Confession No. 1: I am not a fan of the Fast and Furious franchise. I know there are a slew of movies — nine or 10 at last count — that fall under the banner of F&F, but I have not watched … well, any of them. Virtually everything about these movies turns me off, at least, as far as I can tell from the marketing materials. I have been unable to find one reason to watch a single entry in the series. I’d rather watch James Bond or Mission: Impossible.
Therefore it is unreasonable and wholly unexpected that I would sit through Fast and Furious Presents: Hobbs and Shaw, which apparently utilizes characters and at least certain background scenarios from the original flagship series. Call it a guilty pleasure: I really, really enjoyed Hobbs and Shaw, even though it is ridiculous as all get-out.
But, of course it is. There is nothing about Hobbs and Shaw that demands to be taken seriously. This is exactly the kind of movie you turn off your brain for, and it plays so much better if you do just that. I could take or leave most movies of its ilk, and so can you, probably, but if you’re looking for a fun way to murder a couple of hours, you could do a lot worse than this cheerfully silly action spectacle.
Emphasis on cheerful and silly. The movie is headlined by two lunkheads of enduring box office appeal: The Rock (AKA Dwayne Johnson) and Jason Statham, who, as far as I can understand, occupy the same roles in the F&F series. At least, they were introduced in those movies, and their initial relationship established there. To this I say: who cares. It is immaterial to one’s enjoyment of Hobbs and Shaw. I don’t care what these two characters got up to in the main series; I enjoyed them in this one, and that is enough. In fact, if they want to make a sequel to this film, involving these same characters in yet another ridiculous international adventure, I’m for buying the DVD.
Johnson plays Hobbs, who is nothing more than a fantasy version of The Rock himself, and Statham plays, well, the other guy, who likewise is just a fantasy version of Statham. The actors themselves have long-established personas, and this movie lets them bounce off each other. It was directed by David Leitch, who also directed or co-directed, if you will, one of the John Wick movies, as well as Deadpool 2 and, I think, Atomic Blonde. I liked all three of those, and Hobbs and Shaw is another romp in the same toybox.
As Martin Scorsese would say, this ain’t cinema, at least, not in the same sense of Bergman or Welles or Fellini, but as a genre film, Hobbs and Shaw is a solid entry. It’s got a lot of laughs, most of them stemming from Statham and Johnson ragging each other out with colorful profanity, and the action is entertaining enough. I particularly liked the supporting cast, including Idris Elba as a technologically-enhanced bad guy, and Vanessa Kirby as a more-than-capable femme fatale loaded with another of those world-threatening super-viruses. They are both lots of fun.
A special word about Elba: He deserves to be the next Bond, and by all rights, he should be. He’s got the physical capabilities as well as the British accent, the fashion sense, and the talent for a well-executed bon mot. He’s terrific here as an intelligent bad ass, and in fact, if they’d swapped out Statham with Elba, they would probably have ended up with a better movie. Just having Elba around to cut to — after we’ve reached the saturation point with, say, The Rock’s witticisms — kicks the movie up a notch.
What can I say? I liked it. Statham and Johnson have an unforced chemistry that drives the entire movie; I could watch them do this stuff probably a hell of a lot longer than I could watch certain Marvel characters do their thing. Yes, this is corporate filmmaking, out for a buck, based on what I can only assume is a lazily-written franchise, but there’s no law against enjoying this kind of crap. In fact, I’ll be plugging it in again over the holidays.