Fast and the Furious Presents: Hobbs and Shaw – The Comedy of Violence (Spoiler-Free)

The Fast and the Furious franchise gives us a spin-off focused on the odd-couple of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s Hobbs and Jason Statham’s Shaw.

SUMMARY

DSS Agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne “The Actor Formerly Known as The Rock” Johnson) gets called in by his old “friend” Locke (Ryan Reynolds) to catch a virus-infected MI6 agent named Hattie Shaw (Vanessa Kirby). However, Hattie is the sister of Hobbs’s former rival, Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), who also joins the hunt. The three are soon on the run from the forces of evil organization Eteon and Shaw’s former partner Brixton Lore (Idris Freaking Elba), a literal superhuman. 

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I’m amazed that this picture doesn’t explode from awesome.

END SUMMARY

Okay, so I’m gonna have to give a little disclosure here: I started off kind of cold towards the Fast and the Furious films. I didn’t really care for the first two and I didn’t watch the others until part 6 came out, only to find out that parts 4-6 are freaking awesome. They’re basically just loose plot threads built around awesome action set pieces of continually increasing ridiculousness and cast sizes. Physics is more of a suggestion in the world of Fast and the Furious now and the main characters are more immortal than John McClane, but it’s just so fun to watch them fight a tank or jump cars between skyscrapers. The name of the game is “just don’t think about it and enjoy the show.” 

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I love how often I can re-use this image.

This movie took it a step further.  While many of the previous films had hints of self-awareness, this one knows exactly what the audience is likely there to see and plays it up perfectly. Hobbs and Shaw is basically just a slapstick comedy film where some of the gags just happen to be giant explosions and car stunts. I notice, looking over Rotten Tomatoes, that many of the people who actually get paid to review films consider this a step down from the over-the-top action entries that the franchise has produced lately. I go in the exact opposite direction and praise the series for not just trying to make this the same as the main films. I admit it’s subjective, but I honestly liked this film as much as any of the other ones. Probably more. 

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Vanessa Kirby definitely helped.

At its core, I think this movie works for the same reason that I think the John Wick films work: The comic potential of violence. Humor is often derived from giving us an outlet for something that’s uncomfortable or repulsive by giving us a distance from the subject and subverting our expectations. A person getting shot in the face is horrifying. A coyote getting blown up by a rocket is hilarious. Some people say comedy = tragedy + time; I say comedy = horror + distance. Whereas John Wick plays out killing sequences with the same sense of timing as a Buster Keaton or a Jackie Chan film (even having Buster Keaton movies playing at the beginning of the second and third films to show respect), this movie is more akin to a Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck cartoon. The rivalry between them is hilarious, but when they work together to humiliate a mutual enemy, it’s even better. 

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If you can’t see them doing “Rabbit Season/Duck Season,” you aren’t trying.

The chemistry between Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham isn’t exactly flawless, but it’s not supposed to be. They’re two very different kinds of action heroes that clash in exactly the way that their characters do: Hobbs is all the power, Shaw is all the technique. The movie plays that up as much as possible by literally presenting them side-by-side in split-screen during the opening. It’s a little cliche, but they really use it to set the tone for this film and I think it works. The odd-couple dialogue and petty pranks between them is amusing and manages to keep the mood light between the giant action set pieces. However, when they have another outlet, typically the villain, it’s even funnier, and usually happens in the middle of an action set-piece.

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Yes, the film 100% tries to play this straight. 

Idris Elba decided to bring his B+ game to this film, which is more than most actors would to a role where he unironically calls himself Black Superman. He’s so perfectly cliche that his first line in the movie is to say he’s the “Bad Guy.” It’s just so fun to watch as he does all of the things that even this franchise recognizes that normal humans can’t do, and looks amazing doing them. You can genuinely imagine that he’s someone who can easily overpower either Hobbs or Shaw, because he’s stronger than the former and his technique is better than the latter.

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He also is a special kind of crazy.

The action in the film is, even by this franchise’s standards, ridiculous. There’s a scene that I believe is exploding for a solid 7 minutes, just explosion after explosion and it’s freaking awesome.

Also, the theme is family and, while it’s a little more literal in this one than in the other Fast and the Furious movies, it still feels like it’s keeping an important part of the series.

Overall, I loved this movie. It’s dumb as hell, but it’s the right kind of dumb as hell. Also, I’m convinced Ryan Reynolds took this role just so he could make a joke about some of the stuff he does when he plays Deadpool again. 

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.

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Pokémon Detective Pikachu/Brightburn: Darker Sides of Lighter Worlds, or the Power of the Proof of Concept (Spoiler-Free)

I saw two movies and I noticed a common element to both of them: They both were only okay films, but they definitely served as evidence that a better film of that type could be made.

SUMMARY

13 years ago, Elizabeth Banks found a spaceship containing a small Pikachu named Ryan Reynolds. Finding that the Pikachu has amnesia, she and her husband who didn’t end up marrying Pam on The Office try to raise him and find his partner. The Pikachu grows up to become a sociopathic detective, but not the Beledirt Dumbershoot kind. He proceeds to solve crimes and kill people brutally until something something magic of friendship and genocide. Also, the kid from Jurassic World 2: Let’s F*ck this Franchise is in it.

OKAY, REAL SUMMARIES

POKEMON DETECTIVE PIKACHU

Tim Goodman (Justice Smith) is an insurance agent in the Pokémon Universe. He finds out that his estranged detective father has recently been killed and comes to Ryme City to collect his stuff. Ryme City is a unique place in the Pokémon world, as Pokémon battles are illegal there and Pokémon live as equals. At his father’s apartment, Tim finds a Pikachu (Ryan Reynolds) wearing a deerstalker (the Sherlock Holmes hat) who can talk, but only to Tim. He reveals that he has lost his memory but knows that Tim’s father isn’t dead, so the pair set out to unravel the mystery of what happened to him. Also, Mewtwo (Rina Hoshino and Kotaro Watanabe) is in the movie and is basically a demi-god.

BRIGHTBURN

In 2006, Tori and Kyle Breyer (Elizabeth Banks and David Denman) see a spaceship fall from the sky containing a baby boy. They adopt him and name him Brandon (Jackson A. Dunn). When the boy starts to hit puberty, he discovers that he has more than just new hair growing somewhere, he has superpowers. However, he also has some serious mental issues which quickly drive him to do bad things using his abilities… bad things like murder because he’s freaking Superman, so you’re not gonna stop him. Tori tries to find the good in him and convince him to change before he ends up destroying the world.

END SUMMARIES

On the surface, both of these films would seem to have nothing in common. However, both of them represent an important part of any industry: A proof of concept. Both of them are attempts to demonstrate the viability of a type of film, which is to say, a dark take on a typically lighthearted story. Pokémon Detective Pikachu, aside from having more teenage and adult humor coming from Ryan Reynolds’s Pikachu, also features a more realistic take on a world built around unbelievably powerful monsters that are constantly being imprisoned and pitted against one another. Brightburn, while it failed on some levels, showed us the idea of doing a horror film where the monster is just a perversion of a beloved figure (and if anyone says “isn’t that just an evil clown movie,” no, clowns are always evil).

Now, both of these films actually suffered from the same major flaw: They didn’t go far enough. I give credit that they did start to show us a Pokémon movie dealing with the actual ramifications of having unbelievably powerful creatures that we use for common purposes (Machamp can push a mountain and is seen directing traffic. Vanillish can reduce temperatures to near absolute zero and is working as an air conditioner. Squirtles are seen breathing water as firefighters. Hypersonic bird pokemon deliver mail), but they went out of their way to avoid most of the dangerous parts of that symbiosis (like when you tread on a Growlithe’s paw and it melts your face). The film has to obey the kid-friendly rules of “Pokémon are always kind and loving,” unless the plot demands otherwise, like Mewtwo. Hell, Mewtwo points out that humans routinely abuse, battle, and experiment on Pokémon, but at the end changes his mind because plot. If you’re going to dangle those threads, you’ve got to follow up on them! Give us the darkness and then give us the hopeful ending despite it! Go big or go home! Still, this film did at least give us a taste of that and it gives me hope that someone may take it further in the future.

Brightburn actually makes a slightly different error, but still part of the same flaw. In the film, Brandon Breyer is not evil because power corrupts and he’s f*cking Superman, but instead because nonspecific alien voices tell him to be evil. Sadly, that kind of removes some of the fun from the concept for me. Superman has always had a lot of great horror potential because basically none of us would be able to resist the temptation he faces every day. He has the ability to destroy almost anything if he really went all out, but he always puts himself at risk in order to minimize the damage to his opponents. Hell, in the animated Justice League, he gives a very angry speech to Darkseid explaining that he lives in a “world of cardboard.” When you can benchpress a star and melt someone’s head by looking at it too hard, you probably start questioning why you’re putting up with that asshole ranting on the radio, let alone why you’re intentionally avoiding killing the supervillain that’s attacking you. So, it’s really pretty easy to consider why Superman would become evil just from asking the question “why the hell not?” Instead, Brightburn just says “oh, alien possession monster stuff grrr.” It removes the actual depth of analyzing how easy it is to be evil when you have immunity from everything. But still, despite that, it manages to actually drive home some of what would be truly horrifying about an evil Superman: He’s always just toying with you. At any point, if he wanted you to be,  you’d be dead before you could do anything about it. You’re not an ant to him, because an ant could bite. You’re a slug and he’s holding all the salt in the world. It’s not quite cosmic horror, because he still at least acknowledges you before killing you, but it’s damned close to the realization that all of human endeavor means nothing in the face of a being who can destroy the world with one hand.

Both of these films got a lot of stuff right, but also failed because they didn’t quite push the envelope enough. Still, they’re both fun and they both establish that there is a much better version of them waiting out there to be shot.

Deadpool 2: It’s a Good Day to Live Free or Deadpool Harder with a Vengeance (Spoiler-Free)

SpoilerFree

Guess who’s back. Back again? Deadpool’s back. Tell a friend.

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There, I wrote the marketing for Deadpool 3. Or 5. The movie’s going to be the highest-grossing comedy sequel by the end of the year, so I think it’s fair to say that, despite Ryan Reynolds’s statements to the contrary, this series is going to keep going until the sun burns out or the money dries up. And, honestly, maybe it won’t be bad if it does, because this series does, potentially, have the kind of set-up to subvert all the usual signs of sequel decline. This movie didn’t quite do that, but the best scenes in it were born out of trying to, and that’s promising.

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Some attempts don’t quite go as well.

So, this movie isn’t quite as good as the original, but, let’s be honest, that’s a really high bar to overcome. Deadpool was an amazing film and had some elements that really weren’t in films before in that exact method of expression. Films and Television have been breaking the fourth wall for years, but the way Deadpool does it is pretty unique. He’s not just interacting with the audience, he’s interacting with the film-making process, with Hollywood productions, and with viewer expectations. It’s basically a meta-smorgasbord, surrounded by some hilarious jokes and jam-packed with references and awesome action scenes. Also nudity.

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Also Feminism?

This movie continues all of that, but, like all sequels, needed to really push it further or subvert it in this movie to feel new again. Unlike most sequels, though, this movie’s aware of that and either mocks it or calls Hollywood out for it. When it does this correctly, this movie is as funny as any film. When it doesn’t do it right, it just comes off as a typical sequel, but since it’s a sequel to Deadpool, that’s still pretty great.

The premise of the movie is that Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) ends up caring for a mutant kid named Russell (Julian Dennison) who is being hunted by the time-traveling mutant Cable (Josh “Marvel gives me a busload of money” Brolin). Since Cable is pretty much a one-man wrecking crew, Deadpool forms a crack team of Marvel properties (and one regular guy named Peter, because why the hell not?) which he names “X-Force,” because X-Men is sexist and Marvel already had the trademark. There are about 6 of them, but the only one that matters is Domino (Zazie “My name is almost as awesome as I am” Beetz), a mercenary whose power is “Being Really Really Really Lucky.” Her scenes are amazing, both because she keeps up with Deadpool’s comedy through her own disaffected delivery of sarcastic retorts and because she kicks an amount of ass which is measured in “metric f*ckton.”

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What’s really ballsy about the movie is that, though he’s the one Deadpool is opposing, Cable really isn’t the “villain.” We find out his (pretty intentionally generic) motivation, and from that point, he isn’t even really an antihero. Honestly, in some movies, he’d be the hero. The movie does have characters who are irredeemably bad, but they’re relatively minor. Most of the characters that are “antagonists” are just people who have justifiable reasons for what they’re doing, even the bad things. For a superhero film, which typically has to frame the bad guy as being an overblown force of nastiness or someone who is just naturally prone to evil, this is a pretty heavy subversion.

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As opposed to “evil because… evil?”

Another surprising thing is how often the movie actually stops mocking something for a few minutes and actually does a sincere scene of real emotional value. It gives those moments even more of an impact because they’re contrasted with the other times in the movie where they ridicule those same scenes. If you’d told me I might actually have a moment of emotional connection in the sequel to Deadpool, I’d have never believed it, since the closest the first movie really had was the montage of his relationship up until he leaves. Granted, the whole cancer scene did hit me where I live, but that’s personal.

Now, there are some downsides to the movie. First, there is definitely a pacing problem in the movie. There are entire scenes where I just had to ask “why wasn’t this cut” because they were not extremely funny, emotional, or plot-related. Now, the movie had several other scenes that felt like they were supposed to be plot-building or character introduction, only for the film to hilariously destroy the relevance of the scene later. Those scenes worked fine, because they’re part of the movie’s subversive humor, but that really makes the ones that aren’t seem even slower and more pointless. Still, there aren’t that many, and the jokes within the scenes are still funny. Second, when you’re shooting jokes and references at the audience at the speed that this movie does, not all of them land. At one point, Deadpool himself calls part of the film “lazy writing,” and it’s funny, but also the obvious joke, because other shows and movies have made the same statement about time-travel movies. It doesn’t matter much, though, because for any joke that doesn’t land, another one comes in 15 seconds. At other points, you might miss one because you’re still laughing at the last 3, too.

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Unsurprising when you’re willing to throw this many references in a teaser.

And the ending. Oh, my god, the ending. I’m not sure exactly what the Deadpool canon is, but the way they end this film is so brilliant, they could start the next movie in an entirely different universe and it would make sense, while still being among the funniest scenes in the entire film.

Overall, if you liked the first one, see this film.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.