Film Title: Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw

This image released by Universal Pictures shows Dwayne Johnson, left, and Jason Statham in a scene from “Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw.”

By Jason Guyer

The “Fast & Furious presents: Hobbs & Shaw” is the first spinoff in the “Fast and the Furious” franchise. Now, to be honest, I have never really been “in” on the “Fast and the Furious” franchise. They do have their place and I have seen them all but they deal in absurdity and besides being a fun, one-time watch, I would not say they are good films.

They are showy movies that ensnare the audience with the one-upmanship of each film in the franchise. They seem to even ask themselves, at least in the stunt department, “How crazy can we get?” Well, one film had a car jumping buildings in Dubai and the last one had cars in a high speed chase with a submarine.

In the new film, the absurdity continues. “Hobbs & Shaw” brings together lawman Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), a loyal agent of America’s Diplomatic Security Service, and a former British military elite operative, Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) as a crime fighting duo.

The pair first faced off in 2015’s “Furious 7.” Hobbs and Shaw talk smack and trade body blows throughout the franchise. When the cyber-genetically enhanced anarchist Brixton (Idris Elba) gains control of an insidious bio-threat that could alter humanity forever, the pair of sworn enemies must join forces to “save the world.”

Elba is interesting as the bad guy, but falls flat and is overshadowed by the absurd cyber-genetic enhancements his character has. Yet, absurdity is not new to the franchise. The audience may enjoy it — I didn’t. It made “Hobbs & Shaw” feel like “Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare.”

The newest member to join the team is Vanessa Kirby, of “The Crown” fame. Kirby plays a brilliant and fearless rogue MI6 agent named Hattie Shaw. However, that is the only depth the new character ads. Hattie Shaw is treated as any other female character in the franchise, taking a back seat to the testosterone-driven male leads.

Hattie Shaw plays the damsel in distress and the obligatory female badass character. There are even scenes that have Hobbs and Shaw debating Hattie’s preference for dating Hobbs, all without Hattie’s own input. I know the “Fast and the Furious” franchise is not a high concept, but a better arc would be Hattie being an affront to Hobbs and Shaw’s overt masculinity.

The prospect of having Hattie jump in and overshadow both Hobbs and Shaw in the courtship of a female asset to forward their case would make a more compelling storyline.

Hattie, however, is not the worst thing in the film. The worst thing in “Hobbs & Shaw” is the very thing one would assume the film would be best at — the action. The action sequences in “Hobbs & Shaw” are extreme, as any fan of the franchise would expect, but they are very poorly filmed.

Action scenes, for obvious reasons, are often filmed at slow speeds and then digitally sped up to make the scene feel like it is moving really fast. The one thing that should never happen is the audience shouldn’t see it. In “Hobbs & Shaw,” the audience can see, in certain scenes, that it is shot at a slow speed. “Hobbs & Shaw” is an action film and a big budget one at that. This is an egregious problem for such a film.

That one aspect takes away from the chemistry of the characters in those scenes. Johnson plays Luke Hobbs just as well as he has in the past. The same can be said about Statham’s Deckard Shaw. In “Hobbs & Shaw,” neither bring anything new to the table.

The “Fast and the Furious” films are all about amplification, and “Hobbs & Shaw” amplifies these two characters and their respective stories. The pair work very well together and each actor charms in very different ways. Hobbs is the hard working, every American type of character while Shaw is the debonaire James Bond-esque socialite. In the same room, they are meant to clash in a symmetrical way and in this film they often do this very well, maybe too well.

There are parts of the film that feel like they go on too long to appease the witty back and forth between Hobbs and Shaw. The airplane scene in particular should have been short and a way to propel the story into Russia. However, they played to the banter and let it go far too long. There were easily two jumping off points that would have kept the film in flow and they missed both.

“Hobbs & Shaw” is issue-filled and is not nearly as good as any of the other franchise films, well except maybe “Tokyo Drift.”

The real issue with “Hobbs & Shaw” is it never feels like a “Fast and the Furious” film. The “Fast and the Furious” films have one thing “Hobbs & Shaw” fails to provide — a binding agent. Mi familia, Spanish for my family, is a huge binding agent to the characters of “Fast and the Furious” franchise films — well, that and fast cars. This allows the audience and the characters themselves to connect to one another. “Hobbs & Shaw” is lacking that and feels how these franchise films will eventually one day too: absurd.

The “Fast and the Furious” franchise will inevitably get there and most likely that day is the day they enter space. Yes, space. The binding theme will leave one day and the “Fast and the Furious” films will have nothing left to them but their absurd nature.

“Hobbs & Shaw” is already there.

IRATE SCORE: 2/5

Jason Guyer is an avid moviegoer and works in the graphics department at the Eagle Times. For questions or comments, he can be emailed at guyerj@eagletimes.com

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