15 December 2019

Because I watched it on DVD: Hobbs & Shaw

Here's some very late impressions for you - Fast & Furious presents: Hobbs & Shaw (2019)! So bold the title required two ampersands! I don't want to dive in like crazy, but this movie left me with a good dose of weirdness that we should address. SPOILERS forever, but who cares. This movie is ridiculous.

This looks like two other movies. Walking Tall (2005) and
I don't know, any other Statham movie.

I was a late bloomer Fast fan for sure. I got into 2 Fast 2 Furious (2002) repeats on the USA Network in the mid-2000s and like most of the world, was fully on board when the franchise shifted to straight action heist movies starting with Fast Five (2011). Like all good things, though, a good thing has been bled dry. The pinnacle seemed to be Fate of the Furious (2017), which was all kinds of terrible, but instead it turns out that Hobbs & Shaw found a way to push insanity forward.

It's a fine line why Fate sucked. I loved Furious 7 (2015). There was some line that was tripped and I have spent a lot of time trying to think of what it was. I think it has all to do with Vin Diesel's turn towards evil. It's in that weird zone between being motivated enough and not actually going all the way. Diesel can be a brutal character and even since the first film they've resisted leaning into this. Replacing fan favourites like Paul Walker with charisma-free Scott Eastwood wasn't great either. How could they have fired him?!

Hobbs & Shaw takes all this to another level. These films have always featured quasi-superheroic acts, but here Idris Elba is literally a technologically-infused supervillain. It's never quite explained how, but it doesn't actually matter. What might be weirder is that Statham and the Rock are actually able to fight this cyborg somehow. Sure, not right off the bat, but they eventually do get it together - by "working together." Of course they do. If anything, it's nice to finally have an excuse why all these people can survive these car crashes and submarine explosions.

But there's other weird stuff at play. This film feels like it's just made by the stars and producers rather than any kind of coherent screenwriter. I know what that sounds like - every film is culpable of this. But it opens with a straight-up cameo by Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool, and I mean his character is just Deadpool. He doesn't have the mutant powers or guns but the exact same attitude and line delivery. Or maybe it's Ryan Reynolds. Hobbs & Shaw was directed by David Leitch, who did Deadpool 2 (2018), but it's still a weird move to just mash these franchises up so blatantly.

The movie also ends with a trip to Samoa, and it's almost as if between this and Moana (2016) the Rock is trying really hard to remind us that he's Samoan instead of just "generically ethnic." It's just bizarre that his estranged Samoan brother is able to fix a nanite-virus extraction machine that only one other dude could ever build. It all builds toward this anti-technology message which is bizarre in a film where the police rely so much on technology. There's no heart here. Nothing makes sense.

Again, I know. This is a Fast movie. Not making sense is part of the game. The thing is, though, not making sense in other films still fit into the rules of the established world. Sure, Vin Diesel inexplicably headbutt flies into a huge dude and the runway is like 28 miles long. But this was all in service of a reasonably exciting conclusion. Hobbs & Shaw more feels like an excuse for the actors and producers to flex their own interests rather than producing something that the fans might think is cool.

And the Samoan stuff is sort of cool. There's fire and stuff. But the Rock also convinces his brother far too fast that he's cool after twenty years in exile from turning in their car thief father. His line is that people are going to die because this white lady is carrying a virus inside her. Their mom just believe them and the story moves on. It's really bad.

Like other films, moving quickly can be a good thing, but Hobbs & Shaw seems to stumble from the start. There was opportunity to present a really interesting duology here but they don't really establish how Statham and the Rock differ in their methods. Sure, they call Statham a ghost and the Rock a bulldozer, but they're both fucking bulldozers. There still exists a really weird zone where Statham is moving towards a Fast hero, which doesn't make any sense. He killed Han in cold bold. How can Dom ever work him? Maybe the Rock doesn't have major beef, but we yearn for some retribution or guilt or catharsis!

What's more true is that these filmmakers wrote themselves into a corner by killing Han in what was supposed to be a direct-to-DVD crapshoot, but brought the character back because they liked him, but then liked Statham too much and wanted him to be one of the gang. Just not enough 40-year old bald men in this franchise. And Statham is talented for sure, but this movie is all over the place.

I also totally thought the movie was going to end at the electro-torture scene. Like, they built that up so much, like every movie ever, and then I checked the time and had over an hour left! It was structurally bizarre. It just makes me think that the Rock came in and told everyone to go to Samoa.

Anyway, unsurprisingly, Vanessa Kirby is the best thing here and a total badass. She also gets this bomb-ass intro song and it's nice that the movie continues the Fast tradition of having great soundtracks. She holds her own, although was definitely not children with Jason Statham.

Did Hobbs & Shaw push this terrible franchise over the brink or am I crazy? I will say it was more fun than Fate but it also feels like a series of missed opportunities. Maybe I should just watch At Eternity's Gate (2018) or something instead.

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