Thursday, August 1, 2019

Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw - Review

The Fast and the Furious franchise increasingly ups the ante from entry to entry, revving its metaphorical engine louder and louder in hopes of exciting an audience that yearns for more. Since a rather lowly beginning back in 2001 and the few lackluster entries that followed, the former street racing series has been a decent to great franchise, both critically and financially, due in large part to the introduction of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in Fast Five. Eight years later, and a spat with the other franchise front man, and Johnson finally gets a spin-off film.

Ever since hulking lawman Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), a loyal agent of America's Diplomatic Security Service, and lawless outcast Shaw (Jason Statham), a former British military elite operative, first faced off years ago, the duo have swapped smack talk and body blows as they’ve tried to take each other down. But when cyber-genetically enhanced anarchist Brixton (Idris Elba) gains control of an insidious bio-threat that could alter humanity forever — and bests a brilliant and fearless rogue MI6 agent (Vanessa Kirby), who just happens to be Shaw’s sister — these two sworn enemies will have to partner up to bring down the only guy who might be badder than themselves.

Let’s be completely honest here, no one expects a revolutionary story from an action film featuring Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham. They’re both here because of their ability to spew one liners, deliver insults and sell a convincing tough guy demeanor, and on that account, Hobbs & Shaw excels in its resemblance to 90s action movies that have come before. It manages to toe the line of self-awareness and cheesiness incredibly, yet still be completely outlandish. Outlandish being the optimal word considering Idris Elba is playing a straight up super powered villain in this entry.

Everybody is looking to Hobbs & Shaw for two things: charismatic performances from the leads and ridiculous action (we’ll get to that second one later). As stated before, Statham and Johnson are action pros at this point, they completely understand what film they’re in and play to that pretty well for the entirety of the film. Elba comes in as a fun villain, a rare person who understands that they’re the bad guy (even stating it at one point). But the highlight by far has to be Vanessa Kirby. The actress has started to build a solid action resume between this and Mission: Impossible - Fallout last year, but her performance here has to make one wonder when she is going to get her own bonkers action film to lead.

Unfortunately, this is where the praise for the film must end. Despite a great cast and pretty self-aware tone to the whole endeavor, Hobbs & Shaw falls short in the execution of the action. Somehow it winds up being incredibly dull, from a staging and visual perspective, despite having an action veteran in David Leitch in the director’s chair. Yes, the setups are bonkers, completely crazy scenarios on their face, but when the action starts, so does the seemingly infinite cuts that make anything on screen look like every other boring action movie to come in the past decade.

Oh, and there are two comedic cameos that are so painfully forced that it probably dropped the film a whole letter grade. It seems appropriate to tack this on to the review like these actors were to the movie.

Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw (an absolute mouthful of a title) is takes the exact appropriate tone for an action comedy, and utilizes its actors fairly well. It isn’t afraid to be a little corny or silly, nor does it have any ambition to be more than what it is, and for that the film has to be commended for resisting the self-serious nature of latter entries of the main line of films. However, the action can’t deliver anything worthwhile to make this truly stand out, so what’s left is an average film that shows some promise as potential franchise within a franchise, but can’t deliver much more than that on the first installment.

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