Every Thursday, TMINE reviews two movies, carefully avoiding infringing a former mobile phone company’s trademarked marketing gimmick
Orange Thursday is back but as it’s August, TMINE’s on a slightly reduced schedule to allow me time to catch up with all my TV viewing. That means there’ll only be one movie this week, but next week we’ll look at two Netflix movies: Point Blank and The Red Sea Diving Resort. Although there is an outside possibility I might postpone one of those in favour of Angel Has Fallen (2019). Let’s see how the Bank Holiday weekend fares.
This week, though, we’ll focus on this summer’s big blockbuster: Fast and Furious Presents: Hobbs and Shaw. We can talk about which classic 80s movie it’s an homage to after this ‘ere trailer and the jump. See you in a mo.
Fast and Furious Presents: Hobbs and Shaw (2019)
Ever since hulking lawman Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), a loyal agent of America’s Diplomatic Security Service, and lawless outcast Shaw (Jason Statham), a former British military elite operative, first faced off in 2015’s Fast and Furious 7, the duo have swapped smack talk and body blows as they’ve tried to take each other down.
But when cyber-genetically enhanced anarchist Brixton (Idris Elba) gains control of an insidious bio-threat that could alter humanity forever – and bests a brilliant and fearless rogue MI6 agent (The Crown’s Vanessa Kirby), who just happens to be Shaw’s sister – these two sworn enemies will have to partner up to bring down the only guy who might be badder than themselves.
Faster and furiouser
The Fast and Furious franchise is a curious thing. When it first started, it was just fast-cars and criminals, designed to thrill teenage boys with epic drift racing. However, over the years it’s evolved, become a weird, family-friendly, family-oriented franchise, in which characters pair up, get married, have kids, duck out of an episode then come back for more. Previously semi-realistic action thrills in which people got seriously hurt and cars endured real damage have been replaced by CGI daftness that avoid real-world physics altogether.
However, as we spiral out into this spin-off, it’s clear we’re now entering the realm of outright science-fiction for the first time, with global corporations now creating cyborg Idris Elba’s on artificially motorbikes and engineering viruses designed to wipe out humanity to create a glorious new stronger breed who can avoid the climate change mistakes of their predecessors.
Yet despite that genre shift, it’s clear that this is still a Fast and Furious movie, as that “presents” tag indicates, because we’re still getting those insane CGI chases and races. No, you won’t believe that one man on the back of a truck can throw some chains on a helicopter and stop it from taking off – and you certainly won’t believe that four trucks can all tie themselves together for a bit of extra ballast – but that’s what the franchise now calls for, so that’s what you’re going to get.
All in the family
We also get a surprising amount of time dedicated to family. It’s everywhere in ridiculous amounts. We even head off to Samoa so that the Rock can be reunited and reconciled with his brother and family. I think it’s the first time I’ve ever seen the Rock’s heritage referenced in a movie, and now we have it. It’s actually a nice touch, but it still renders the movie very, very daft – and it’s a shame they never managed to get Jason Momoa to play his brother, as they’d hoped.
But the centrepiece of the family angle is Statham’s relationship with Kirby – implausibly, his only slightly younger sister – and his mum – implausibly, Helen Mirren. While slightly alien to UK sensibilities, the movie does manage to get away with this by making them all proper working class – albeit with variably good working class accents.
It also manages to recreate 1970s England in a way that suggests some properly Brits who know what a Ford Cortina and a Chopper are were working behind the scenes. Indeed, while there are obvious issues with its depiction of the UK, you get the feeling that a lot of that’s deliberate and someone, somewhere is having a laugh, such as calling Idris Elba’s character ‘Brixton’.
It takes two
Which is not the oddest thing about Hobbs and Shaw by a long chalk. For starters, for a long part of its runtime, it feels like a remake of The A-Team, with our heroes building an arsenal of weapons while they’re holed up in a light engineering workshop, and then using a lot of weapons that don’t actually seem to hurt people or cause any blood loss.
But the biggest weirdness about it – pointed out by my Lovely Wife – is that really, it’s a remake of Tango and Cash. Statham may at first seem like he’s auditioning to be both James Bond and Harry Palmer at the same time, but he is Sylvester Stallone’s Tango: all well turned out, with plush apartment and sister to whom Johnson is attracted.
Meanwhile, Johnson is the working class replacement for Kurt Russell’s Cash, all brute force to Statham’s surprisingly more cerebral character. They both get fitted up for the bad guys’ crimes, they have to go on the run…
It’s Tango and Cash.
Why would you remake Tango and Cash? It was rubbish. I can’t even. (Sorry, Lovely Wife, who is the world’s biggest Tango and Cash fan.)
And then there’s the fact that ultimately, they take on the bad guys using traditional Samoan wooden weapons. I mean, what?
All the same, despite all these surprising choices and a big budget, the movie’s merely enjoyable, rather than either a guilty pleasure or a real home run. And that’s down to both the script and the direction.
To be fair, there are some amusing moments, although they mainly stem from the acting, including the appearance of Ryan Reynolds as Johnson’s CIA ‘buddy’, which feels more than a bit improvised. There’s also a very nice tie into the remake of The Italian Job, in which Statham appeared.
But the script forces Johnson and Statham to spend a lot of time bickering and trash-talking, and although it attempts to make the insults verbose and florid, it’s all various variants on “you’re quite big”, “my balls are big”, “I hate you so much I think I might be sick”.
Direction-wise, all that action is largely for nothing. While it all looks impressive, it’s all so obviously implausible and CGI that my adrenaline glands never got flowing.
Worse still, Statham’s given copious action scenes, but if you’re expecting something Transporter-ish that gives him the chance to show off his Hong Kong-style use of props, you’re bang out of luck. The scenes are also shot so badly, the camera too tight and jerky, that it’s hard to see what he’s up to a lot of the time. It comes close many times to being good, but this feels like B-movie quality, not A-movie.
Perhaps the movie’s biggest redeeming feature is Vanessa Kirby, who is carving out a surprising action movie career for herself following Mission: Impossible: Fallout. You’d have never have thought it from seeing her as Princess Margaret in The Crown, but then again, you’d probably never have suspected what would have happened to Liam Neeson’s movie career after Schindler’s List, would you?
Daft and fun
I’d hoped Hobbs and Shaw would be better than it actually was. But it’s still pretty good. The cast have a good chemistry, the Samoan scenes are actually interesting, Ryan Reynolds throws a few curveballs, the London scenes are surprising (and probably cooler than we deserve to be right now) and Kirby’s entertaining.
I wouldn’t recommend going to see it, particularly if you’ve never seen any recent Fast and Furious movies, although you can probably get away without much prior knowledge. But if you go, you won’t be bored at least.