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Friday, August 02, 2019

Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw

Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw is easily the most ludicrous and implausible movie we're likely to see this year.  I can't imagine anything topping this for a while.  I say all of this with a silly grin on my face, because it fully embraces what it is.  This is a movie that's impossible to take seriously, and that's okay, because you're not supposed to.

Clearly nobody involved with this movie took it seriously in the slightest.  This is an over the top, comedic action spectacle that gets a lot of mileage out of the fact that it embraces just how goofy it is, and runs with it.  There are the usual stunts and action sequences that we watch these movies for, but this one adds a generous helping of humor, and an overall tone that is equal parts James Bond, comic book, and video game.  Director David Leitch (Deadpool 2) has removed the two characters that Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham play in the stand alone entries of the Fast & Furious enterprise, and have unleashed them into an off the wall action-comedy.  These are still the characters fans know, but they've been released from the confines of their franchise, and given free reign to cut it up.  The end result, at least to me, is more fun than any of the previous movies have ever been.

There is something that sort of resembles a plot here.  It involves lawman Hobbs (Johnson) and outlaw Shaw (Statham) having to team up to stop a shadow organization from unleashing a deadly virus onto the world.  Hobbs gets involved, because it's his job to take out the bad guys.  Shaw comes along because his sister, Hattie (Vanessa Kirby), is currently carrying the virus inside of her, and will die and release it in a matter of days.  Our three heroes travel the globe, looking for a cure, and to find out just who is behind it all.  Constantly on their trail is Brixton (Idris Elba), a man whom Shaw has a past with, and who has been genetically engineered by the evil organization to be the "next evolution" of humanity.  Most of his body has been replaced with cyborg upgrades, so he possesses strength, agility and stamina above normal people.  He can take a massive pounding and walk it off, he can fall several stories and live, and he can survive practically being blown to bits.  No wonder the guy refers to himself as "Black Superman".

The thing is, for all of his talk about how he is physically superior to Hobbs and Shaw in every way, these two guys never seem to be at all that much of a disadvantage.  We frequently see them performing impossible stunts (most of it heavily assisted with CG and special effects), surviving non-stop punishment, and getting beaten to an inch of their life with only some dirt and smudges on their faces to show for it.  Not once did I ever feel like Brixton had the upper hand on these two guys, because they are treated as just as superhuman as he is.  Under normal circumstances, this would probably kill the movie, but it kind of works here, because Hobbs & Shaw never once lets you forget that this is essentially a comedy.  Yes, Johnson and Statham constantly banter and comically insult one another throughout, and to be fair, a lot of it is actually funny.  But, the movie itself throws so many impossible scenarios and stunts into the mix that we're laughing at those as well.  And for once, I wasn't laughing at the absurdity.  The movie knows its absurd.  I was laughing out of pleasure, because the movie was actually going to embrace its goofiness, and go to places most action movies would be afraid to.

I wouldn't dream of spoiling any of them for you, but there are some action scenes here that are so over the top, I found myself impressed and laughing hysterically at the same time.  And it's certainly never boring.  Sure, the movie did not need to run 135 minutes, and there are moments that could have easily been trimmed.  But, whenever it felt like the movie was starting to drag, it would throw in a good one-liner, or a gloriously stupid stunt that got me engaged all over again.  And while nobody would certainly watch this movie for the performances, Johnson and Statham show a fantastic comedic chemistry with each other here.  They're a great team up, complementing each other beautifully, and the movie never lets either of them hog all the attention.  There are even some fun cameos to watch out for, one of whom is taken from director Daivd Leitch's previous film, who I wouldn't mind seeing becoming a part of the franchise as a whole.

Hobbs & Shaw is not a smart movie, but it's been made well.  The action is cleanly edited and easy to follow, no matter how chaotic it gets, and the fact that it seems to understand how ridiculous it is winds up being one of its greatest aspects.  It never draws attention to its own goofiness, and it never feels like it's winking to the audience.  It simply embraces what it is, runs with it, and lets us in on the joy.  This movie is just a lot of fun to watch, and looks like it was even more fun to make.

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