Hobbs and Shaw **1/2
One Liner Review:
The most comedic of the Fast and the Furious series, this spinoff doesn’t have a very good story, has a running time that is way too long, and the action is so over the top that it makes us lose interest.
This movie is not nearly as much fun as one might have hoped for. The comedy works, for the most part, but unfortunately, that’s about the only thing that works. The action is so over the top and computerized that it stops being fun somewhat early on into the movie. And the story is basically just recycled from Mission Impossible 2, (the worst film in that series,) about the weaponized virus that gets injected into a woman, so that the woman becomes the target that everyone is after. The heart of this movie is these two larger than life personalities of guys who hate each other. And the movie gets that and does everything it can to exploit it. Most of it works. The Rock and Jason Statham are both B movie actors turned A list stars. They are perfect for this series and this spinoff film. If only the movie went for practical stunts and effects the way the John Wick movies or the Mission Impossible movies do, this one would have been a hell of a lot better.
Hobbs and Shaw is an okay movie. It works in terms of comedy, but it doesn’t quite work in terms of action. That’a a shame considering that the movie got director David Leitch, a man who is quickly building up a career on big budget action films, to helm the project. Leitch broke into the industry with his partner Chad Stahelski, by making the first John Wick film. Then Stahelski went on to make the sequels while Leitch broke away, (the two of them still run a company together, but no longer co direct films,) to make Atomic Blonde, Deadpool 2, and now Hobbs and Shaw, (or as the movie itself calls it… Fast and Furious Presents: Hobbs and Shaw.) But just because Leitch is an action director who makes all mainstream movies doesn’t say anything about his actual talent. And the truth is, Leitch’s movies have not been anything special. Atomic Blonde had the best action of any of his films, but the story was lousy. Deadpool 2 was okay, but it was also easily forgettable, and nowhere near as good as the first Deadpool. And Hobbs and Shaw is Leitch’s first movie that doesn’t carry an R rating along with it. So clearly this guy is working outside of his wheel house, which is not a good thing.
Sometimes working outside of a comfort zone could be a very good thing. Especially when the other movies under ones belt have not been all that good, (all of this is not counting the first John Wick film, which is terrific, but also probably more of a Stahelski movie than a David Leitch movie.) The problem is, the further this guy gets away from John Wick, the less he relies on real, practical stunts and effects. That movie was all practical effects. No computers. Just like the Mission Impossible films. With Atomic Blonde, Leitch did that as well, (which is why it is his next best film, in terms of action.) But with Deadpool 2 and now Hobbs and Shaw, Leitch got into the superhero / mega franchise game, and that meant using computer effects. Which meant the thing that he does best, stunt choreography, (he was a stunt man and choreographer before becoming a director,) went right out the window.
So basically, Hobbs and Shaw is all computer effects. It’s all smash and grab, giant vehicles crashing into buildings, over the top and ridiculous stunts and effects. Now, one can make the argument that the entire Fast and Furious series is this kind of thing, and so why is this movie really any different. And that’s a fair point. The movies started to get good with the fifth film, (the first one to feature the Rock, who was nicknamed “franchise viagra,” right around this time.) And they were pretty much all good until the eighth and most recent movie, where our characters took on a submarine in the arctic and literally drop kicked a torpedo. So that means when the characters drove through building after building of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, flying through the air, and crash landing through glass windows, it was great. Unbelievable, but great. It was trying to take what Mission Impossible Ghost Protocol had done, (with the exact same building no less,) and up the ante. The difference, of course, was that the MI film had actually done the stunt, having Cruise hang outside the window and scale the building, for real. But nothing Hobbs and Shaw seems or feels real, and that’s a problem.
Perhaps this problem originates in the villain and sci-fi ideas behind him.This villain is Brixton, (played by Idris Elba,) and he’s part man, part machine. There are jokes about the Terminator here, and Brixton calls himself, “Black Superman.” But he’s not a cyborg or anything like that. He’s a man who just has some of his insides made of robotics. And this has apparently enhanced him to the point where he has super strength and capabilities, such as being able to detect exactly what percentages of strength and coordination someone is coming at him with, when they are attacking, (now that part feels out of a Terminator movie.)
What’s surprising is how much of this movie really does feel like we’ve seen it before. The overall plot is about a virus that can wipe out mankind, (a large portion of it anyway,) and how a female spy injects herself with the virus and therefore makes herself the target that everyone is after. I’m pretty sure Mission Impossible 2, the worst film in the entire series and only MI film that wasn’t any good, used the exact same plot with Thandie Newton. When you are lifting your plot from the worst film in a series, you know there’s a problem. It’s like Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom taking ideas from The Lost World. If you’re going to copy something, (which you shouldn’t do to being with,) at least make it something that was pretty good.
So the action doesn’t really work and the story feels incredibly familiar. But what does work here is the humor. The way that this movie really is about two guys who absolutely hate each other. We’ve all seen the buddy cop movies where the two partners can’t stand each other at the start of the film, but grow to love each other by the end, (they go all the way back to 48 Hours and Lethal Weapon.) But this movie takes that idea to the next level. For one thing, the characters don’t grow to love each other. They stay true to their hatred of each other throughout the entire movie, and that’s pretty great. They constantly put each other through pranks / tough situations, and these do include silly alias’ (the oldest joke in the game, and pretty childish, yet still kind of funny,) but build up to so much more.
The movie knows that it is about the duality of these guys and how they are very different, yet also very much alike. Early on, we get a split screen where we see them doing everything either the same, or just a little bit differently. This includes the way that each of them takes out a room full of bad guys at a different club. But when they do finally meet up, the insults fly and it is pretty hilarious. There are three great comedic scenes in this movie, and it all has to do with verbal comedy. What these guys are saying and how they are saying it. The first comes when they first meet and insult the hell out of each other. The next two both come on an airplane, more than halfway through the film. First it’s the two of them riffing on each other again, and then for the second airplane scene, an actor (who will remain unnamed,) turns around and gives us another great scene.
So the overall comedy works. A lot of it can be seen in the trailer, which is unfortunate. How great would it have been if the scene of them walking through different corridors with a window between them, and the Rock’s character Hobbs taking on just one guy while Statham’s character, Deckerd Shaw, had to take on a full room full of them, was seen in the movie for the very first time? That means everything about the scene, from the “this is my door,” dialogue before to the Hobbs yawning to show that he is bored to the way they both try to use guys lying on the floor, by banging their heads against a security access scanner, to open a door. All of it can be seen in the trailers. That’s a real shame. Because the comedy is the best thing about this movie, and most of it is right there in the trailers for us to see before ever sitting down to watch the film.
I guess the name of the game is to make the trailer look good, and this movie certainly did that. The first trailer for the film, which used the song, “Why Can’t We Be Friends,” was excellent. They got a little worse after that. But that trailer nicely exploited the overall concept here, which is that these two guys really hate each other and are forced to work together. The glue that is brining them together, in a sense, is Shaw’s sister, Hattie, (Vanessa Kirby.) And getting to her isn’t so easy. Hobbs has a fight against her which isn’t such a walk in the park. And then even when the guys are on the same side of her, it seems like keeping her is another issue, since she keeps getting kidnapped by the bad guys.
For the most part, this movies story is pretty thin. Everything about family, with Shaw being estranged from his sister, and then Hobbs being estranged from his brother, is a little too on the those with parallel storylines. The writing is definitely not good here (other than some of the insults they throw at each other, which probably came more from the actors themselves than the screenwriters.) But one thing that is pretty cool is the idea that Brexton works for a much larger organization. Like the Syndicate in the Mission Impossible films or Spectre in the Bond movies, every once in a while a series decides to make the movies about more than just a single villain, and to make it instead about an organization. This movie does that. The villain behind the villain is simply a robotic voice, and we have no idea who the voice belongs to. But we certainly want to find out. In that way, this movie leaves us wanting more. At least in terms of finding answers.