There was a time when “Fast & Furious” movies felt like a fresh thing in the world.
In a blockbuster landscape populated by Hulks and Jokers and Captains America, the non-superpowered cops and robbers in the “Fast” franchise were scaled-down from the Olympian heights of Marvel and DC just enough to feel pleasingly old-school. (It's also worth noting the crew’s rightfully vaunted diversity.)
Remember, this is a franchise that started with Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and “family” stealing VCRs in 2001. And even as the movies became increasingly bonkers, they were still pretty much about cars and other vehicles being made to race or jump over each other.
“Hobbs & Shaw” is not that.
Directed by David “Deadpool 2” Leitch, “Hobbs & Shaw” is pretty much a superhero movie, albeit one so ravishingly dumb that you can feel your brain dying even as you are falling asleep. Don’t be surprised if you go to a screening and have to sign a waiver indemnifying the studio if this thing makes you forget how to fry an egg.
We see our heroes’ differences right away. Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) is a health nut and works out a lot. Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) is a crook with a heart of low-carat gold. Hobbs loves his daughter; Shaw loves his mom (Helen Mirren, always had it, always will). No wonder they dislike each other!
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A group of British counter-terrorism agents — led by Shaw's sister, Hattie (Vanessa Kirby) — is trying to seize a programmable virus. Hattie is forced to dose herself with it to avoid its capture by Brixton Lore (Idris Elba, trying out the whole bad guy thing to see if it works).
Brixton is a terrorist in the employ of a mysterious organization called Etheon. His body has been tricked out with cybernetics. Brixton's eyes have a cool heads-up display, his reflexes are enhanced, he is all but indestructible.
Hobbs and Shaw are recruited by government intelligence to go after Brixton (their handlers are played by Rob Delaney and Ryan Reynolds — someone please make that buddy cop movies happen). Eventually the two link up with Hattie, who has been framed as a traitor. A mess of fight scenes against Brixton ensue, a few in London, a few in Ukraine. The less time everyone talks, the better. The chatter in “Fast & Furious” movies has never exactly been Aaron Sorkin or Tom Stoppard, and nobody really minded as long as the cars kept moving, but it feels like a new low is hit.
And not only is Brixton impossible to kill, but so are Hobbs and Shaw. Gone are the days when Hobbs would flex his way out of a cast and the audience would cheer, because it never seems like he would be in a cast in the first place.
Things perk up a bit when we get to Samoa (if there is one thing you learn in this flick, it is that the place is called SA-moa, not Sa-MO-a), where we meet Hobbs’ extended family of car nuts.
It is here that one is reminded of what “Hobbs & Shaw” is missing. Finally, we get poor versus rich, low riders versus high tech, analog versus digital. It is here that one is reminded of why these movies were so fun in the first place: the notion that you, too, with a car that was fast enough and pals who loved tricking them out, could stop an international terrorist.
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