Through the end of May, I’m looking back at the nine movies of the “Fast & Furious” franchise, watching most of them for the first time. Next up is the spinoff movie “Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw” (2019).
Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham have pitch-perfect chemistry as a pair of alpha males who constantly show each other up with insults and fighting skills but deep down want to be friends. Shaw’s sister, Hattie, is an excellent addition to the hero team and Brixton is a top-shelf supervillain. The action is stylized fun, and the quip-based humor is funny more often than not under the pen of “F&F” veteran Chris Morgan and “Mission: Impossible – Fallout’s” Drew Pearce.
Because of the light tone, there’s no sense that Hobbs or Shaw are in any real danger, even though they objectively should be. Some situations are absurd even when compared to the later “F&F” films. The family bonding moments on Samoa are more of a breather between the action than they are heartfelt. The comedy-based cameos by Ryan Reynolds and Kevin Hart are probably more fun for the filmmakers – you won’t be surprised that director David Leitch also helmed “Deadpool 2” — than for the audience.
Deckard Shaw (Statham). He’s smaller than Hobbs, but not intimidated. Shaw’s confidence in his fighting is well-placed, as is his confidence in pranks. He pulls off the best gag of the film, giving Hobbs the fake ID “Mike Oxmaul,” while also making Oxmaul a person of interest for the TSA.
Hattie (Vanessa Kirby) plays out the same arc as Thandie Newton’s character in “Mission: Impossible II,” injecting herself with a deadly virus in order to keep it from the bad guy. She herself then becomes the maguffin. Plus, Hobbs and Shaw are also fighting over her – Hobbs being romantically intrigued and Shaw wanting to keep his sister away from Hobbs. But Hattie is herself an MI-6 agent, capable of holding her own. She’s a bad judge of her brother’s character, though, initially assuming reports of his dark turn are accurate. Overall, Kirby is as awesome here as she is in a smaller role in “Mission: Impossible – Fallout.”
Hattie and Shaw get their edge from their mother, Queenie (Helen Mirren), although she seems to lean bad whereas these two offspring fight on the side of good. (The third sibling, Owen, is more of a bad guy, as seen in “F&F6.”) During the film’s events, Queenie is in prison for unexplained reasons.
Arms dealer Madame M (Eiza González) supplies H&S for their mission. She’s a cool presence, but ill-defined in her brief appearance.
VILLAIN/TOO GOOD FOR THIS MOVIE
Idris Elba as Brixton. Brixton’s scheme to kill off the “weak” members of the human race in order to save humanity as a whole is more thought-out than Thanos’ more slapdash approach to culling. Brixton is also a superhuman, having been enhanced by the scientists in his secret organization. Elba sells all of the action-movie silliness with his attitude. He’s too good to be in this movie, yet he makes it better.
MOST THRILLING SEQUENCE
Shaw — with Hobbs and Hattie squeezed into the sports car with him — zips through London away from the pursuing Brixton. A host of practical and nicely integrated CGI stunts ensues, including one where Shaw’s car barely clears the chassis of a semi and Brixton follows by sliding his motorcycle on its side and then remounting the bike in one smooth motion.
Hobbs’ brother on Samoa, Jonah (Cliff Curtis), happens to be such a supergenius that he builds a blood-purifying system from scratch on short notice in his shed. And it works just as well as the one other machine in the world, constructed by a scientist who has won two Nobel prizes. While hooked up to this system – which takes precisely 30 minutes to extract the virus and cure her – Hattie is simultaneously fighting bad guys.
A caravan of Samoan vehicles chains itself to Brixton’s helicopter to keep him from taking off. At one point, the whole string of vehicles teeters at a cliff’s edge. Later, when the chain snaps, Hobbs grabs it to keep the helicopter from escaping.
British Customs Officer (looking at “Mike Oxmaul” boarding pass): “My cock’s small?”
Hobbs (embarrassed): “I go by Michael.”
“H&S” features several cute phone calls between Hobbs and his 9-year-old daughter, Sam (Eliana Sua). Deckard and Hattie are tight, and we see flashbacks to them playing cops-and-robbers games as kids (as the robbers). Both are vaguely distant from some family members, and this is vaguely resolved by various reunions.
“Hobbs & Shaw” is a self-aware, humorous actioner with stylized violence. It’s totally fun, if long in the tooth. And hey – it’s timely with its supervirus storyline! It gets away with extreme stunts better than “The Fate of the Furious” because its visual language is sharper. I think the “H&S” series – which leaves the question of the identity of “The Director” (Brixton’s boss) hanging till part two – could be the go-for-broke branch of the “F&F saga. Meanwhile, I hope the main branch gets back to more grounded basics in “F9.”
Schedule of reviews:
Saturday, May 16: “The Fast and the Furious” (2001)
Sunday, May 17: “2 Fast 2 Furious” (2003)
Wednesday, May 20: “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift” (2006)
Thursday, May 21: “Fast & Furious” (2009)
Saturday, May 23: “Fast Five” (2011)
Sunday, May 24: “Fast & Furious 6” (2013)
Wednesday, May 27: “Furious 7” (2015)
Thursday, May 28: “The Fate of the Furious” (2017)
Saturday, May 30: “Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw” (2019)