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WATCHING THE MOVIES: Hobbs & Shaw

At one point The Rock lassos a helicopter. This movie is insane.

The Fast & Furious movies have a reputation as one of the great action franchises of all time, centered around car chases, heists, and (most of all) the familial bonds that link the crew of law-breaking antiheroic misfits Vin Diesel heads up.

Hobbs & Shaw is barely recognizable as a Fast & Furious film. Vin Diesel isn’t there. It isn’t really about a heist, and isn’t even about family until the suddenly-island-set third act. There’s three car chases, sure. And NoS, basically superspeed for automobiles, is used twice.

But the focus is not the cars. The occurrence of vehicular mayhem is kind of secondary to the absolute bonkers nature of this glorious explosion of a film.

This is the single biggest, dumbest action spectacle I’ve seen in a long time, a screeching never-ending guitar solo mixed with a live-action cartoon that seems to have been made for the sole purpose of allowing The Rock to do macho things. I mean, early on the man just jumps down the side of a skyscraper to tackle some guys repelling down it. At the film’s climax he literally lassos a helicopter and drags it down with his bare hands. All of this happens with seemingly little effect on the composition or placement of our jabroni-beating friend’s internal organs.

And things like that occur routinely. Ridiculous happenings that would never spontaneously happen in real life. Just rattling off a list of them would spoil half of the film and ruin moments that will otherwise leave you collapsing in laughter at the sheer audacity.

Hobbs & Shaw plays the 90’s action movie trope precisely straight and rarely if ever winks at its audience, instead allowing the bombasticity and out-of-nowhere nonsense to wash directly over them. Ooh, look, a gang of female Russian thieves that is vaguely connected to one of the heroes! Hey, it’s a bunch of really nice cars lined up in a row for us to look at! Wow, it’s a wrestler in a non-speaking role performing his signature finishing move in the middle of armed combat! It’s remarkably fun.

David Leitch, director of the John Wick movies, helms this one. Aside from polished choreography, I couldn’t really tell. And that’s actually a drawback now: after John Wick, all other action movies kind of pale in comparison to its artistry, precision, and cinematography. I hoped Leitch could elevate this film on that front, but the action is box-standard, though (again) well-handled.

So, the acting. The Rock is (as ever) The Rock. Idris Elba is a convincing, well-cast augmented villain, a superpowered threat our two leads must solve. Vanessa Kirby continues to impress me after her fun turn in Mission: Impossible – Fallout. Here she’s pitch perfect as Owen Shaw’s estranged sister. We also get a fun cameo or two which I won’t spoil. One is recurring, quick-witted, and side-splittingly hilarious. The weakest member of the cast is by far Jason Statham, who scowls his way blandly through his performance, all gritted teeth and no charisma.

This movie is all popcorn, all cheese, whatever. You get the point. It is not, objectively speaking, a masterclass of cinema. It is a very good time.

RATING: 6/10

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