An Awkward, Overblown, Ice-Cold Can of Cheesy Whoop-Ass
Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson lassoes a helicopter. Jason Statham navigates a million-dollar McLaren sports car under two divergent 18-wheelers. Vanessa Kirby twirls through the air and uses her thighs to scissor-headlock adversaries with aplomb. A collapsing nuclear reactor buries Idris Elba, who walks away without a scratch.
FAST & FURIOUS PRESENTS: HOBBS & SHAW ★★ (2/5 stars)
Directed by: David Leitch
Written by: Chris Morgan, Drew Pearce
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Idris Elba, Vanessa Kirby, Helen Mirren
Running time: 135 min
If a movie has no internal logic, is it still a movie? A kinetic exercise in thrill-ride set pieces that makes coherent narrative expendable and renders basic physics irrelevant, Fast and Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw is as awkward, overblown and unwieldy as its title. Don’t expect a movie. This is franchise fodder at its most automated. It’s an item on a menu. It’s fast casual.
Some will find it perfectly watchable. Mileage may vary. Hobbs is the jacked-up, down-to-earth Angeleno supercop, a self-described “ice-cold can of whoop-ass.” Shaw is the wealthy Londoner thug who calls himself a “champagne problem.” They butt heads when they have to team up. There are muscle men in muscle cars, suave brits in tuxedos, an unreasonably indestructible cyborg, and people spouting Spy-Kids-level smart-dumb phrases like “dark web chatter,” “off the grid,” and “engage drones!” Because cool and tech.
What’s not cool and tech? A bland law firm title like Hobbs & Shaw. I can’t for the life of me remember any character names from any of the Fast and Furious movies. Yet these Hollywood knuckleheads think I’m going to remember what to call short-fuse second bananas Luke Hobbs (Johnson) and Deckard Shaw (Statham)? At least 007 was considerate enough to turn his bland moniker into a “Bond, James Bond” catchphrase.
Whatever. Sweet & Sour Presents: Calvin & Hobbs is a loosey-goosey cash-grab, a giddy ploy in cynical branding that expands the “family first” ethos of the gearhead-centric Fast and Furious universe. Everyone’s got an estranged sibling, or a tough-as-nails sentimental mom, or even a clingy partner thirsty for male-bonding. Ryan Reynolds pops in as a CIA agent for some homocurious banter with the Rock. His name is Locke and they used to be droll partners. Get it? Locke and Hobbs? Amiright? Poli-Sci grad students, make some noise!
Because smart people like big boom-boom movies, too, the Rock throws red meat to audience Poindexters with a Nietzsche reference. The Rock also says, “What in the fresh turkey hill are we dealing with?” So there’s that.
Wet & Wild Presents: Kate & Allie has the requisite burn-session banter that you’ll wish was just a little bit funnier. Shaw calls Hobbs “She-Hulk.” Hobbs complains about Shaw’s “prepubescent Harry Potter voice” and then makes a yo-mama crack. Oh damn, these guys are good.
But what really galls about Hot & Spicy Presents: Crockett & Tubbs is the flippant way in which it treats its own MacGuffin. Everyone is trying to get their hands on a supervirus codenamed “Snowflake” that’s a programmable disease, whatever that is. We’re told that it liquefies internal organs and will cause global annihilation within a week. In order to keep it safe, Deckard’s sister, superspy Hattie Shaw (Vanessa Kirby), injected capsules containing the designer plague into her palm (don’t ask, yes, it’s dumb). And now she needs to get them out before the time-release capsules kill her and the rest of the world.
The company that developed Snowflake, shady biotech firm ETEON, wants it back. Which is strange, because they made it and presumably have the recipe to make more. And the top-secret guy who invented it for them, two-time Nobel Prize winner Professor Andreiko (Eddie Marsan), is just strolling around the streets of London. No matter. It’s much easier to retrieve it by sending out their “Black Superman” flesh-machine hybrid Brixton Lore (Elba) to track down Hattie. Brixton was a rogue MI6 agent left for dead after Shaw shot him, but ETEON brought him back to life as computer-aided, tech-enhanced Terminator, a “tier-one assassin” with a remote-controlled Triumph motorcycle that auto-rides to his side at a moment’s notice.
By the end, Hattie is literally running around with a capsule-extracting device tied to her back while she attacks ETEON forces with a Samoan hatchet. Girlfriend’s got an organ-melting disease in her bloodstream and she’s treating it like an afterthought? Respect the MacGuffin!
Former stuntman David Lietch directed Bartles & Jaymes Presents: Turner & Hooch with a healthy sense of humor about spectacle movies that seems to have soured into a jaded disregard for suspense, character development, and realistic plotting. The action scenes, though, are actually pretty fun. Lots of machine guns. Hella punching. A flame-thrower. Just don’t think too much about a car mechanic using a 3D printer to fix a custom-built piece of high-tech lab equipment that he’s never seen before. Or the American expat in Russia who steals from oligarchs and walks around in red lipstick and a lacy black brassiere. These are champagne problems. Just enjoy the whoop-ass.