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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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