Movie Review: ‘Hobbs and Shaw’

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The latest “Fast and Furious” film follows Luke Hobbs (Dwyane Johnson) and Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham). As the two men continue to hunt down bad guys, a mysterious enemy grows. The two men are tasked to work together, with the intent of finding a dangerous weapon. As they attempt to accomplish their mission, a powerful cyborg gets in the way, and very quickly, the situation escalates. Essentially, the story becomes a great race. Each side attempts to possess the deadly weapon. Hobbs and Shaw want to save humanity. The cyborg’s organization wants to perform widespread acts of violence.

Certain films have deep messages. Other films have an abundance of logic. “Hobbs and Shaw” falls into another category: mindless entertainment, designed to pump up audience members with cinematic steroids. It’s an absolutely insane experience, complete with impossible acts of triumph. But since the film is so aware of its crazy identity, we become charmed by every single act of insanity. Thankfully, the script, written by Chris Morgan (a series regular) and Drew Pearce, creates a solid collection of characters. One of the biggest rules of storytelling is “make life hard on the heroes.” If a hero has to go through Hell and back, the ensuing victory will be extremely satisfying. Morgan and Pearce take this rule and run with it.

David Leitch, the director, has a ton of experience in regards to action oriented filmmaking. He unofficially co-directed the first “John Wick,” one of the best action movies of this decade. Then, after establishing himself as a filmmaker, he directed “Atomic Blonde,” an admirable flick, centered around the formidability of a female agent. Last year, he directed “Deadpool 2,” a well received superhero flick, which managed to make over $780 million worldwide. Clearly, Leitch is an action connoisseur, capable of crafting highly energetic stories, connected to a cohesive identity that never wavers.

Leitch’s visual skills create an enjoyable journey, fueled by absurdity, ambition, and a clear love for action moviemaking. The characters never have an easy journey. At every turn, they are challenged. And in order to endure, they have to perform absurd tasks. Is a man flying down the side of a building and surviving realistic? Not even remotely, but overall, is it ambitious and exciting? Oh yes, it really is. When three men decide to fight on the back of a moving truck, is that a smart decision? No way, but let’s ask ourselves another question: Does it look cool? Yes, it does. Quite frankly, the crazy events that transpire parallel the film’s absurdly entertaining identity.

The film’s combat is brilliantly realized. For my money, this is the best utilization of action in the “Fast and Furious” series. Leitch is an expert at staging action, and throughout the film, every physical conflict is massively enjoyable. Early on, Leitch gives Johnson and Statham proper introductions. Johnson beats up a man with a tattoo needle, while Statham takes out a group of criminals with a champagne bottle. These introductions are extremely simple, yes. But overall, these introductions remind us that these men adapt to their surroundings. When the surroundings are altered, their game plan changes, but the results are equally effective. They can defeat their opponents with the simplest of objects. From there, the action grows, creating a cartoonish spectacle.

It’s evident that Johnson and Statham are modern stars within the action genre. Their characters are the best of the best, and on a consistent basis, the duo confronts a shadowy army. To say that these confrontations are improbable would be a massive understatement. And yet, these glorious showdowns always feel fresh and exciting. The locations always change. The ways in which characters collide always shifts into new territory. The world of the film is always expanding, which creates a narrative of endless possibilities.

To see a couple of individuals take on a widespread organization is cinematically infectious. Subconsciously, we love the idea of such improbability because it’s a dream come true. As human beings, we wish that life was this adventurous. We wish that we could engage in high speed chases that defy physics. We wish that we could shoot off round after round as a vehicle continuously spins through the air.

Most of all, we wish that such tasks could be effortlessly done. These tasks are unbelievably scary, but like the fictional characters onscreen, we want that sense of fearlessness, along with the nonexistent consequences that follow. After all, why do we have fears of specific things? It’s the idea of death and trauma, two natural aspects of life. In a film like “Hobbs and Shaw,” our characters do dangerous things left and right, and yet, we never fear for their lives. Obviously, we know that Hobbs and Shaw will survive. Their superiority parallels our own wish: Universal control.  If only we could live in a world where physics and luck are always on our side. “Hobbs and Shaw” takes our crazy fantasies and puts them on the big screen.

Of course, with films of this magnitude, there is expository dialogue. Thankfully, like other good films, “Hobbs and Shaw” doesn’t go crazy in regards to exposition. Leitch understands that large, uninspired chunks of exposition makes a narrative feel sloppy and formulaic. Leitch’s flick chooses to harness the power of the buddy cop formula. Historically, the best buddy cop films feature strong characters, team conflict, tight plots and an undying sense of humor. In “Hobbs and Shaw,” the characters butt heads. They are different individuals, forced to connect. In general, it’s a joy to watch their dysfunctional partnership.

Even though the interpersonal banter feels forced in spots, Johnson and Statham’s banter breathes life into the series. Their partnership is sure to enhance excitement for future installments. Even with Johnson and Statham’s thundering personalities, Morgan and Pearce understand that the duo’s back and forth antics would get monotonous after awhile. This leads us to the other characters: Brixton (Idris Elba) and Hattie (Vanessa Kirby). To coincide with Johnson and Statham’s comedic turns, we receive serious turns from Elba and Kirby, designed to expand the film’s enjoyability. Both performers are wonderful in their respective roles. Elba is the best villain in the series. Hattie is the best female character in the series.

Elba’s gravitas tells us all that we need to know: Brixton is the wrong guy to trifle with. The character of Brixton is a mechanical force, able to map out a fight with ease. Elba, one of the best actors working in the business, crafts a formidable foe, full of stamina, apathy, and hostility. In a film like this, it would be easy to create a standard story in which Johnson and Statham breeze through the proceedings. Luckily, Elba is a true antagonist, capable of besting both men. Most times, a performer’s charisma would be minimized by Johnson and Statham’s charm, but in this case, Elba’s charisma never wavers. Yes, Elba is that good.

Kirby is a big standout. In a film filled with men, she makes an indelible impression. She’s not restricted by her gender. Instead, she’s a capable female, brimming with substance. Sure, she is a worthy warrior, unafraid of conflict. But look deeper, and you will see her ever-growing resolve and intellect.

A large chunk of the film takes place in a Samoan community. I found this section of the film to be an interesting choice. The cast (which includes WWE superstar Roman Reigns) creates a believable community. However, the family dynamics feel underdeveloped. Eventually, when familial reconnection is formed, it feels unneeded, due to the fast forwarding of familial circumstances.

In the midst of all the chaos, the explosive finale is a feast for the eyes, but as time progresses, the conflict becomes monumentally repetitive. Eventually, the final chase, while enjoyable, wears out its welcome. Then, the final fight between Hobbs, Shaw, and Brixton takes shape. For the most part, it’s a commendable showdown. But unfortunately, Leitch overuses slow motion photography, which makes the final showdown lack a sense of physical versatility. We are unable to consistently witness the fast paced nature of physical combat. Thus, the fight becomes predictable. Due to slow motion movements, we can see the punches coming from a mile away. In its entirety, the final showdown works, but in retrospect, it pales in comparison to what came before.

I recommend “Hobbs and Shaw.” The summer season is known to be a time of consistent entertainment. And in this case, “Hobbs and Shaw” is a classic case of summer fun. Turn off your brain and enjoy the film. It’s a good time!

My Grade:  B+

Dillon McCarty can be contacted at [email protected]

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