August 1, 2019

CINEMA | 'Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw' Overloads

"He really is Black Superman."
Dwayne Johnson Jason Statham David Leitch | Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw

By far the unequivocal highlight of the otherwise overstuffed and overloaded Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw is not its titular stars Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham or even the megalomaniacal cyborg villain played by the sexy Idris Elba but Vanessa Kirby's undeniable charisma on screen.

Stuntman-turned-director David Leitch makes the first of likely many Fast & Furious franchise spin-offs such an over-the-top, endlessly ridiculous (almost parody of an) action flick even by the generous standards of all previous eight films of varying excess.

Shepherded by longtime F&F veteran screenwriter/producer Chris Morgan (who's had sole screenwriting credit on the previous six entries) and co-written by Drew Pearce, Hobbs & Shaw's starts off quickly without much exposition in getting to its insane plot that tries far too hard to retcon and fill in the unnecessary backstories of the eponymous characters spun-off from the original series of street racing turned ensemble heist films.

Some of the dialogue and sequences aimed at fleshing out our anti-heroes gets painfully delivered in between an overabundance of equally ridiculous (sometimes imaginative) action setpieces. So much of H&S seems recycled from much better Mission: Impossible films (of which Kirby and Pearce are/were a part of) including the virus premise from M:I-2 and a few stunts lifted from Ghost Protocol and Fallout.

Dwayne Johnson Jason Statham Idris Elba David Leitch | Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw

What started as a series of mostly standalone films about the Los Angeles/Miami/Tokyo street racing scenes, ground-level criminal elements, and Point Break undercover cop bromance mixed with themes of found families has morphed into an all-out action assault becoming a parody of the James Bond and other action franchises it initially co-opted. Instead, the spin-off becomes a weird sort of dual comedic vanity project about estranged family members including an extended detour to elaborately explore Johnson/Hobb's proud Samoan ancestral heritage.

Hobbs & Shaw just feels like it's missing a few things to keep it together and has far too much of everything else. Most of the other mainline Fast & Furious films felt like they earned or justified their more ludicrous elements by doing the work of waiting after four, five, six, or even seven entries before really going for it.

It's also entirely possible Johnson, Statham, and company are also too good at conventional acting to fit the melodramatic aesthetic of the previous films' sort of odd mid-2000s era cast of misfits if that makes any sense at all.

Whatever it is, Johnson and Statham and Hobbs & Shaw run out of gas (despite the overflowing homoerotic overtones) and hits a dead end despite a lot of the usual fun, silly comedy, and talent of its leads. Without Kirby, the whole thing wouldn't work as much as it does. Never mind the shoehorned cameos, awkward globetrotting elements, and extremely clunky franchise-building near the end—there are at least three totally unnecessary post-credits scenes by my count.

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