Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Review: "Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw"

My gosh, it just keeps going and going, doesn’t it?

Officially the runtime of “Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw” -- and yes, Hollywood title insanity has reached the point of two ampersands -- is two hours and 15 minutes. But it feels much, much longer. If it’s possible to be bored by a movie in the middle of slo-mo explosions, then here it is.

For my money, the secondary characters of Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) were the least interesting of the F&F universe. The latter is a thief/mercenary turned British MI6 agent, while the former is a badass agent of the Diplomatic Security Service (Google it, it’s a real thing) who is often loaned out to the CIA.

They clashed in some of the earlier movies, or so I’m told, those movies coming so fast and so furious -- and ever further afield from a simple story of street racers -- that they long ago became a blur in my mind.

The gig is they’re brought together on a job, and spend that 135 minutes sneering and snarling at each other, in between a whole lot of beat-downs, the aforementioned explosions and some occasional car chases. Of course, we know they’re going to bond in the end.

Watching this movie play out is an exercise in foregone conclusions. We know there will be some early double-crosses. There will be a beautiful woman they can fight about. There will be a bad guy who somehow seems more than a match for two action-movie heroes. And Dwayne Johnson will wear T-shirts three sizes too small for him, with one obligatory shirtless scene for the two weeks he was doing extreme water weight cutting.

I had high hopes for Johnson once. He was doing quirky comedic roles in “Be Cool” and developing into an interesting performer. Somewhere along the way he got obsessed with being a 1950s-style screen muscleman. His body has become a grossly swollen mass of veins. His star persona is indelibly linked to freakishness now.

I guess it gets box office, but he’s lost something along the way -- realism and relatability, to start.

Vanessa Kirby plays a rogue MI6 agent accused of stealing CT17, aka Snowflake, a deadly virus that could kill everyone on Earth. Actually, she was set up by the evil Eteon corporation, and injected herself with the virus to keep it from falling into their hands. Hobbs and Shaw are brought in to locate her and secure the MacGuffin.

Idris Elba plays Brixton Lore, a cybernetically enhanced villain who actually refers to himself as “the bad guy.” Later on he brags to our boys that he’s “black Superman.” Certainly he seems to have the upper hand in their early encounters.

I usually enjoy Elba in just about anything, but he doesn’t see to be having much fun here. Before every fight he says something cryptic and then his eyes briefly glow amber to let us know he’s Terminator Lite or something.

Director David Leitch piles on the shaky-cam like a 4-year-old put in charge of dispensing the whipped cream. Screenwriters Chris Morgan and Drew Pearce ladle in copious one-liners, our two bald badasses growling in that strangled croak all action heroes seem to use now.

Where will it all end? Are we going to keep getting Fast & Furious movies -- and now spinoffs -- until absolutely everyone in the world objects? As long as people keep buying tickets, or Johnson’s pecs finally fall or fast cars are outlawed.

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