Monday, August 26, 2019

Hobbs and Shaw: The Perfect Summer Movie

Having never seen any of the Fast and Furious movies, my wife was wondering why I was gung-ho about seeing this film, the ninth in the franchise. The trailer. That was it. Well, that and Dawayne Johnson. And Jason Stratham. And Vanessa Kirby. And Idris Elba.

I had a preconceived notion about the type of movie this was. It was exactly what I expected, and I absolutely loved it.

The Premise

Vanessa Kirby's character, Hattie, is an MI6 agent trying to secure the Snowflake virus. Her raid goes sideways when Elba's bad guy, Brixton Lore, shows up. To prevent him from getting the virus, she injected herself, giving her, the world, and the viewers a countdown timer. She escapes and is on the run.

Enter Johnson's Hobbs and Statham's Shaw, who just happens to be Hattie's brother. They are tasked with finding her because the story in the news is that she's a traitor and she must be stopped. Hobbs and Shaw soon realize things are much worse than they thought when Hattie reveals she's the carrier.

Brixton's bad guy group wants the virus because said group wants to wipe out the weak so humanity can evolve. Considering the evolution Brixton's talking about is himself, a technologically enhanced human with machine parts in his brain and body, Hobbs and Shaw aren't likely to let him take Hattie and extract the virus (contained in microscopic vials that will burst when the countdown ends, killing her and untold millions).

All of that is the plot that serves up equal doses of interpersonal chemistry via bickering and kick-ass action sequences.

The Reason We See Hobbs and Shaw

Over-the-top action. Fun, witty banter. That's what attracted me to the film via the trailer and that's exactly what was delivered. Even from outside the franchise, I knew enough about Fast and Furious to know the action sequences were stellar. We have three giant action sequences in the new film: a car chase in London, another car chase in some abandoned factory complex in Russia, and, well, another car sequence on the island of Samoa. They are all equally breathless, but the London set piece, with its narrow streets and potential civilian casualties, was probably my favorite. The Russian one was an exercise in driving on things and places you always made your Hot Wheels car do--up a crane; through giant windows--but would never see in real life.

The Samoan one is in the trailer, but how you get there is pretty nifty. Won't spoil it here, but it's really fun to watch. As is the entire Samoan finale. I can't tell you how many movies there have been when the technologically superior enemy is met on the battlefield by the primitive good guys. You can probably name half a dozen right now in your head. Be that as it may, it still kicks ass. Always will, because of the underlying message of heart and willpower and love.

Look, the entire movie is basically in the trailer, but that didn't stop this film from being one hell of a thrill ride.

Action sequences are good, but even they can't carry an entire film. You need the down times, to catch your breath and have a bit of plot exposition. If those times don't stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the action stuff, you have a lopsided film. And despite the dichotomy in sizes of the two leads, Hobbs and Shaw is anything but lopsided.

The Real Reason Hobbs and Shaw Works

I suspect there is some back story a newbie like me missed by going into this film cold. Didn't really matter. I picked up enough along the way to figure it out. Hobbs and Shaw have met before and they don't like each other. They are like oil and water. Their styles vary just like their physiques. Johnson's Hobbs is big, brutal, and perfectly willing and able to joyfully punch things. Kirby's Hattie comments on it throughout the movie, as a kind of meta commentary on Johnson's entire vibe. Stratham is the shorter, but not less deadly fighter, fully capable of taking out bad guys, but will do so with balletic artistry. In an early, side-by-side sequence when both guys do a solo job, Stratham comments that he's a champagne problem while Johnson is an ice-cold can of whup-ass. I think you see the difference.

But it works. Hobbs and Shaw, underneath all of its intense action sequences, is really just a buddy cop movie from the 1980s. A Lethal Weapon, a Tango and Cash, and any of a half dozen you can name. The chemistry of the lead actors works so well,  you could almost do without the action stuff and you'd still have a pretty good film. Now, you're not really going to do that, but the mixture of buddy cop with action is pretty darn satisfying.

There are enough one-liners in this film that it almost come across as a roast of the two guys. I couldn't help but wonder if some of the dialogue was made up on the spot during filming. Heck, it also crossed my mind that Johnson and Stratham themselves added to their own personal pile of insults.

Vanessa Kirby more than holds he own between our two heroes. She is so far from the shrinking violet that she could lead a film like this. I first saw her in my favorite film from 2018, Mission Impossible: Fallout. In the final cut, she doesn't have a lot of action, but it makes you wonder if there were some action scenes in that film that were left out of the theatrical release. There's, of course, some implied attraction between her and Hobbs because of course there is.

And then there's Idris Elba. In a world in which his name is regularly floated when it comes to recasting James Bond or whenever there's a new super-hero movie announced, we get to see him perform in a franchise film. Yeah, he could easily be Bond or, as he says in this movie, "I'm black Superman." True, but he's really driven in this film. I would love to see him do more stuff like this.

The Cameos

I have no idea if the three cameos in Hobbs and Shaw are actually from earlier Fast and Furious movies. Judging by the crowd reaction, however, I'm guessing two of them (hint: the ones not set in a prison) are unique to this movie.

And they are hilarious!

The Verdict

Hobbs and Shaw is a quintessential summer popcorn movie. You get likable actors playing fun characters against a formidable villain in a easy-to-follow plot that throws so much action at you that you truly will feel like you've been on a roller coaster. And it's solidified the other thing as well: I was already tempted to step into the Fast and Furious franchise. Now, I'm going to dive in.

Highly recommended.

No comments: