Thursday, August 1, 2019

Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw

The Fast & Furious franchise has produced a series of films over the past two decades that range from fairly okay (Fast Five and Tokyo Drift) to largely forgettable (see everything else). Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw may not have a lot going for it but it does have Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and Jason Statham who take their bickering to the next level when forced to work together on a joint CIA and MI6 assignment (despite neither one working for either agency).

The plot steals more than a little from M:I-2 when an agent (Vanessa Kirby) injects a deadly virus into herself rather than let it fall into the hands of terrorists. Hobbs is tapped to find the agent, who our suped-up super-villain (Idris Elba) and his super-secret villainous organization have framed for the theft and deaths of her team. Ryan Reynolds gets a fun, if largely unnecessary, cameo to bring the hero onboard. Shaw's motivations are far more personal.

The film offers plenty of chase sequences but far less muscle cars and heists than the usual Fast & Furious flick. In fact, other the the forced family theme shoved down the audience's throat at every turn, Hobbs & Shaw feels like a rather purposeful departure from the franchise which spawned it.

While I have no great love for the franchise, and certainly don't begrudge screenwriters Chris Morgan and Drew Pearce taking the franchise in an entirely new direction, the plot does feel more than a little half-assed. Let's start with Elba as the film's villain, an enhanced kinda-sorta cyborg solider (wrapped in plenty of plot armor), leading the team to bring in the girl but really only the middle man for the unseen mastermind behind the curtain whose identity isn't revealed. The organization itself is problematic as well which comes off as something akin to a conspiracy nut's wet dream but has only has enough foresight to arm and modify a single soldier to be a real threat to our heroes. There's also a series of cheap tricks built into the plot involving enforced countdowns (not one, but two) concerning the virus our plague carrier is now carrying within her body. And let's not forget the family dynamic as our heroes on the run are forced to go into hiding (not that it takes long for them to be found) by having Hobbs make peace with his own dysfunctional family he hasn't seen in decades.

When the film focuses on the competitive back-and-forth nature between Hobbs and Shaw it provides its best moments. While teased at one point, The Rock and Kirby romance is sadly underdeveloped. It's when the plot rears its ugly head that the film gets into some serious trouble (even if it does provide the kind of ridiculous action sequences the franchise is known for). Bottom line, if you are a big fan of the franchise you will likely enjoy the latest entry. If you find the previous films marginally enjoyable at best, you may want to wait for Netflix.

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