Listen to a special episode of our podcast, Where’s The Damn Sequel?!, with a discussion of Hobbs & Shaw:
Hobbs and Shaw w/Shane Kelly and Gemma Robocop
Hobbs... AND Shaw? In this economy?? In a special emergency episode (a nice way of saying "sorry for the poor audio")…
You know Hobbs. You know Shaw. What if there was a big sexy ampersand betwixt their names of infamy? David Leitch, a man I once mistook for an exciting new voice in action cinema who in fact seems intent on single-handedly destroying the basic fabrics of human decency, has assembled the two funny strongmen of Universal’s Fast (and somehow, also) Furious series for a spin-off adventure that takes Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham deep into Chernobyl, Samoa and the billing negotiator's office. Leitch managed with 2017’s breakout Atomic Blonde to establish a vocabulary of hitman movie that offered a complicatedly-sexy female-driven vision for an action blockbuster with Charlize Theron its dominant lead. Somehow that film’s political goodwill has been utterly undone with two subsequent pictures — Deadpool 2 and this balding farce — that go so far in failing the Bechdel Test that they create the need for a new test that asks “Are there two female characters? Are they referred to by actual human names?”.
Vanessa Kirby’s third-wheel to the Johnson/Statham bromance is introduced as Shaw’s sister (absolutely believable as the daughter of Helen Mirren) and henceforth referred to as “The Asset” as the big men try to pull some capsules out of her hand. Where Theron’s titular Atomic Blonde utilised the female body as a practical weapon in John Wick style fights, Kirby is reduced to groin and ass-focused choreography so diminutive you assume Joss Whedon must have been involved. It’s sad that Fast & Furious would, in attempting to abandon its proudly seedy racetrack roots, become misogynistic in a somehow more obnoxious and dishonest way. The always enchanting Kirby deserves (and in last summer’s Mission: Impossible — Fallout, received) so much better.
Hobbs & Shaw’s only overt attempt at politicking comes in its triumphantly stupid final act: Hobbs and the siblings Shaw take refuge from Idris Elba (as a genetically-altered supersoldier called Brixton) at the isolated Samoan ranch where Hobbs was raised. Upon opening the gun cabinet they discover that all their artillery is… gone! “Very noble of you to get rid of it” mutters Statham in his “Brexit Means Brexit” drawl.
The film proceeds to teach us the importance of non-mechanical violence: fists and sticks are the way to go. The shortsightedness of this moralising in a film so abhorrently militaristic, and mere minutes after Eiza Gonzalez shows off a big gun for the audience to drool over, is borderline charming were it not so toxic.
It’s rivalled only by a YUNGBLUD cover of “Time in a Bottle”, a cameo from America’s worst superstar comedy actor and second worst superstar comedy actor, and the fact that the film’s Weapon of Mass Destruction is called a “snowflake” (harr de harr) for the most brazen miscalculation in a film made for and by men who definitely smell even worse than you’d expect. The jolly banter that ensues between Hobbs and also Shaw stokes memories of some truly awful R-rated comedies — penis-related insults, flashes of gay panic and very little else.
There’s simply an inherent nastiness and a crudeness to this film’s energy and purpose — even the villain is no more hateful than the two heroes. One longs for the cheesy quasi-evangelical sincerity of Vin Diesel and his friends from the main Furious thread. Something is desperately needed to dilute the bullying that powers this film.