Combustible Celluloid
 
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With: Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Idris Elba, Vanessa Kirby, Helen Mirren, Eiza González, Eddie Marsan, Eliana Su'a, Cliff Curtis, Lori Pelenise Tuisano
Written by: Chris Morgan, Drew Pearce
Directed by: David Leitch
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for prolonged sequences of action and violence, suggestive material and some strong language
Running Time: 137
Date: 08/01/2019
IMDB

Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw (2019)

3 Stars (out of 4)

'Fast' Forward

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Hobbs & Shaw may be the first time it can be said that a Fast & Furious movie actually had a good idea.

Dwayne Johnson's Luke Hobbs entered the series in 2011's Fast Five, as a bad guy hunting our car-racing heroes, but he was soon won over by their family dynamic and became a good guy.

Jason Statham's Deckard Shaw was teased at the very end of Fast & Furious 6 as the brother of bad guy Owen Shaw, then returned, fully-formed, in 2015's Furious 7. He, too, quickly converted to the bright side.

These fine additions brought a fresh new energy to the series.

The most aggravating thing about the early entries is the ever-growing cast list of characters, each of whom felt the need to assert his or her coolness at every moment.

The ironic thing about that is that, if one must try to remind everybody of one's coolness, it logically follows that one is not cool. And it likely means that one is highly annoying.

Statham and Johnson brought a tongue-in-cheek quality to their characters, and achieved the opposite. They didn't have to act cool because they actually were cool.

So stripping away all the rest of the clutter and focusing on these two is, indeed, a good idea.

Surprisingly, the new movie offers more good ideas. Whereas early entries consisted of lazy shaky-cam and choppy editing, the massive fights, chases, and set-pieces here are crisp, clear, and excitingly kinetic.

Director David Leitch knows his stuff; he's a former stuntman that helped create the John Wick series (co-directing the first entry, without credit), before officially directing Atomic Blonde and Deadpool 2.

Yet, his pacing needs work. His top-notch, flare-up action moments tend to fizzle out during the in-between moments. All three of his films feel too long, and not as tight as action movies ought to be.

Meanwhile, a third improvement comes in the form of Vanessa Kirby (The Crown, Mission: Impossible - Fallout) as Hattie Shaw, Deckard's sister and a plucky, agile, fearless MI6 agent in her own right.

She may be the best female character thus far in a series notoriously known for relentlessly objectifying women, though this one still does that in a couple of scenes.

In Hobbs & Shaw — the full title is Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw — our two heroes, who hate each other, it must be said, are called in to find Hattie. She has intercepted a deadly, man-made virus and, to protect it, has injected it into her own bloodstream.

The creator of the virus, Brixton Lore (a delightfully nasty Idris Elba), has a Thanos-like plan to wipe out the weakest humans on the planet and create a new race of cyborg supermen, like him.

The rest of the story consists largely of bickering, fighting, chases, escapes, explosions, and races against time, leading up to a final showdown.

Two scenes in particular stand out among the summer's most astonishing. In one, Brixton and two henchmen, attached to cables, walk down the side of a skyscraper, while Hobbs free-falls to catch up to them (Shaw takes the elevator).

In the other, Brixton's military-grade helicopter tries to lift off, but is chained to a truck operated by Hobbs and Shaw. As the helicopter raises the truck off the ground, more good guys hook their trucks on to add more weight, as the entire chain of vehicles swerves very close to the edge of a high cliff.

Hobbs & Shaw follows the eighth movie in the series, 2017's The Fate of the Furious, but it is not officially the ninth movie; it's technically a spinoff. Thus, it doesn't actually "count," but still ranks well above most of the "official" ones.

Whereas the earlier movies had "family" as their underlying theme, that theme was almost always expressed in dialogue, as if to make up for a lack of genuine emotion. In Hobbs & Shaw that concept actually feels organic. It's easy to love these guys.

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