“Fast and Furious Presents: Hobbes and Shaw” is as overwrought as its title. It’s also overlong, overblown and over-the-top. That’s nothing new for a series known for its over-the-topness. Explosions, car chases and exploding car chases might as well be mistaken for realism in this nine-film franchise. But this latest installment IS something new. It’s boring.
Sense and logic aren’t why we go to a “Fast and Furious” movie– these send-ups to burning rubber, short skirts, bulging muscles and, in the series’ greatest twist, family, are made to give us diverting summer fun. They usually do. This franchise has made 5 billion dollars; making it Universal Picture’s highest grossing series. The latest episode is more of the same: a vehicle for some hunks of the moment to save the world from bad guys. So, it comes as a bit of a shock that the venerable formula doesn’t work here.
In David Leitch’s offering, it’s a pas de duex between positive and negative charged batteries. On the positive side, there’s Dwayne Johnson’s Luke Hobbs. Chewing up the scenery as if he had just come off a week of fasting, Johnson brings his usual wink-and-a-smile charm to the former federal agent. On the negative side, there’s Jason Statham’s Deckard Shaw. A former villain (he previously killed off the character Han), Statham revels in his cocksure confidence. They don’t get along. But when “black Superman” (Idris Elba) has a virus that threatens to
end the world, they put their differences aside. Well, sort of.
The film’s kryptonite is its script. Written by Chris Morgan and Drew Pierce, this quickly becomes a buddy cop dynamic where two heroes try to one-up each other. Like a bickering couple, you can feel the tension in the inches between them. Like bickering teenage boys, they start to compare inches. Walking by a row of Shaw’s sparkling Mclaren sports cars, Hobbes asks if he’s “compensating?” It isn’t funny, and it’s painful to watch these two trying to be funny. It’s not Johnson and Statham’s fault, of course. There’s only so much mileage you can get out of “mine’s bigger” and “your mamma” jokes. Still, Leitch does a fine job compensating with action sequences.
I loved watching a car drift in slow motion under a moving semi truck. And it’s a treat to watch a line of cars suspended by a helicopter; dangling over the waves pounding against the Samoa cliffs. They are there to stop the robotic Elba from releasing the virus, as well as to save Shaw’s sister (Vanessa Kirby), who was infected by the virus in the opening moments. These later moments are fun, yes. But they are also a reminder that as the possibilities in the movie medium grow increasingly infinite, the truth in cinema grows increasingly finite. None of the action looks real. What made “Mission Impossible: Fallout” so remarkable was the honesty in its extravagance–that really was Tom Cruise up in the helicopter! This avoids honesty the way its stars avoid off days at the gym. In “Hobbes and Shaw” speed really does kill. So does boredom.