I have not seen any of the Fast and Furious films, which have apparently spawned a franchise that includes films, soundtracks, video games, a TV series, merchandise and theme park attractions. It has become the tenth largest grossing film franchise and is Universal’s hottest property. And again, I’ve never seen a single movie. I feel negligent.
Because of this, I feel compelled to answer a few questions before reviewing the film:
1. How many films are there in this franchise and what are they called?
2. Where is Samoa, location of the final battle in the film?
3. What universities have Badass curricula?
4. When did “The Rock” get involved?
5. What happened to Paul Walker?
Question 1: This is straightforward, given a fast and furious trip to Wikipedia. Here are the nine films in the franchise, ten counting Hobbs and Shaw, which is considered a spinoff.
· The Fast and the Furious
· 2 Fast 2 Furious (this is grammatically suspect)
· The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift
· Fast & Furious (faster without the extra words)
· Fast Five (even faster)
· Fast & Furious 6 (right to the point)
· Furious 7 (just plain furious)
· The Fate of the Furious (where have they been?)
· Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw
· Fast & Furious 9 (to be released in 2020)
Question 2: Samoa is more than 2500 miles south of Hawaii in the middle of the South Pacific. It is almost 10,000 miles from the center of the film’s action in London. Interestingly, Hawaii was used as the set for the “Samoa” location, and Johnson’s mother is Samoan.
Question 3: I enrolled in a little known Badass program at the University of Illinois in 1973. At 6 foot 1 and 190 pounds, I was too small to succeed. I lacked the necessary tattoos, had an aversion to pain, and was generally unmotivated when it was suggested that I work out for eight hours per day, ride a motorcycle, cut all the sleeves off of my t-shirts and learn martial arts. I faired poorly in the classes, “Leveraging your rage,” “Screaming at people who are trying to help you,” and “Taking punches and crashing through windows.” I am unaware of other colleges with this offering.
Question 4: Dwayne (The Rock) Johnson got involved in the fifth film, a turning point for the floundering franchise. This is where Fast and Furious departed from a street racing theme, focusing on heist action involving cars. Gun fights and brawls became central, with only one car chase.
Question 5: Paul Walker, star of the first film, tragically and ironically died in a car crash in 2013, halfway through the filming of Fast and Furious 6. His scenes were completed with some rewrites and his brothers serving as stand-ins. His character was then retired.
This brings us to the movie at hand. The relationship previously established between Johnson (Hobbs) and co-star Jason Statham (Shaw), steeped in badassity and fighting that defies numerous laws of physics, works well if you like laughing during action films. The two are recruited in the US and England by CIA agents played respectively by Ryan Reynolds and Rob Delaney (Catastrophe). Reynolds, though uncredited, is a highlight, employing his snarky Deadpool humor to great effect.
In a more Mission Impossible approach than is typical for this franchise, the reluctant heroes (refusing to work with each other) are enlisted to retrieve a humanity-ending virus from the arm of Shaw’s sister, an MI6 agent framed for the murder of her team. This requires the assistance of a dorky scientist who invented and lost control of the virus, intending it to be used for vaccinations (see, vaccinations ARE bad). Enter Idris Elba as Brixton, a genetically and technologically enhanced “Black Superman” who takes orders from an unseen digitally masked and sinister voice. This voice is last heard at the end of the film, teeing up a sequel along with Ryan Reynolds’ frantic call to Hobbs for help.
An effective drinking game could be played based either on the frequent plot-supporting shouting directives out noisy vehicle windows between Hobbs and Shaw (they never say, “What?”) or each time a vehicle is going to accelerate, when the camera shifts to a close-up of Shaw’s foot hitting the accelerator. It seems Hobbs never drives and the Director never tires of this shot.
There is plentiful use of drones that are capable of far more than is realistic, software activated guns that can be hacked, and head’s up displays with analytics built into Brixton’s bioengineered eyes. These topics are newsworthy but no longer really the stuff of science fiction.
Helen Mirren makes several appearances, all in prison, as Shaw’s mother. She seems to have home schooled Shaw and his sister in espionage protocols and battle tactics that the kiddies gave code names like “The Mick Jagger” and “The Keith Moon.” I bet the tricks still work…wink, wink.
Several troubling relationships are worked out in the heat of battle: Hobbs and Shaw, Shaw and his sister, Hobbs and his brother, that all contribute to the unnecessary length of the movie. One particularly cringe-worthy scene has Hobbs kissed by Shaw’s sister. He then asks if they can do it again the next day after they save the world. Chuckle, chuckle, omg.
If you like action films, this one delivers a ton of chases, fights and shooting. Brixton’s interactions with his self-driving, morphing motorcycle are nicely animated, though it seems they repurposed old sound effects from a Jedi Starfighter.
Early in the movie, Shaw drives a McLaren 720S, with a sticker price of around $300,000 It is a joy to behold. I would be nervous parking this car. He uses it in chase scenes and drives it under a truck and out the other side.
In the end, the world is saved, the good guys win, and the bad guys lose for now. Sadly, the hapless female is strapped to a digital 30 minute countdown timer most recently parodied in M&M commercials, and although she does her share of ass kicking, inevitably she is saved by the big strong men. Oh, and a countdown timer? Fortunately that cliché didn’t lead down the path of “red wire or blue?”
The eventual trip to Samoa takes place without even a wardrobe change. This would be a grueling all-day series of flights. An earlier plane sequence served as an opportunity to introduce Kevin Hart as an Air Marshall and eager wannabe assistant to the perpetually bickering Hobbs and Shaw. His usual comic flair is welcome relief in a scene that otherwise should have been cut.
Despite the annoying, ceaseless bickering that defines the Hobbs and Shaw relationship, the two stars work well together. But the next time The Rock pulls a chain with a helicopter on the end of it, like some big green metallic balloon, I’m going to write him a strongly worded letter. From a distance.
Fast and Furious Presents: Hobbs and Shaw (2019) runs 2 hours, 17 minutes and is rated PG-13.
Should I see this movie?