Hattie Shaw, who injects Snowflake into herself as a dormant carrier and escapes. Brixton frames Hattie as a traitor who killed her team and stole Snowflake, forcing her to go on the run. Luke Hobbs and Deckard Shaw are both informed of the missing virus and are assigned to work together reluctantly to track it down. You can guess how these wacky personalities don’t get on then put their issues aside and crush the bad guys all the while making sure you know how important their families are or become.
In an attempt to make this spinoff relevant as well as reflecting how action movies have gone especially in the age of the new ‘Mission Impossible’ movies as well as the genuinely great ‘John Wick’ franchise the producers have recruited director David Leitch who while he proved he was a great stunt co-ordinator and a good second half of a directing duo in Chad Stahelski with their stunning debut “John Wick” (2014). However what time and experience have shown with Leitch’s movies since in “Atomic Blonde” (2017) and “Deadpool 2” (2018) is that he can undoubtedly direct action as well as being able to show some sense of style which is crucial in modern day blockbusters, serving him well in all three of his previous efforts. Where there is a deficiency in his abilities is being able to harness a script and pushing a clear original plot through a narrative that is unique and logical. This is a movie that does not rely on close fights or stunt work, it relies on CGI, over the top action and old fashioned villains, which this has especially the latter with Idris Elba as a one note chief henchman with an unknown head villain who has yet to be revealed ala SPECTRE in old James Bond movies and this is where this movie is myopic and derivative as well as outlandishly illogical to the point where you have to get on or leave the theatre after the first act. To mitigate this as well as having this movie on brand Chris Morgan, writer and producer of the main franchise has been recruited as has screenwriter and sometime director Drew Pearce who attempt to bring something to this movie but as I have said it ends up being like an ugly James Bond movie, instead of alcoholism and womanising we have some kind of weird family narrative which not only feels forced but false as well.
It is beyond obvious to point out that Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham are not only the stars of this movie but the essential point of almost every single element, it is rare to see a movie that is so ego driven that there is literally no time for anyone else at all. The very existence for every facet of this movie is either one or both of these people, everyone wants to either be with them, be them or kill them, it is a true case of narcissism as well as a great deal of nepotism. Both main stars do what they do best and have done so throughout most of their careers, that is be big, bold, brash and one note. There are a few supporting actors as well, the main ones being Idris Elba and Vanessa Kirby, one playing the villain the other Shaw’s sister who also acts a maguffin of sorts and the only real female in the plot. Elba does what he has done before, that is play a foil for the leads something he has done before, here he is more action oriented and I assume his pay check was the reason for appearing in this movie. On the other hand, Vanessa Kirby who was last seen as an antagonist of sorts in “Mission: Impossible – Fallout” (2018) here does extremely well in a limiting part, although she shines in the elements of her character that see her as an individual and not a damsel in distress which she is reduced to for long stretches of the plot. There also seemed a need to have cameos from a variety of actors who headline their own movies, Kevin Hart and Ryan Reynolds was two examples which again seems like throwing elements at a board, seeing that sticks then replicating it later in other instalments which for me as an audience member seems like a cheat and that I am being tested which I really do not enjoy.
As with not only the movies in the ‘Fast’ franchise but in any big budget action movie the use of CGI has completely been accepted by audiences, not only that it is expected, this movie is no exception. In fact, there is almost no scene that does not use CGI for wire work, matte paintings, face replacement and a myriad of other elements that are completely hidden. The effects used in this movie are over the top so that when they do not look completely realistic it is accepted as what is being portrayed is so obviously a fantasy. The issues for me are that because much of the action is not based in the real world any problems can be overcome with CGI which is a complete cheat in my mind as it short-changes storytelling. There is an argument to be made that a restriction in the use of CGI can assist storytelling, great examples are last years “Mission: Impossible – Fallout” and “The Dark Knight” (2008) where physical effects are used to accentuate storytelling not replace it, perfect examples.
“Hobbs & Shaw” does exactly what it advertises in that it is a complete action movie that is all fiction, not based in reality and contains some familiar elements and characters from another franchise. It attempts to make the narrative about something real but this seems even more forced than the same elements from the main movies which is saying something. I recommend this for people who like or love the ‘Fast and Furious’ movies and cannot wait until next year for the next instalment. If you are wanting to see something different in a buddy cop-like movie then this may disappoint as the two main stars do not mix that well or very often which for me misses the point of the movie and is a missed opportunity as isn’t this what it was advertised as? Apart from that it is big, loud, violent and humorous so if you enjoy that you will enjoy this, as well as the sequel which I am sure will arrive in the next two years.