J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Friday, August 02, 2019

Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw


Is there a weirder term getting bandied about by the agenda-driven media than “toxic masculinity?” What’s so bad about men being manly? (It’s a rhetorical question.) That is why the world needs some testosterone-driven blockbusters every so often. If you find masculinity toxic than head to your “safe space” when The Rock, Jason Statham, and Idris Elba crash cars and jaw at each other in David Leitch’s Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw, which opens today around the world.

What’s this film about? It’s about two hours and fifteen minutes. What more were you wondering about? Luke Hobbs is a Los Angeles G-Man. Deckard Shaw is a UK spy turned freelancer. They have worked together before, but they were never chummy. Much to their mutual consternation, the CIA has recruited them both to work as a team tracking down a misplaced mega-virus.

The case will be personal for Shaw, because his sister, MI6 agent Hattie Shaw was framed for the theft of the “Snowflake” virus and the murder of the rest of her recovery team. The real villain is Brixton Lore, whom Shaw also has some history with. The last time he saw Lore, he shot him once in the head and twice in the heart, but somehow, a shadowy eugenics organization managed to save the turncoat agent. Thanks to their enhancements and programming, Lore is now a bionic super-powered cyborg-hybrid.

Blah, blah, blah, whatever. The plot here is just an excuse for Hobbs and Shaw to talk smack to each other and engage in some large-scale smack-downs. Everything is big here, particularly the action sequences. Frankly, the early F&F movies seem downright quaint and intimate by comparison. Remember, it all started with Paul Walker’s character going undercover to bust a crew hijacking truckloads of consumer electronics. From there, we somehow reached the Rock fighting armored villains as he freefalls off a London skyscraper.

Of course, this all plays to the strengths of The Rock. He really has massive screen charisma, which easily shines through all the explosions and wildly over-the-top stunts. He also develops some solid comic timing trading mother insults with Jason Statham. Taking on the squintier, flintier, Eastwood-esque role, Statham manages to be cool and keep his head above all the surrounding madness as the more grounded Shaw. As an added bonus, Vanessa Kirby shows off some impressive action chops of her own, as Hattie Shaw.

As a bad guy demanding imposing physicality and neurotic angst, Lore is definitely dead solid in Elba’s wheelhouse, sort of like the Luther of supervillains. As an added bonus, Dame Helen Mirren clearly enjoys playing Ma Shaw, who is definitely her grown children’s mother. F&F: H&S also boasts two uncredited big-name cameos. One is pretty embarrassing, while the other is take-no-prisoners funny. Fortunately, the latter gets more screen time, including a curtain call during the closing credits.

Instead of Vin Diesel’s brothers-from-different-mothers “family” talk of the other Furious films, Hobbs & Shaw are all about traditional family values—and saving the world. It isn’t phony. In fact, The Rock has an affinity playing action heroes who are also engaged parents (as in the somewhat under-appreciated Skyscraper). The formula still works here, but it would have been even more effective if the bedlam were a little more grounded. Recommended for fans of the stars and the franchise, Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw opens today (8/2), just about everywhere, including the AMC Empire in Midtown.

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