‘I’ ON CULTURE
I admit Hobbs & Shaw, the latest movie in the Fast & Furious franchise, is a guilty pleasure. It is dumb, and the plot has more holes than aged Swiss cheese. But it works as a pretty decent B movie, if you simply want to sit back, accept a lot of unreality as more or less normal, and which several guys and a pretty woman beat the daylights out of dozens of people each.
Hattie (Vanessa Kirby) is the leader of an MI6 anti-terrorist team out to capture a horribly dangerous virus. Of course, being in a movie like this, it is one that can kill just about anyone on earth, but that doesn’t stop the bad guys. Her team gets the virus, but then nasty villain Brixton (Idris Elba) enters the fray. In case you don’t know his role, he calmly announces, “I am the bad guy” and then casually kills just about all of the well-trained team, framing Hattie for the job. He goes after her in the first of a group of great chase scenes, but loses her.
The American CIA calls on super-agent Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) to make sure the Brits do things right, and the Brits hire super-mercenary Shaw (Jason Statham) to retrieve it. Anyone who has seen recent Fast & Furious films knows the two hate each other, and they soon battle. Hobbs finds Hattie, and after a tough fight (she is a better fighter than anyone but the three major stars), he brings her in. However, Shaw comes in, and we discover, wow, just a coincidence, that Hattie is his estranged sister. We also discover that Shaw and Brixton have a history; Shaw once shot the villain and thought him dead, but that’s when the bad guy got some new, improved parts.
Brixton kidnaps Hattie, but Hobbs and Shaw get her back and they go through, what else, a rousing chase through London. But Hattie has a problem. She injected herself with the key serum, and she will die in 72 hours and, at that point, the virus becomes airborne and just about everyone else dies. That sets the trio: Hobbs, Shaw and Hattie, off to the Ukraine to get the one machine in all the world that can save her, and then after a car/motorcycle chase that essentially violates the law of gravity and probably most of the other laws of the physical universe, they escape and go to Samoa, Hobbs’ homeland where he has not been for 25 years. Again, more family problems. Eventually there is a battle for the fate of humanity. (Brixton sneers at one point, “genocide, shmenocide,” to remind you how bad he is and how dangerous he is.) Anyway, you can probably figure out how it ends.
A key focus of this film is on the family. We see the two Shaw siblings’ mother Queenie (Helen Mirren) in prison bemoaning the fact her two kids don’t talk to each other. And Hobbs has never even brought his adorable daughter Sam (Eliana Sua) to meet the rest of the family. Added to that, Shaw and Hobbs constantly put each other down, occasionally in amusing fashion. There are more insults than normal in this film. The basic idea seems to be to have the two bickering until they finally learn that alpha males work best when they really collaborate.
There are really no acting challenges in the whole thing. Johnson plays Hobbs as he does most characters, as sort of an exaggerated version of his own public persona: charming, giving and able to do plenty of butt kicking. Statham is sort of smoother, but still a rough, tough butt kicker himself. While Idris was really wasted in the film: no real acting involved, just stunts and some sneering, as well as occasional scenery chewing, he did it all well. Kirby managed to be both tough and sexy; she may very well be part of a sequel to this film. Since we never got to see the real big villain, we will probably see at least one more film.
If you like this type of film, go to it. It is a fairly pleasant brainless couple of hours. Since we are getting to the slow season, it might actually be one of the last films you see for the summer. But there might be a surprise or two.
If you are not crazy about this type of film, wait until it shows up on TV.