Note: There are definitely spoilers in this piece. Just letting you know.
Dir. David Leitch. Starring Dwayne ‘The Rock” Johnson, Jason Statham, Vanessa Kirby, Idris Elba. Photo Credit: Universal.
Despite the highly anticipated Sonic the Hedgehog film getting pushed back from it’s initial Valentine’s Day release, the Hollywood blockbuster machine has been relentless with cranking out the goods to herd general audiences into the cinema.
Between live action Disney remakes, a Kaya Scodelario renaissance on the horizon (go see Crawl), and Pennywise’s long-awaited return, 2019’s summer blockbuster season has been a doozy. But none of these hold a candle to perhaps thee film of the year–nay, of all time: Fast& Furious presents: Hobbs and Shaw.
Alright, ‘of all time’ may be a bit of a stretch, but Hobbs and Shaw injects some island NOS and old-fashioned fun back into the action genre, and that in itself deserves some props.
For the less inclined, Hobbs and Shaw follows breakout stars of the later F&F films, Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), as they’re forced to work together to save the world and Shaw’s sister Hattie (Vanessa Kirby) from weaponized super disease created by mysterious and extremely well-funded tech death cult cult, Eteon. Eteon sends their best soldier, Black Superman himself, Brixton (Idris Elba) after the gang in hot pursuit.
The Fast and Furious franchise has gone from being Point Break with car races and petty theft, to big Brazillian heists, to saving the world several times over; it’s like watching your local Mom & Pop bakery turn into The Avengers. Though many have criticized it for its obtuse subplots, shallow or over the top set pieces, and under-utilization of Kurt Russel throughout the entire franchise, the films don’t get enough credit for doing what it does best: embracing it for what it is. It’s a big budget action movie. Of course, it’s going to be a little dumb, and a little shallow. If you came to F&F looking for meaningful insight or three dimensional character studies, you’re not going to get it. But if you’re here for a good time and not a long time, you’re in the right place.
Hobbs and Shaw is no different; it’s a good, quippy, hyper-masculine time. The film relies on the differences between Hobbs and Shaw and the realization that they’re not so different after all; classic buddy formula. DSS Agent Luke Hobbs is the California King and loving single father, and reformed villain Deckard Shaw is the supposedly suave, brooding Brit from a successful family of thieves. They’re different people you guys! But they value family!
Both Johnson and Statham play to their strengths, and spit out insults like that factory assembly line in Modern Times, minus Charlie Chaplin losing his shit. It’s all actually pretty controlled. It isn’t tame, but you can really tell that the studio and stars had the reigns pretty tight over what gets said and shown on screen. I’m sure we’ve all heard of the controversy surrounding the two leads keeping score on how many times they want to be seen winning or losing fights. This is pretty evident in their final battle with Brixton. The lads make it a point to address that they have to work together; “I’ll take a punch, and you land one.” “And I’ll do the same, brother.” They’re BROTHERS NOW! It’s not a Fast and Furious film without it being about family.
Their relationships with their families somewhat parallel one another. Shaw’s mother pushes him to reconnect with his estranged sister, who happens to be carrying this lethal virus, and Hobbs’ daughter wonders about her roots and the rest of their family in Samoa. Hobbs also has an estranged relationship with his brother, Jonah (Cliff Curtis), after he left Samoa inadvertently betraying his family. Both relationships come out stronger than ever, not to worry, although there are a lot of loose ends and open questions the film leaves about it’s lore within the F&F Cinematic Universe. What happened to Shaw’s younger brother, Owen (Luke Evans)? Is he dead? Is he still in that hospital bed? Has his family disowned him? Is he actually Hattie and they just pulled a Terrence Howard/Don Cheadle Rhodey re-cast situation? (I do remember Shaw saying that Brixton made him kill his brother, but I assumed that referred to how Brixton used to be a brother to him and he had to put three bullets inside him.)
Speaking of Hobbs’ relationship to Samoa, I’m not a fan of how this part of his cultural heritage is represented. His entire family wear merchandise–tank tops, snapback caps, and even necklaces that say ‘Samoa’, as if we were going to forget where they are. And although that Haka sequence provided a solid callback to the last time we saw Hobbs (performing the Haka choreography with his daughter’s soccer team in Fate of the Furious), it feels a bit exploitative, and I wonder if there’s any literature out there of Johnson discussing the way his cultural identity is incorporated into this film.
Another issue this film has, much like the rest of the franchise, is their portrayal and representation of their female characters. Yes, Hattie Shaw is a capable badass, Mrs. Shaw is Hot Girl Summer personified (Helen Mirren in a prison jumpsuit using her chains as a hip hugging belt is a LOOK), and Mrs. Hobbs is a powerful matriarch; but they still act supplementary to the boys’ plans and shenanigans. Again, the film isn’t that deep, nor is it meant to be but I wanted more from our gals. And I definitely wanted more from the gang Eiza Gonzales leads.
This film is balls to the wall and not trying to be anything other than what it is: an action movie. But there’s something about it that calls for more. It’s not that it makes you want more, it feels like there was room for more pushing here and there. It was fun, but it had room to have more fun. For the sequels, and you just know Universal is going to cash in on some sequels, I want Brixton to come back ten times stronger but switch sides because Eteon betrayed him. Make it happen. The more Idris Elba, the merrier.
Some more highlights: Ryan Reynolds as Hobbs’ handler courtesy of David Leitch’s Deadpool 2 clout, Kevin Hart trying to third wheel our Bald Bois, Vanessa Kirby all throughout this film, The Mick Jagger, Italian Job and Alien references, Hobbs’ daughter, and a helicopter set-piece that harkens back to some of the original franchise’s best moments.
How Did This Get Made? have a great episode about Hobbs and Shaw featuring Nicole Byer and Adam Scott and is necessary accompaniment to your viewing experience.
All in all, if you’re looking for a good time that’ll urge you to organize a protest to raise awareness for Jason Statham’s talent a la Billy Eichner’s Nicole Kidman protest, this is the film for you. If you’re looking for The Rock to finally solidify himself as a sex symbol, this is the film for you. If you’re looking for a film with two post-credit scenes that isn’t a Marvel movie, this is the film for you. But, if you’re looking for more depth, get tickets to the London Film Festival, I’m sure you’ll find it there.
Hobbs and Shaw is still in cinemas across the UK.