Let’s get this out of the way at the beginning: The new action comedy ‘Hobbs & Shaw’ doesn’t have much science fiction, but there is JUST a little bit for us sci-fi geeks. Turns out that there’s a secretive and nefarious organization that has turned disgraced secret agent Brixton (Idris Elba) into a cyber-enhanced super bad guy. Oh, and there’s a “programmable DNA” bio-agent virus that kills everyone that comes into contact with it. Except, well, it’s actually aimed at “weak people” not cool, strong, and good looking folk. Or something like that.
Actually, who the heck knows. Turns out that the story behind ‘Hobbs & Shaw’ – more formally known as ‘Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw’ – can be easily summarized on a cocktail napkin, and it’s quite likely that’s exactly how the writers came up with draft 1 of the script. It’s that bad, incoherent, and rough.
But it’s also really fun and there are some terrific action set pieces that will leave you gasping and cheering for the good guys. I mean, who doesn’t like Dwayne Johnson (America Diplomatic Service agent Luke Hobbs) and Jason Statham (British paramilitary expert Deckard Shaw) anyway? To balance things out, there’s also rogue MI6 agent Hattie (Vanessa Kirby) who might be in league with Brixton or might be on Shaw’s team, but is definitely a welcome addition to the non-stop smack-talking testosterone fest.
In a lot of ways, this film is what happens when studio analysts run the numbers and conclude that what filmgoers most enjoy are crazy stunts, explosions, and fast-paced action. All that insipid and confusing dialog just delays the next stunt sequence and therefore should be minimized. You can imagine a Clockwork Orange-esque laboratory with victims tied to biomonitor chairs, being forced to watch ‘Mission: Impossible III,’ ‘Fast & Furious: Tokyo Drift,’ Sucker Punch and other bad action films as the scientists skulk about and mutter “data. so much beautiful data” to each other.
In a tired action film trope, it turns out that the shadowy organization that has created cyber-enhanced Brixton (think Schwarzenegger from the original ‘Terminator’) wants to rid the world of weak people and evolve humans – with a little bit of patented cybertech – into proto-humans. Pretty sure that was almost exactly the storyline of the 007 film ‘Moonraker,’ among others, and it’s no more believable here either. It does, however, get the story revved up and serve as a basic existential threat that forces alpha males Hobbs and Shaw to figure out how to work together. There’s lots of amusing bro-banter throughout, and if you’re familiar with the ‘Fast & Furious’ franchise, it’s no surprise that each is also wrestling with family history and family loyalty.
Hobbs, we learn, bailed on his Samoan family decades ago. His daughter’s attempt at creating a family tree has nothing other than her and her Dad (why no questions about Mom and her family? Why didn’t she write down her Mom’s name on the family tree?). Fortunately, the climactic scene ends up in
Kauai, Hawaii, oops, sorry, in Samoa, (tho it’s clearly Kauai for anyone who’s ever been to that island) which gives Hobbs a chance to resolve things with his “uso” (brother) Jonah (Cliff Curtis). Shaw, meanwhile, keeps explaining to his incarcerated mother Queenie (a delightful cameo by Helen Mirren, who is clearly having a lot of fun with the role) why he and his sister parted ways years earlier. Will Deckard have a chance to resolve things with sis and have a happy family reunion in the prison visiting room at the end of the movie? Do you need to ask?
And so it’s really the action sequences that make this film rock, and they’re pretty terrific. From an initial gunfight in a warehouse to a Maclaren vs. quasi-Transformers motorcycle chase through downtown London, car chases with lots of requisite explosions through an (abandoned?) nuclear power plant, trucks crashing through, well, everything, and much more. Surprisingly, the final action sequence in Samoa plays as the most ‘Fast & Furious’ of all the set pieces and consequently felt like a let down compared to the earlier stunt sequences.
Like many tentpole films nowadays, ‘Hobbs & Shaw’ features a great soundtrack with lots of hip-hop and rap with big, thumping beats to punctuate the action sequences. Formula? Yes. But it works really well and I found myself tapping my foot even as I waited for the next crazy stunt to show up on screen. Also, a word to the wise, there are a lot of mid-credit scenes in this film, so stay around until the very end. Only a half-dozen of us at the screening were savvy enough to stay and catch some of the more amusing scenes in the film.
Finally, let’s be candid. ‘Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw’ is a pretty daft film that doesn’t really make much sense, with plot holes so big you could fly a choppah through ’em. But who cares? A fantastic cast of top actors, terrific production qualities and lots of breathtaking stunts are going to be plenty enough for this film to succeed at the box office.
AS AN ACTION FILM:
AS A VEHICLE FOR AWESOME STUNTS: