Fast & Furious discovers their presents: Hobbs & Shaw (***1/2)

Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw – 2019

Director David Leitch
Screenplay Chris Morgan & Drew Pearce
Starring Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Idiris Elba, Vanessa Kirby, Helen Mirren, Eiza González

There is something enjoyable in almost every scene of Hobbs & Shaw. Its taken the heritage of its parent franchise and plucked its two most dynamic stars. The lack of a general understanding of physics, a thoroughly macho sense of humor and saving the world against a random pending doom are familiar to Vin Diesel’s clunky meatsterpieces. The plus is that we lose Diesel and the increasingly laborious Gibson. Another plus is Leitch, who’s found a groove John Wick through Deadpool 2. The biggest plus is that they have the rare nemesis who nearly outshines the charismatic leads with Elba.

The premise to the story is formula. There’s a virus, and Shaw (Statham) has another sibling in trouble at the hands of Elba’s brilliantly named Brixton Lore, a cybernetic rouge MI-6 agent (is there any other). Hobbs (Johnson) is brought in for his master ability to track people down, while Shaw is brought in of course because of sister and…I think because he kicks ass a lot.

The unthinkable happens early in the film. Brixton, who is a former buddy of Shaw, wins more than a few battles. It’s delightful in any movie featuring The Rock and Statham to see someone actually hold their own, much less dominate. What else is there in a film like this?

Well there’s jet setting, fast cars, explosions, one gratuitous ass shot and attempts at one-upmanship that we’ve seen in the trailer. There is some literal family issues and resolutions, thankfully without the traditional overuse of the word “family,” which I think is trademarked by Diesel.

Elba is charming, lethal and totally needing to be cast as the next James Bond. He’s got more intelligence than all of the other Furious bad guys combined (including Statham). His body is muscular enough you can believe he’d compete with our two heroes, but lithe enough to believe he’d do some of the impossible motorcycle stunts in the first half of the film.

Statham’s shtick is enjoyable as ever. His chemistry with his sister is worthy, despite the fact that there’s over a 21 year difference in age between the two. Flashbacks would lead us to believe there is just a few years separating the siblings. And where the hell is Owen Shaw, at least in the flashbacks? Regardless, I don’t really love Statham, but I am never bored with him and Hobbs & Shaw provides no exception.

Kirby is the lethal damsel in distress. She is capable until the end, when its time to wait to be rescued. If fridging is what happens when they kill the girl, let’s just say she’s kept in the bread box. Furious loves capable women, so long as they’re not too capable.

Johnson is great as usual as the brawn with brains role he’s come to perfect. The viewer has no problem whatsoever discerning he’s got the tools for most situations. The key is not overselling it. His touch with all characters is delicate for such a load of beef. He gives Kirby enough romance to warm her character beyond tough woman, and he’s vulnerable enough to bring a smile. If he can keep making good choices as he moves through his career, he may grow beyond Schwarzenegger, Willis and Stallone combined. If it seems like I have an undue amount of respect for him, lemme just say he has my vote when he runs for president.

The question of whether this becomes a franchise is ridiculous. It may even be bigger than F&F and that’s alright with me. Will they come back to the mother ship? Maybe for cameos. It’d be a waste to do so now, even if Johnson got along with Diesel once more.

The ludicrous nature of these films is a curve. Either you lean into it, or you try to compensate by over-explaining. Leicht just winds it out and throws in some funny cameos. It’s action with smiles between. It’s not a difficult math problem.

If you miss the buddy movies of the 80’s and 90’s, wait no more. The trope is back and it’s winning again.

(***1/2 out of *****)

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