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Here’s the thing about the Fast & Furious franchise: it can be dumb fun. Every movie has the right to be entertaining even if it completely disregards physics and logic… As long as it establishes its tone from the start. You can’t make an action film where the main characters survive basically everything they shouldn’t and take everything seriously. It’s not that you can’t have that mix of tones (Furious 7 did it brilliantly), but that’s reserved for some of the best movies of the year since it’s not easy (at all) to balance so many different things. Hobbs & Shaw sets its tone in the first 10 minutes, and everyone knows what they’re getting themselves into. However, it didn’t quite work for me this time…
The Fast & Furious saga is an undeniable success, even more in my country where it constantly breaks box-office records. It possesses everything a popcorn blockbuster should have: tons of action (car chases, explosions, fights, shootouts), easy-to-follow plot, and simple character development. There’s no problem in leaving your brain at the entrance of the theater for a couple of hours and just have fun. Of course, Hobbs & Shaw is ridiculous. It’s completely absurd, it has no sense of logic, and it’s unbelievable how many physics-defying sequences occur. But that’s exactly what they establish in those first few minutes, so people just need to sit comfortably and eat that whole bag of popcorn while watching the most ludicrous action on-screen.
So, if the tone is well-balanced, why didn’t I enjoy it as much as the rest? People seem to be having tremendous fun (even critics who usually demolish this type of films are liking it), so I guess I’m in the minority here, but I just found the action pretty underwhelming, and the comedy was way off for me. Granted, there are huge set pieces, and there are a couple of great action scenes, especially a motorbike-car chase between Brixton, Hobbs, and Shaw. True, there are a couple of laughs that I couldn’t contain due to how amazing Statham and Johnson’s chemistry is. Nevertheless, overall, I just don’t think it’s enough.
First of all, my main issue with the story: Brixton. Idris Elba is incredible as always, and I really want him to be the next James Bond. However, his character is so poorly written and so horribly explored that I wonder why they made him an enhanced machine with superpowers. Literally, there’s no difference between him and the other two main characters, which ultimately destroys the “superhero” vibe Elba should have. That’s the problem with having such an absurd movie: if your “heroes” are undefeatable due to their enormous plot armor, how is your “superpowered villain” different than them? If an explosion goes off with the three of them close, why do Hobbs and Shaw survive in the same way Brixton does? How does a punch from a “black Superman” has the same impact as a punch from the other two?
Then, the comedy. It’s not like I disliked Statham and Johnson bantering for five straight minutes in three different scenes. It’s just too long, and not all of the jokes land. The film itself is way too long, just over two hours. If I didn’t know about the whole Samoa sequence from occasionally seeing it on a TV spot, I would have believed the movie was about to end when it started its third act. It feels like it’s going to end, but then there’s a whole other massive action set piece to show off. For the first time in a long, long time, I almost fell asleep during the transition from the second-to-last to the last action moment. The action is also very disappointing having in mind David Leitch is directing. Too many quick cuts, and way too choppy.
Finally, there’s an attempt at the start of a romance that I won’t spoil, but … It’s not like it’s forced because it actually isn’t. It follows a logical path, characters don’t say stupid stuff to each other, and it was surprisingly being a good way of stopping to breathe and relax away from all the action. However, as the film reaches its conclusion, they ditch it altogether and never address it anymore. There’s even a line similar to “I’ll let you have a kiss tomorrow if we’re still alive”, but they never go there again. It’s like it never happened… Why? The only thing that was truly being logical and emotionally compelling is completely ignored by the end. That’s disappointing.
I don’t want to be too harsh on the movie because I do understand how entertaining and fun it might be. I’m sure audiences will love it, and fans of the franchise will love it even more. The chemistry of the cast is palpable, and everyone is terrific. Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham are awesome as the action superstars, and they’re definitely the main source of entertainment. Vanessa Kirby is also pretty great, and I have to commend the film for keeping two spectacular cameos under wraps. You won’t believe who’s in this movie as well. There are still a couple of cool action sequences, and I did laugh more than a couple of times, so I guess it isn’t as bad as this review might transmit.
I know I’m in the minority, so I recommend all of you to go watch it and judge it for yourselves. If you enjoy absurdity, ridiculousness, and over-the-top action, as well as cheesy comedy, Hobbs & Shaw might be perfect for you. It didn’t really work for me, though. The comedy was not as good as I expected, the action is not that captivating, and Brixton is such a horribly written and unexplored character, that I kept feeling frustrated every time an action sequence ended. Go for the huge set pieces and the dumb fun, stay for the amazing cast’s chemistry.
PS: if you haven’t watched Game Of Thrones by now, heavy spoilers in this film. You’ve been warned.