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EUR Review: ‘Hobbs and Shaw’ Never Really Revs Up or Gets Your Heart Racing

hobbs & shaw (poster)

*”Fast and Furious Presents: Hobbs and Shaw” has a lot going for it. It is the first spin-off of the increasingly popular “Fast and Furious” franchise, of course. One of its leads, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, is arguably the biggest movie star in the world. It also has a cast that includes solid box-office draw Jason Statham, Idris Elba as the villain, Vanessa Kirby as a kick-ass spy, a game Helen Mirrean and a sizzling Eiza Gonzalez.

Oh, and David Leitch, the director of “John Wick”.

Sounds appetizing, right?

Instead, with all these seemingly tasty ingredients, instead of a memorable meal, we get one that at times will make you nod off – and at times make you wince. Let’s start with the plot. As the film begins, a crew of MI6 (British intelligence) agents are attempting to retrieve a virus called Snowflake, which is programmed to decimate millions of people, from a terrorist organization called Eteon.

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This is where we’re first introduced to Elba’s Brixton, an Eteon operative with cybernetic implants that allow him to perform superhuman feats. Here the film already starts veering off track as Brixton is more sci-fi than a realistic bad guy. he also has no personality –  and the background that is supposed to allow us to relate to him is exceptionally weak. He is NEVER particularly interesting or memorable.

Anyway, the superhuman Brixton proceeds to kill all the MI6 agents except one, that being their leader, Hattie Shaw (Kirby), who injects Snowflake into herself and escapes. Brixton then frames her as a traitor and as someone who has stolen Snowflake, making her a woman on the run.

This should have our pulses already ponding, but it doesn’t. For one thing, the grandiose idea of Hattie carrying a deadly virus inside of herself just reinforces how far this franchise has strayed from its more down-to-Earth roots.

Second, Kirby is never really believable as an action heroine. Her fight scenes are not nearly as believable as, say Halle Berry’s in “John Wick 3” or countless other examples. The choreography is average. At one point, you can clearly see a stunt double/doll filling in for her. For a franchise that has had real kickass women, from Michelle Rodriguez to Gina Carano to Ronda Rousey and others, this is extremely disappointing. We never believe she can do the things she does. She’s only doing them because the script says she can. More on that later.

Luke Hobbs (Johnson)  and Deckard Shaw (Statham) are then assigned to track down the virus, which means tracking down Hattie, who we soon learn is Deckard’s sister. Now, all the ridiculous plot elements aside, a film like this rises and falls on the chemistry of the two title characters.

Unfortunately, this is lacking. Again, it’s mainly due to an at time cringe-worthy script. Whether they’re hating each other or helping each other out, none of it seems real or genuine. That’s not even counting Hobbs doing something late in the film that would be hard for Thor to pull off. Worst of all is what Chris Morgan and Drew Pearce consider trash-talking. There is one scene where Hobbs and Shaw exchange insults for a few minutes and NONE of it is funny or anything one would consider a sick burn. Forget Stallone and Schwarzenegger at their best, these two can’t even match the fun of the classic “Bridesmaids” scene with Kristen Wiig and Mia Frampton..

The woeful script and cartoonish choreography underline a bigger problem: These characters have very little heart or true personality. There is no sizzle to their bromance, any romance or any memorable lines.

I mean, a subplot is supposed to be the attraction Hobbs and Hattie seem to have for each other. But not only do the two have little sexual chemistry, they both seem asexual and produce almost zero believable heat.

Which is still better than the kiss between Statham’s Shaw and his supposed girlfriend, Madam M, a high-profile thief, who is played by Gonzalez. How do you get one of the hottest women on the planet, barely giver her any screen time and have her engage in a kiss with Statham that was less believable than the one between Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley? What were these moviemakers doing?

Also, nowhere is it mentioned that part of the reason for Hobbs’s anger just might be Shaw’s slaying of the character Han. That this is never mentioned despite all the insults and the countless reasons the two don’t want to work together is pretty unforgivable.

The biggest problem with “Hobbs and Shaw” is that it’s schizophrenic. It has no idea what it’s trying to be (other than a moneymaker). It is too outrageous to take serious and too serious to be just big, dumb fun.

Ironically, the film is almost saved when what seems like the biggest gimmick in the film happens – namely, Hobbs taking everyone to Samoa for their Last Stand. Here, for the first time, the characters seem to have real emotions. The clashing of cultures, fighting without guns and concept of family all give the film and its characters a bit more gravitas and relatability. We get a sense of what makes them tick and what they’re fighting for. But it’s too late by this point.

Time for Hobbs and Shaw to return to the main “Fast and Furious” films and put this adventure in their rear view mirror.

GRADE: C+   

 

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