Wednesday, 14 August 2019

Fast & Furious: Hobbs & Shaw (2019)

Fast & Furious Presents Hobbs & Shaw - theatrical poster.jpgDirector: David Leitch
Running Time: 135 Minutes
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Idris Elba, Vanessa Kirby, Helen Mirren, Eiza González, Eddie Marsan, Cliff Curtis, Leati Anoa'i, Josh Mauga, John Tui


It's hard to believe how far The Fast and The Furious franchise has come since its 2001 release. What began as Point Break with cars has become a globe-trotting franchise, where a family of racers perform government aided spy work, while even saving the world. For the ninth instalment entry, David Leitch is given the reins, centred around the two most interesting elements of the franchise.

When an insidious virus threatens humanity, rouge MIG agent Hattie Shaw (Vanessa Kirby) puts her life at risk to keep it out of the hands of Brixton (Idris Elba), a cybernetically enhanced terrorist. The task to retrieve Hattie, and the bio-weapon, falls onto the opposing figures of lawman Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), and mercenary Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), who is also Hattie's brother.

In reprising their previously established roles, Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham are on top form here as the titular characters. While the pair may occupy different sides of the law, they're shown to be more alike than they realise, even if their clashing personalities may get in their way. It's down to the actors natural charisma, and great chemistry, which helps make this mismatched buddy cop duo always fun to watch. Joining them is Vanessa Kirby, playing an MI6 agent on the run, who happens to be sister to Statham's pint drinking outlaw. After stealing the scenes from her male co-stars in last year's Mission: Impossible - Fallout, Kirby does exactly the same here, with an engaging figure who stands out in her own right, and is never overshadowed by her long-established sibling. Here's hoping this franchise has room for more than one Shaw.

A key part to Hattie and Deckard is their fractured relationship, an element which isn't given nearly enough screentime. Chris Morgan and Drew Pearce's script tries to tell viewers about this issue, but the film doesn't take the time to show how it's affected these siblings, and it ends up not feeling very vital. More successful results come from Hobbs' backstory, as he finds difficulty in reconnecting with his estranged family, which is sold well by a more tender performance from Johnson. A part of this success could be due to the film accommodating it into the plot, while the former backstory seems relegated for a few celebrity cameos, which are initially fun to see, but ultimately outstay their welcome. Another aspect which could've used time would've been Eiza González, who is given an all too brief role as a professional robber. She seems intriguing enough to have a starring role, but is relegated to a Q style plot device, where her helpfulness extends only to arming the main characters, and transitioning them into where the plot requires them to next be.

While the franchise has long-disregarded real-world logic, such as the laws of physics and gravity, it's also been increasingly edging towards outright science-fiction, with Charlize Theron remote controlling an onslaught of vehicles in the previous instalment. This time around, Idris Elba plays a villain with cybernetic enhancements that allow him to run down buildings, calculate his opponents attacks, and have majorly enhanced strength. It's clear Elba is having a ball playing the role, an interesting villain whose motivations are clear. What's unfortunate is the screenplay falls into the same trope which appeared in Godzilla: King of the Monsters, where real-world issues are only addressed as a villainous motivation. This is a tactic which was handled much more elegantly in Black Panther, and the few blockbusters which try it only bother with the villainous half.

A long-time staple of the franchise, the cartoonish action makes a welcome appearance, and still manages to give a big-budget injection of fun to the proceedings. As the film relocates to Samoa later on, a battle between the old-school and the high tech makes for an entertaining contrast, and makes the fight a bit more even between sides. Following that up is a new entry into the franchises tradition of unbelievable set-pieces, where a "barrel of monkeys" inspired sequence has multiple cars chained to one another, all in the effort to bring down a helicopter. It seems all the more likely we'll eventually see these films go into space.

An exciting actioner centred on a mismatched duo, Fast & Furious: Hobbs & Shaw works thanks to the leads chemistry. It's a shame some aspects couldn't have been better handled, but the dumb fun bouts of action will momentarily make you not mind about that.

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