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David Poland

By David Poland

Review: Hobbs & Shaw

I have an on-again, off-again relationship with the The Fast & The Furious franchise. I remember seeing the first film in the run, directed by the ever-cinematically flatulent Rob Cohen, 18 years ago in a room somewhere at Universal that I can’t ever remember being in before or since. And it was flawed. But it was fun. And intimate. And weird. And it was great to see in-camera car stunts that we hadn’t seen in a while.

In 2002, Spider-Man launched the CG era of movie franchises, though the work seems primitive these near-two-decades later. It was truly revolutionary at the time.

But The Fast & The Furious was about real cars and real people (ha!) and the grit of it all. So 2 Fast 2 Furious stayed in that pocket. And when things went a little sideways and they headed to Asia for The Fast & The Furious: Tokyo Drift, the emphasis was still on what could be done in-camera (as was true of the other car action landmark of that period, The Bourne Supremacy).

Things changed with the Justin Lin era, starting with 2009’s Fast & Furious, which played it kinda close to the vest on the CG until it rolled a flaming gas truck over some cars. Fast Five and The Giant Safe that did things that are impossible in real life. Fast & Furious 6 went all the way down the CG rabbit hole. Furious 7 chased. Rinse, repeat.

As the F&F8 train smashed into theaters in the summer of 2017, David Leitch was going over the top with Atomic Blonde before taking over the Deadpool franchise from Tim Miller (whose Terminator reboot is due later this year) on his way to this spin-off from the F&F franchise, which leans heavily on Deadpool 2 as Leitch and Drew Pearce and Dwayne Johnson seem to want to lean into the silly, edgy, more R-rated tone, while being checked by F&F veteran writer Chris Morgan.

I think it worked.

There is too much movie here. No question. Two hours and fifteen minutes is just unnecessary. At some point, it all gets a bit blurry and repetitive.

But don’t touch the 7 or 8 minutes of cameos, please. They are silly and fun and smart.

There is a bit of the F&F problem of stunts in cities getting so elaborate that the reality that they are taking place in a real city gets lost. Guys like Dick Donner used to fix this kind of problem with recurring street characters who seemed meaningless until we saw them the third time when something crazy was going on. The intensity was heightened by them as much as by the stunts.

Some of the clearly CGed stunt effects with Idris Elba, however, are magnificent and better than we have ever seen before… however unrealistic.

This is a giant, dark cartoon. It’s a boy movie with two differently attractive men and a hot blonde and a superhero villain that almost out-watts them all combined. The stunts are huge. These four characters are compelling. But the story really, really tries to be complex enough to put us to sleep in between.

The storyline has a virus that will end all life on earth… but this line seems almost boring in context. Why not ramp it up a bit? Personally, I am sick to death of “we can save the world if only we kill most of the population.” This has become the Nazi-fighting of this decade of action filmmaking. Yawn!

There is the classic role of The Professor, here handled by Eddie Marsan, but somehow, he doesn’t get to chew the scenery enough. He seems realistic in this story of insane size. Marsan can rip up some scenery. Give the man a giant kink. Give him another layer of conscience. Something! Make it happen!

Leitch and Company don’t quite trust the “no guns… all family” bit when they end up in Samoa. And that’s a shame. There’s only so long you can sustain bat-to-bat combat, but it is the kind of compelling idea that makes movies great. In years past, Mama would be hitting someone in the head with a pot lid before going back to stirring her stew. And that would be a bit gross in 2019, yes. But instead of just avoiding it, find a modern-thinking alternative. Use the old racist tendencies against the new bad guys.

But I didn’t sit at the keypad to rip this movie. The stars are always fun to watch and they are fun together. Elba gets all serious when he is being reloaded with power, but most of the time, he is the Coyote to their Roadrunner… oh so close, but never quite close enough and he doesn’t go campy with it, but has some fun (which we share). Vanessa Kirby is attractive and believable kicking ass and outthinking her male counterparts, though she, like Marsan, could have used a few more colors.

I enjoyed the fights. I enjoyed the broken glass. I was good with the car stunts. And helicopter stunts.

And mostly, I enjoyed the tone. There was an element of the spoofs of Bond, like In Like Flint, but done with the highest end stunts and explosions. Great. If you had teamed James Coburn with Charles Bronson way back when, this would have been the kind of movie you might get.

But it would be 100 minutes long.

And it would have been great fun… but not as great as this movie almost is.

It’s the second-best action movie of the summer, after Spider-Man: Far From Home. And what keeps it from being an instant classic for which we would clamor for a half-dozen sequels instantly is that it won’t let the motor completely loose. Men in Black International and Godzilla: King of The Monsters and, in an odd way, The Lion King all suffered from the same problem. The pieces were there, but somehow, the will to rebirth was restrained.

Ya gotta break some eggs if you want to make an omelet. And while the CG spends get bigger and bigger and bigger, it’s time for studios to wake up and realize that it was never the CG we showed up to watch. It’s a great addition. And in the case of comic book movies, the CG was required to make the unreality of comics come to life so we lose our resistance to looking at what is clearly impossible. But it is a tool used in the kitchen, not the meal.

What is frustrating about Calvin & Hobbs or whatever it’s called (what a horrible, unmemorable title) is that they seemed to get the joke. Big time. The 30 minutes of loosey-goosey silly joyous macho gay-subtext sexually frustrated madness was exactly what I wanted it to be (well… “exactly” is perhaps too much). But they (the collective filmmaking “they”) get the joke. But then they go back to the same old stuff that made me see and forget the last few F&F entries.

I liked. I want to love. And unrequited love is a sad thing.

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29 Responses to “Review: Hobbs & Shaw”

  1. palmtree says:

    DP, excellent review…loved that line about Donner. Seeing the movie Monday. I don’t know what’s propelling these reviews suddenly, but I want them to keep coming.

  2. MarkVH80 says:

    Great review, but ahem…John Wick 3 is the best action movie of the summer.

  3. movieman says:

    Agree that it’s a good half hour too long: which is probably why I both liked and hated it (mostly towards the end when nature’s call became unbearable).
    When it was really working, I might have actually preferred it to “Parabellum” due to its utter lack of pretension. (My favorite “JW” remains #2.)
    But what the hell is “H&S” anyway?
    A buddy comedy?
    It’s definitely not a “car movie.”
    The Variety reviewer who made the “Moonraker” comparison was right on.

    Yes, it’s very good to have Dave contributing on a regular basis again!

  4. Dr Wally Rises says:

    It’s a little sobering to watch the original F&F now when you consider what this franchise has metastasized into. It is a modest, relatively low-budget unpretentious remake of Point Break with engaging characters and some authentic-sounding and rich David Ayer dialogue. It has stunts and action that border on plausible.

    I had a very similar sensation a couple of weeks ago when I rewatched Zodiac. Amazing movie, but what grabs you in 2019 is the shocking realisation that you are watching Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk and Mysterio doing authentic character acting in an expensive mainstream studio drama.

    Sobering, yes, because it’s dawned on me that the 00’s were a long time and a different world ago.

  5. movieman says:

    Thanks for that “Zodiac” flashback, Dr. W.
    One of the greatest American movies of the 00’s for sure.

  6. leahnz says:

    fuck hobbs & shaw, but whenever i see mention of ‘zodiac’ i’m (probably irrationally) compelled to note that this sublime flick received zeeeeerrrooo (as in nil) oscar noms. speaks volumes.

  7. movieman says:

    Have you seen Frank Perry’s “Man on a Swing” from 1974, Leah?
    Watched it for the first time earlier this year, and was gobsmacked by how “Zodiac”-ish it felt.
    Have to believe Fincher is familiar with that sadly forgotten movie.

  8. Stella's Boy says:

    Just want to add to the Zodiac love. It’s one of the movies I’ve seen the most. So, so good.

    Hobbs & Shaw is one of the only summer movies my 11-year-old has asked to see, so I’ll be taking him sometime soon.

  9. movieman says:

    I always get a kick out of showing “Zodiac” in class.
    Young minds are blown seeing Downey and Ruffalo (and now Gyllenhaal) before their Marvel bondage. Most of my kids don’t even realize those actors existed prior to “Iron-Man” and “The Avengers.”
    The haunting ambiguity of the movie–so unlike the majority of studio releases today–remains one of its most singular achievements.
    Also love the deliberateness of Fincher’s approach: the painstaking accretion of details and its unhurried pace. It’s the exact opposite of today’s ADD cinema.
    Fincher has made a lot of movies I love over the years, but I still think “Zodiac” is his crowning glory.

  10. Sideshow Bill says:

    Zodiac was my favorite movie of 2007, by a smidge over There Will Be Blood. It’s still frightening and utterly compelling which is amazing for a movie with almost no violence and, really, no ending. It’s just stunning.

    Common ground, leahnz and others. Let’s take joy in common ground.

    Dying to see The Lighthouse and Nightingale. And I’m excited for Scary Stories and hope it doesn’t disappoint.

    H&S? Monday maybe. 2 1/4 of dick measuring doesn’t make me all that excited but it looks ridiculously fun.

    Oh, and Love, Antosha. David gave it a nice notice on Twitter. I’m gonna cry all the way through. Yelchin was special. He made crap like Mcg’s Terminator abortion watchable just with his uncanny 1980s Michael Beihn impersonation

  11. Amblinman says:

    As if I couldn’t love this group more: Zodiac is an annual watch for me. One of my fave movie of the last ten+ years. The big interrogation scene can only be watched with your jaw on the floor.

  12. leahnz says:

    not to be a pooper, but are there many non-Zodiac people? i guess so, can’t relate. maybe you have to love a meaty, sprawling, impeccably rendered period procedural
    (i have seen ‘man on a swing’ but so long ago, maybe i can stream it)

  13. Sideshow Bill says:

    Anti-Zodiac people have no place in my life.

    I do recall Dave giving it a mixed review. Could be wro

  14. palmtree says:

    Just saw Zodiac based on all your comments. Loved it. It was both nothing like I imagined and everything I needed it to be. Sort of like watching an Avengers movie, but for adults. …I mean that in the nicest possible way.

  15. leahnz says:

    in these troubled times, this may be the hotblog comments section’s most excellent and proudest moment and achievement

  16. movieman says:

    This is completely unrelated, but R.I.P. to D.A. Pennebaker.
    Ironically, I just watched his fantastic “recording-of-the-‘Company’-cast-album” movie the other night. It was truly like capturing lightning in a bottle.
    Wow. Sent shivers down the nape of my neck.

  17. Amblinman says:

    Here’s why we love Zodiac: smart people having smart conversations with each other. Remarkable how much fun it is when watching believable, smart human beings doing stuff.

  18. Pete B. says:

    Saw the unlikely pairing of Hobbs & Shaw with Yesterday at the local drive-in. While I agree with Dave that H&S goes on too long, I would have definitely trimmed the cameos down. A little goes a long way, and they dragged. At two hours this movie would have hummed along. Vanessa Kirby, who I was unfamiliar with, holds her own in the action scenes. I have a serious spoiler question, but I’ll hold on to it til more folks have seen the flick.

  19. movieman says:

    Something else completely unrelated to “H&S,” but this seems to be the new go-to thread, so…

    Just finished watching the new Linda Ronstadt doc, “The Sound of My Voice.”
    Really, really good: I think I cried through most of it.
    Stirred up so many memories.
    And I hadn’t expected Linda herself to appear on-camera and discuss her Parkinson’s.
    Fantastic talent, fantastic career, fantastic lady.

  20. palmtree says:

    To revisit an earlier point, H&S did in fact open at #1 with $60m.

  21. YancySkancy says:

    You people liked that piece of crap Zodiac????


    My pick for the best of 2007 also.

  22. palmtree says:

    I’m with DP on Hobbs and Shaw. Too long, and too much movie. It was exhausting. Although, yes, also quite a bit of fun…but much of it in a self-aware way. I wish it took itself more seriously so that I could enjoy it more, but when it’s so jokey, the danger of the stunts feels diminished. I think Vin Diesel works in this franchise for that very reason.

  23. sam says:

    They were my guilty pleasure from the get-go. My fiance had never seen one so he watched 8 with me on HBO. Alas, I was unable to convert him.

  24. palmtree says:

    Sam, I think a better entry point would be 5. It’s just a cool heist movie with great practical stunts and, you know, family.

  25. Triple Option says:

    Vanessa Kirby grew on me over the course of the film. I did see Mission Impossible Fallout which she was in though I can’t remember a lot of what she did. I thought it was a great pic overall and may’ve been more impressed by Cruise. I haven’t seen Jupiter Ascending or Everest to see how she does in other action roles. The opening shot with her on the bike in her motorcycle helmet made her look like such a pup. I was a bit surprised she wasn’t the first victim. It wasn’t quite Angelina Jolie in Salt beating up dudes a foot taller and 150 lbs heavier level of suspension of disbelief but I wasn’t pegging her a being one of the main heroes. Seeing her fight some more over the course of the film it became less of an issue.

    Like everyone else, I’ll agree in saying it was too long. Really wondered why they had it so long? Was it to give it more the sense of an epic big summer release? 1:55 would’ve done that just as well.

    The trailer did nothing for me, almost didn’t see it. A bit frustrated it went on so long but not exactly bored. I don’t mind it living in sort of a futuristic world but it was a bit too comic book superhero level for my taste and wondered will a the bulk of action films coming out in the foreseeable future have to be to that level? I think I’m OK with people pulling off one in a million type of car tricks but the cgi bullets and regeneration stuff sorta took me out of it.

    I think I’d like it more if some of these films had better markers. There have been a ton of Bond films but some you remember by the villain or a certain stunt. Many of the Mission Impossible films blend together but I remember like the stunt of Tom scaling the outside of the bldg in Dubai and Fallout was so good, I can have that name set aside in my head. But like some of the Star Trek movies and Star Wars movies are really getting indistinguishable. I know we can’t expect boxoffice record after record and eternal growth but is $60M really an adequate opening for this film? Not so much in terms of cost, I have no idea what their nut to cover is and what it’ll make worldwide, but is this an indication of industry health or maybe litmus test might be a better way of saying it?

    There was something very lazy, inorganic, check off a buncha boxes on a list and let the studio execs smile thinking their asses have been covered and they’ll rake in hundreds of millions. It’s got The Rock, big sets, international settings, part of a franchise name, some explosions oh and some hot kick ass girls! It wasn’t quite as formulaic as Central Intelligence but it just seems more like Hollywood driving itself off the cliff when they throw out such uninspired films. $200M budgets!! I want to see awe and wonderment and have that sense like when watching the trailer for The Matrix or Independence Day or the original Fast & Furious of “Oh man, I wanna see that!” Instead I feel like Hollywood is so preoccupied with counting profits that it either forgot to care or think the viewing public is too stupid to know the difference. I don’t want to come across as being so petulant but I kinda feel like if there’s not a reason to see a big budget action film on the big screen, which Hobbs & Shaw is perfectly suitable for viewing on your home screen, then there really isn’t a reason to make it, period. I mean, I didn’t hate it and don’t regret going but holy crap, in general, do better! Try harder!

  26. Hcat says:

    I’ve probably mentioned this before but my favorite criticism of Hollywood has always been “its not that they make bad movies, its that they keep making the same movie.”

  27. leahnz says:

    nobody making mainstream movies is going to do better or try harder as long as the obvious brand shitshows are the ones making money at the cinema, contributing to them via the power of your wallet seems counterintuitive

  28. palmtree says:

    Triple, good to read your thoughts. My thoughts about what made it inorganic, lazy, etc. was that the tone was just a bunch of tough, indestructible guys having some fun. They forgot that what made Fallout and F&F movies fun was a sense of danger and the thrill of just barely making it out. We have fun because the characters are not having fun. But instead by having the characters have fun, in a sense they are stealing it from the audience.

  29. Stella's Boy says:

    Late to the party but just saw it. Weird movie. Not sure I have much to add that hasn’t been stated already. Exhausting is apt. I very much enjoy the first oh 30-45 minutes. It’s goofy summer fun and solid entertainment. But the longer it goes the more worn out I felt. The action scenes grow tiresome and the constant breaks for schmaltz about family and teamwork are irksome. By the time they got to Samoa I just wanted it to be over. Not a bad summer movie (and my kid loved it). Has its charms and some amusing banter and decent spectacle. But it’s so overstuffed and overlong. So many dick jokes. And apparently it’s the summer of the flamethrower.

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