Remember when films used to get mocked or ignored by the time the sequels exceeded three? When the poster read “four” or “five” the franchise was well and truly dead. These days however, thanks to a convergence of foolish fans and money-hungry studio executives, we have film franchises which have stretched their plots and characters so much that they lack any kind of substance. The Fast And The Furious should have ended with the tragic death of Paul Walker but somehow Hollywood has found a way of dragging out this series whilst keeping it profitable. It seems to me that every franchise wants to be Marvel; from Star Wars to The Fast And The Furious, we have umpteen sequels and spin-offs just because filmmakers are unimaginative and the public can’t seem to let go of the past. The Fast & Furious movies may have captured the noughties‘ zeitgeist of car modification and street racing (albeit in a tacky and gaudy way) but they are now no longer about vehicles and more about improbable situations for old-arsed characters.
With the 9th Fast And Furious currently being made, today we have some kind of palette cleanser in the form of a spin-off titled Hobbs & Shaw. Dwayne Johnson plays Luke Hobbs and Jason Statham plays Deckard Shaw and if you’ve been subjected to the incessant trailers which preceded every film shown at the cinema this summer, you’ll know all their crappy one-liners such as “I’m what you call an ice-cold can of whoop ass” and “I’m what you call a champagne problem”. With the marketing overkill that led up to this film’s release, the audience has now seen all the best action sequences and heard all the worst lines and yet somehow there’s 132 more minutes to see, apparently.
Alongside The Rock and Statham, Idris Elba plays the villain Brixton (because what else would a black Londoner be called? What geniuses these writers must be). Helen Mirren plays Shaw’s mother and Vanessa Kirby plays Shaw’s sister Hattie, an MI6 agent. There’s also some cameos by Ryan Reynolds and Kevin Hart and when they appear on screen (along with Rob Delaney) you can play a game called “name that film they know each other from” to see Hollywood networking at play.
The plot of Hobbs & Shaw is somewhat ridiculous but that’s mainly due to the tone of the film. The premise is that a virus has been injected into a host (Hattie) and two trackers (Hobbs and Shaw) must find a scientist in order to extract and neutralise it before a cybernetically implanted terrorist (Brixton) beats them to it and commits genocide. That doesn’t sound too far-fetched (maybe the cybernetics could have been removed) but thanks to the over-the-top action and shite banter, the overall feeling is boredom and disappointment rather than thrills and peril.
The director David Leitch is no action maestro, he’s no John McTiernan or James Cameron for instance. Leitch brought us Atomic Blonde and Deadpool 2 which are in the “meh” section of the action genre. Much of the action in this film is CGI complete with that trademark blurred edge around the actors and unbelievable physics (it doesn’t look as bad as Angel Has Fallen but it’s up there). Since the premise is in the realms of contrived and unrealistic, the computer-generated action only adds to the implausible goings on. There’s a mention of The Terminator but the plot here is much less straight-forward; there’s techno-terrorism, a “programmable virus”, superhuman operatives, spies, siblings, relatives, old enemies, opposing personalities but none of these elements make us the viewer care or root for any of the characters. The film also sports one of the shittiest soundtracks in recent years, it’s all over the place, going from Dad-Rap to Dad-Rock in the space of a few minutes. There’s electric guitar playing during the “action” scenes along with some of the corniest Hip-Pop heard on the big screen since The Intruder.
Hobbs & Shaw aside from being a crap-actioner, is also a wannabe comedy but most of the lines are unamusing. Even seasoned comedians Hart and Reynolds can’t make this film’s script sound amusing. There’s even a post-credit scene (they really wish they were Marvel don’t they?) that isn’t funny and pointless to boot.
After quarreling with each other throughout the entire film, Hobbs and Shaw at the end realise that “we have to work as a team” like some kind of eighties B-movie cliché. The movie also becomes some sort of Samoan Braveheart at the end but aside from a bit of inclusivity and acknowledgement of minority culture, those scenes only add to the nonsensical plot. Speaking of nonsensical, there’s a plot point at the start of the film where Hattie has to hide in a place where there’s no cameras, so where does she go? Into The Savoy in London, a luxury hotel in one of the most CCTV-covered cities in the world! Add to the fact that Hobbs’ mother looks around 5 years older than him and you’ll realise that the whole movie is riddled with idiocy.
The other thing that bothered me is that Hattie Shaw is referred to as beautiful throughout the movie. She’s referred to as the “hot spy lady”, the question “are all spies that pretty?” is asked, and Hobbs says to Shaw that she’s “too good-looking to be your sister”. It’s sad that the only female on screen (who is just as capable of kicking arse as the men) is objectified, albeit in a diluted way. The fact that Shaw’s sister looks like a horse crossed with a rat makes you wonder if the script was written before the role was cast.
Whilst on the topic of sexism, there’s also the “this isn’t 1955 any more” comment from The Rock but remember that in 2015, a full 60 years after that “backward” time, Furious 7 was focussing on scantily-clad women hosing and sponging each other down. So let’s not get on our high horse and forget that this is the same franchise that used a low-angle, thong-shot for the starter flag-wavers. This is yet another occasion that Hollywood fails miserably at being progressive. If a film is built on sexism or the objectifying of women, just continue with it (James …ahem… Bond). Why change the spirit of a movie in order to superficially “keep up with the times”?
Hobbs & Shaw, despite being part of the “summer of shite sequels”, is looking like another overrated movie thanks to moronic critics. This flick is currently being overvalued because of what I like to call the “popcorn excuse” – basically a film’s shortcomings can be completely ignored as long as you label it “fun”. But surely something that is “brainless” and “silly” still has to be entertaining? If this film is supposed to be an action comedy, it should be awesome and humourous but Hobbs & Shaw isn’t. This movie isn’t “joyous” and it isn’t a “joyride” as mainstream critics are calling it (or whatever other hackneyed descriptions they’re using). This film wishes it was on-par with other classic movies but it fails in every department. The tech in Hobbs & Shaw isn’t The Dark Knight, the chase scenes aren’t Ronin, the breaking into a high-security factory isn’t Mission: Impossible, and the humour isn’t Midnight Run. Even though the script was probably conceived to imitate movies like these, the end result is lacklustre, it’s average at best. Hobbs & Shaw is basically xXx meets G.I. Joe: corny crap that even a 10 year-old wouldn’t be impressed with.
Not That Fast, Not That Furious.