Review: Hobbs & Shaw

 

Frenemy LE agents Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and Shaw (Jason Statham) reluctantly team up to clash with a cybernetically-enhanced criminal (Idris Elba) who is looking to take back the deadly super-virus that was stolen by Shaw’s sister and fellow MI6 agent Hattie (Vanessa Kirby). Hattie has actually injected herself with the virus (bold move to say the least), so Hobbs and Shaw must seek a cure for the virus as well for Hattie, whilst also stopping humankind from being exposed to it once the virus becomes active. Eddie Marsan plays the scientist who created the virus, Dame Helen Mirren is Mrs. Shaw, Cliff Curtis and Roman Reigns play Shaw’s family in Samoa, and we get comedic cameos by Kevin Hart (almost entirely ripping off Joe Pesci in the “Lethal Weapon” sequels) as an over-eager Federal Marshall, and Ryan Reynolds (as Hobbs’ also over-eager CIA superior).

 

I only started take even the most remote interest in the “Fast and the Furious” franchise once Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson turned up and turned it from a “Point Break” rip-off into a more epic-scale Bond/Mission: Impossible-like franchise. So you’d think this 2019 spin-off with Johnson and “Fast and Furious” alum Jason Statham from director David Leitch would be right up my alley. Add to that, Leitch’s previous work on the highly enjoyable “John Wick” (he was co-director of the first one), and I was set to have a good time here. That good time only arrived after it was too damn late, I’m afraid. As preposterous as the “Fast and the Furious” films could be, this one’s a little too ridiculous even for me. Idris Elba gives a bad arse performance as the villain (Make him a Bond villain, not 007!), but the fact that his character is a chemically-enhanced super solider-type, is pretty indicative of why I never could quite get into this one. Even when I was enjoying something, there was always a dopey super soldier catch supplied by screenwriters Chris Morgan (“Fast and Furious 7”, the best in the franchise) and Drew Pearce (co-writer of the rock-solid “Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation”). Seriously, why are we still doing super soldiers in 2019 anyway? That was played out by the end of the 90s, surely (Mind you, some would say involving Elba in a pandemic plot was somewhat prescient. Whoops).

 

On the right side of ridiculous is all the Samoan bad arse stuff with Hobbs and his estranged family. I was a bit miffed at how little Johnson’s cousin and fellow WWE performer Roman Reigns (AKA Joe Anoa’i of the famous Anoa’i wrestling family) got to do or say in the film, and it’s clearly racially stereotyped of course. However, watching them fight with culturally appropriate weaponry against Elba and his more technologically advanced crew was stupidly entertaining stuff. That’s all in the final third of the film, though. It’s brilliant, just too late. Reigns fans will rejoice that he gets to perform a Samoan Drop as well as his patented war cry + Spear combination, but he gets nothing to say and spends most of his screen time pretending to weld stuff. Given his mediocre promo skills in WWE that strategy may not have been a bad one, perhaps. Meanwhile, Kiwi actor Cliff Curtis gets more to say and do as Hobbs’ estranged brother, and somehow the Kiwi actor seems phony playing Samoan. Still, if there was more of this in the first half of the film, it might’ve worked better on me. Aside from the stars, the only good thing like that we get from the first half is a nice chase scene featuring a motorbike and a very cool-looking McLaren. Otherwise it’s pretty mediocre and features way too much unblinking Vanessa Kirby as Statham’s sister. Seriously, she doesn’t blink once in the film. Her performance is absolutely dreadful, her stunt double bleeding obvious, and her facial muscles are seemingly inert. Apparently she has played Princess Margaret on TV and has a fairly decent number of IMDb acting credits. However, in the two films I’ve seen her in (the other being “Mission Impossible: Falllout”), she has seemed completely out of her depth beyond posing and looking photogenic. She’d be perfectly cast as bogus tech CEO Elizabeth Holmes if they ever get around to doing a biopic, however. As for our starring duo, Statham is perfectly solid, but Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson is far and away the best thing here. Whether he’s kicking arse, talking with his daughter, or eating the biggest pile of pancakes I’ve ever seen, the guy is star quality personified.

 

There was potential here for a ‘frenemy’ version of the standard buddy action flick, but the super solider plot seems more Marvel than “Fast and the Furious”. I like stupid action movies as much as the next one, but this off-shoot of the already plenty silly “Fast and Furious” franchise takes things too far even for me. Stupid action is one thing, but did the story have to be dumbski too? Elba has more than enough presence and swagger to be pitted against the title duo, but is undone by the silliness of the plot and character he plays. Watchable at best, and very, very disappointing despite a few fine performances.

 

Rating: C+

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