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New Release Review - HOBBS & SHAW

hobbs & shaw review
The titular duo team up to take down a terrorist.


Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: David Leitch

Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Idris Elba, Vanessa Kirby, Ryan Reynolds, Helen Mirren, Eiza GonzΓ‘lez, Eddie Marsan, Kevin Hart

hobbs & shaw poster


From a commercial perspective, the resurrection of the Fast & Furious franchise might be the all-time great Hollywood comeback story. A series that began with a mid-budget tale of petrolheads stealing DVD/VHS combi-players was veering dangerously close to straight to video territory with its third entry in 2006, as both leads Paul Walker and Vin Diesel had left the series. In 2009, with both actors' careers flagging, Walker and Diesel were tempted back for a fourth movie, which doubled its predecessor's budget and upped the action. Cinemagoers flocked back to the previously ailing franchise. As the plotlines of the series have gotten increasingly larger than life, the box office receipts have similarly expanded, with the last two entries currently sitting in the top 20 highest grossing movies at the international box office.

Where other franchises have struggled in certain parts of the world, the Fast & Furious movies have been embraced by viewers from Manchester to Mumbai, Beijing to Boston. Part of this universal appeal is the presence of one of the few genuine superstars modern Hollywood can boast of in Dwayne Johnson. Would the last few F&F movies have made half of their money without his presence? Unlikely, which might explain Hobbs & Shaw, a spin-off which sheds the sprawling ensemble cast the series has gathered up like a rolling dustball and pares it down to the two most popular characters - Johnson's Diplomatic Security Service agent Luke Hobbs and Jason Statham's former baddy Deckard Shaw.

hobbs & shaw review


Hobbs & Shaw forces its titular titans of testosterone to work together when the latter's sister, MI6 agent Hattie (Vanessa Kirby, far, far, far too good for this dross), goes on the run after injecting herself with a dose of liquid MacGuffin, a plot point borrowed from Statham's Crank series. Desperate to extract the MacGuffin from Hattie's veins is Brixton Lore (Idris Elba), a former MI6 agent transformed into a half-machine terminator by a shady tech corp. Why do so many MI6 agents go rogue? Is the pension plan really that poor?

Hobbs & Shaw may riff on the buddy action movies of the '80s (at one point a poster for Walter Hill's 48 Hrs, the pinnacle of this sort of thing, is clearly visible) but it's very much a Fast & Furious movie, with all the drudgery that entails. That means we get a series of overblown action scenes rendered weightless by CG and some tosh about the importance of family to wrap things up.

hobbs & shaw review


As the series' budgets have expanded, so too have their runtimes, and the only thing Hobbs & Shaw genuinely has in common with 48 Hrs is that's precisely how long I felt I was in the cinema for this ordeal. Much like Judd Apatow's bloated comedies, Hobbs & Shaw is a movie that doesn't seem to know the meaning of the word 'cut'. Scenes ramble on incessantly as performers are seemingly allowed to improvise, and the repartee between Johnson and Statham is severely hampered by witless dialogue of the sub-Shane Black variety. A scene involving a cameo by the always insufferable Kevin Hart goes on for what feels like the runtime of the average sitcom episode.

For a movie with so much fat on its bones, some of its actual meat seems to have fallen on the cutting room floor. An international criminal gang consisting solely of women led by Eiza Gonzalez is much hyped, but when they turn up their screentime is all of five minutes and it feels like their entire subplot was chopped out. With David Leitch, director of John Wick and Atomic Blonde, behind the megaphone, you might expect extravagantly choreographed action scenes shot in long takes, but his work seems to have similarly fallen victim to the editor's blade here, cut and pasted beyond comprehension. The climactic action sequence is an insulting Mad Max knockoff that only serves to underline just how great George Miller is at constructing these sort of scenes.

hobbs & shaw review


Hobbs & Shaw opens and closes with an awful cover version of Jim Croce's 'Time in a Bottle', which is ironic, as the movie doesn't seem to understand how time works. The final sequence plays out over the course of 30 minutes (we know this because a character literally has a timer strapped to their wrist), yet it begins at night, suddenly turns to broad daylight and climaxes at dusk! In an Ed Wood movie this sort of thing is laughable; in a $200 million summer blockbuster it's unforgivable.

In a moment of hypocrisy that almost made me vomit, Johnson's Hobbs tells Elba's Brixton that "You might have all the technology in the world, but we have heart." Hollywood might have all the technology in the world, but when it comes to its conveyor belt blockbusters, the heart flatlined long ago.

Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw is in UK/ROI cinemas August 1st.


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