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Wednesday, July 31, 2019 02:17 pm

Hobbs & Shaw a surprisingly fun romp

 

Surprisingly, there’s more than meets the eye in Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw, the first of what’s sure to be many spin-offs from the testosterone-fueled franchise. To be sure, there are plenty of car chases and enough things blown up real good to satisfy F & F fans, but there’s a sense of fun at play that’s been missing from recent entries of the original series, as well as a timely message about the dangers of technology and how easily one’s humanity can be usurped by it.  It’s an obvious moral, to be sure, but at least it’s there as is a running gag concerning Nietzsche. Who’d-a-thunk it?

There’s a great deal of extraneous plot here, so we’re just going to cut to the chase: MI-6 agent Hattie (Vanessa Kirby) has infected herself with a dandy little bio-weapon known as C-17, a programmable virus that the nefarious organization ETEON wants to use to wipe out the dregs of humanity.  She’s done this to keep it out of the hands of Brixton (Idris Elba), the organization’s enhanced soldier who’s becoming more machine than man.  The CIA recruit freelance operatives Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and Shaw (Jason Statham) to bring Hattie in,  -- who happens to be the latter’s sister -- though keeping her out of Brixton’s clutches will be a challenge.  Much globetrotting and destruction ensues before this mission comes to an end.

Director David Leitch (Atomic Blonde, Deadpool 2) provides a sure hand in bringing the complex action sequences to the screen.  Unlike many of his contemporaries, he has no problem holding a shot for longer than a millisecond, allowing us to be able to follow the action while giving these scenes a sense of coherence and flow that’s often missing from modern action cinema.  There are many set-pieces at play here, but of particular note is a sequence in which Brixton and his cronies have kidnapped Hattie and make their escape by walking down the side of a London high-rise and the climax that features a Blackhawk helicopter tethered to four souped-up tow-trucks, intent on grounding it.  These moments are so audaciously ridiculous that you can’t help but sit back and laugh at the outlandishness of it all.  If nothing else, the film goes out of its way to entertain and manages to succeed more times than not.

Johnson and Statham show that the chemistry on display in 2017’s The Fate of the Furious was no fluke, as their banter here is sharp and funny; each seems to be encouraging the other rather than trying to upstage each other. Without question, they both have the ability to execute the most elaborate of action scenes, but their ability for comedy is important as it signals they’re not taking any of this seriously and that we shouldn’t, either.  Kirby is a major find, holding her own with the boys and making her rumored casting as Catwoman in the upcoming Batman film all the more intriguing. And not to be outdone, Elba provides a tortured villain that delivers a quip as easy as a roundhouse punch.  The door is left open for all of these characters to return and – I can’t believe I am writing this – I’m eager to see all of them do so.  

Much like the Fast and Furious movies, the importance of family is front and center here. Yet, it comes off as much more sincere because Hobbs & Shaw isn’t weighed down by Vin Diesel’s self-conscious brand of sensitive machismo.   This film is far more genuine and amusing than any of the entries in the F & F franchise and is all the better for it.  Pure action movie fun is to be had here, with tongue planted firmly in cheek, as it should be.     

Contact Chuck Koplinski at ckoplinski@usd116.org.

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