On my second, or maybe third, viewing of Avengers: Endgame, I sat next to a guy who’d never seen a single Marvel Cinematic Universe movie before. We chatted for a few minutes after the last of the credits rolled because I was curious on his take, and frankly, surprised that such a mythical creature as he even existed. He liked Endgame, and said it made him curious to see some of the other movies in the franchise. I answered a few questions for him regarding plot points he didn’t quite understand, and then we went our separate ways. Who would go see a movie that far along into an established universe without knowing any backstory? How could they possibly enjoy it? Why?

And… cue me this past Friday sitting down to watch Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw, without ever having seen more than five minutes of any Fast & Furious movie. Ever. But, the trailers looked fun, there didn’t appear to be the overly fetishized focus on cars, and nothing else out intrigued me. So why not? It shouldn’t be necessary to say expectations were low. I figured there’d be death defying-physics boggling stunts, and overly sexualized women, and buff dudes saving the day, and a few car tricks. I was not disappointed.

Predator Presents: Dillon & Dutch- The 80’s Hobbs & Shaw

Having seen no more than this one movie, my impression is that the Fast & Furious movies are throw backs to the action adventure movies of the 80s, with muscled Arnold Schwarzenegger saving the day with huge guns and impossible stunts that make no sense but we don’t care because it’s so much fun to watch the bullets fly, the minions die, the cars blow up, and the villain laugh diabolically. while the hero gets in the zingers (and of course, the girls).  Hobbs & Shaw is all of this, but updated somewhat with special effects, less gratuitous gore and the understanding that women can be hot and also integral to the story. In isolated instances.

But there’s more to it! While Hobbs & Shaw doesn’t go deep- I mean, it doesn’t even reach out to scratch the surface- it does succeed at mixing the classic styles together. Yeah, it’s an action packed summer movie. But it’s also a buddy cop spy thriller with a twist of the Odd Couple. And there are cameos. So many cameos. Is that normal for a Fast & Furious movie?

It’s funny to me that in many ways, the Fast & Furious movies may be the most successful interconnected cinematic universe next to the MCU, with Hobbs & Shaw taking the franchise into new directions. It might be more accurate to say that with this offshoot, an American version of James Bond might actually have come about. Hobbs & Shaw lack Bond’s smoothness, but they’ve certainly got style. It’s a tossup which franchise has more substance, though at first glance I’m inclined to say Bond.

Driving under trucks and punching robots in the face? Simpsons Griswolds did it!

To the movie itself; the storyline is basic, but acceptable to hold attention. Two lone behemoth heroes, and their cars, Dwayne Johnson’s Hobbs and Jason Statham’s Shaw, come together, with all the jockeying for alpha status that entails, to save the girl, Vanessa Kirby, and the world, from the monolithic conspiracy represented by Idris Elba’s… I want to say… Brixton. Yet the entertainment isn’t in watching the action stars fight- though that’s good for what it is- it’s in watching Hobbs and Shaw learn that they can only save the world if they learn to work together. It’s a childhood parable. But with abs.  

On a clock until the end of the world and with government agencies after them, the heroes manage to find time to jump around from LA to London to Moscow to Kazakhstan to Samoa all while not so good naturedly joshing each other with made up aliases, body cavity searches, and patriarchal notions of possessiveness of female siblings.

The chemistry between Johnson and Statham is decent, with each actor giving their performances a good show, though I think only Elba really had fun with his character. I suspect the leading men were there for the paycheck.  Still, they came across as suitably annoyed-yet-grudgingly respectful of each other. Which, I suppose, is a far cry from some of the other Fast & Furious actors’ feelings about each other.

Seriously, how much behind the scenes drama can a franchise have? I heard the car from 4 got it in his contract to never be in the same scene as the motorcycle in 6 unless the tank in 7 was losing a fight but that’s not possible because the tank has it in their contract that they can’t ever lose a fight but it’s all pointless because the car from 4 they say is lazy and doesn’t work well with others anyway. Or something. But I digress.

Like all movies, this has a first act, a second act, and Samoa, where it gets fun.  It begins by introducing us to the heroes and illustrating the differences between them and before bringing them together for inevitable hilarity as their personalities conflict. Of course, while the movie understands at times how absurd it is- it doesn’t even pretend Dwayne Johnson could pass anywhere unnoticed- it does early on push the bounds of credulity past the point of breaking in asking us to believe something so outlandish, so preposterous, that I doubt there’s anything as absurd anywhere else in the entirety of the already barely plausible Fast & Furious franchise.  We’re shown, without question, that Jason Statham’s Deckard Shaw and Vanessa Kirby’s… I want to say Annie? Hattie… are only like three years apart in age.

I think my brain, in a spasm of denial even after already being set to disbelief mode, might have liquefied and seeped out of my ears while my eyes twitched uncontrollably before rolling back into my head, because I missed a few lines after that.

Yeah. So there’s a lot to get through to get to the end, including the introduction and disappearance of an all sexy sexy woman Robin Hood-esque mafia in the second act. It drags a bit around here, despite the high octane explosions and cars running up walls and, I don’t know, running sideways along pointless metal scaffolding that serves no purpose. So I’d suggest if you need a bathroom break, to take it during the drab dreary Soviet Bloc parts of the film before getting to sunny and heartwarming Samoa.

It’s not until the final act when the heroes, with hours to spare until death, death, and more death, take an international flight across two hemispheres and probably a dozen time zones, to arrive in Hobb’s birthplace of Samoa to take on the high tech baddies old school.

You want a montage of people laying traps and setting up for battle? You got it! Or remember in Predator when Dutch and his men have to go primitive to fight the alien and his advanced weaponry? How about when Rocky trained at a frozen farm while Ivan Drago had the best science (and drugs) the Soviet Union had? Yeah, it’s that. But it’s not all about cashing in on 80s tropes. If you liked seeing Captain America’s bulging biceps strain to hold on to a regular helicopter, then this movie’s got you covered, fam!  Speaking of fam, you’ll learn important cultural aspects of Samoa, like Uso might mean brother. Also… they like cars?

For inexplicable reasons the movie around here tries to shoe in a romance that feels so wrong and unnecessary, and kind of just there to get under someone else’s skin, but to their credit they don’t commit fully to it, and by the time the credits roll and the after credits scenes are finished (oh yeah, there are after credits scenes. Fun, but not necessary to the story), you don’t know. Maybe the romance happened, but maybe hopefully, it didn’t. 

And I’m calling it now… POSSIBLE SPOILER WARNING! The faceless villain conglomerate leader is Hobb’s father whom he sent to jail, because trying to turn his son to the Darkside corrupt the good guy is another time honored tradition.

The Geekstranger Scales of Entertainment: Should you see Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw?

Sorry Luke & Deckard (can I call you that?). Decent humor and good action, but it’s still a qualified “No” from us.

I don’t know if there’ll be another Hobbs & Shaw movie. I don’t know that the world needs it, though box office figures suggest it’ll probably happen, or some other iteration of the characters in the Fast & Furious universe will get a film with their own ampersand. I can’t say if the film brings something new or different to the franchise, or if it’s just a quick and easy cash grab from loyal fans. I can say it was an okay way to spend a summer afternoon if you’ve got disposable time and income. But if it’s a choice between Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw and anything else you’d like to see, I would suggest the latter. Maybe I’d feel differently if I was more versed in the lore of the world. Maybe I’m missing half the references and jokes, so keep that in mind if you’re ride or die Fast & Furious. It was a good ride, but too bumpy and meandering to its destination for me.

My last thoughts:  Can we get Vanessa Kirby into the MCU somehow? She’d be perfect for any superhero… Sue Storm? Clea? She-Hulk? Also, since I wasn’t familiar with the characters prior to this, I remembered the name of this movie by calling it “Hobbit Rickshaw” in my head, which I now desperately wish was a film.  Imagine Dwayne Johnson, hobbitized, pulling Jason Statham across Middle Earth. I mean, we can all agree the Rock is a Samwise, right? And Jason is such a Frodo.  

So how did I do for reviewing the ninth film in a franchise I’ve never seen? Personally, I think I nailed it.

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