Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw

The best parts of the Fast & Furious franchise have always been the nonsense parts. That is why no one cared about the first couple of entries in the series; they were at least partly trying to be movies. The problem with the last couple of movies isn’t that there was too much nonsense, it was that too much of the nonsense wasn’t as fun as it should be. This was a much bigger problem with Fate of the Furious than Furious 7 (hey, rankings are fun, see the bottom of this post), but some unwieldiness has been creeping into the series since just after Fast & Furious 6. This spin-off is the most ludicrous film in the series yet, but thanks to its two stars and some fun sequences, it also manages to be one of the best in the series.

Two stars is kind of misleading, as this is really a movie with three. Yes, Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham’s characters are named in the title, but Vanessa Kirby is just as integral to the film as the two of them and is a more than credible action star. But back to the named stars. This movie makes me fear for future F&F movies, as the two most charismatic performers in the series are now confined to their own spin-off. I am very on the record for my love of The Rock, and this movie plays hard into his best traits. I am also a big fan of Jason Statham. They are both playing essentially to type, but they are fun in their usual personas. The movie doesn’t quite sell their animosity to alliance as well as it could, but if you want me to not like a buddy spy movie starring The Rock and Jason Statham you are going to be disappointed. Last but not least is Idris Elba as the villain Brixton Lore, a cybernetically enhanced super-soldier.

The plot is pure nonsense, but really no more nonsensical than the average James Bond or Mission Impossible movie. There is a deadly virus, which for complicated reasons Kirby’s Hattie Shaw injects into herself to keep it away from Lore. Luke Hobbs and Deckard Shaw are dispatched to find her. Soon they do and the three of them have to go on the run from Lore. What sets it apart is just how ridiculous it lets itself be as they solve these problems. The Rock jumps from a high rise to chase villains repelling down. Statham drives a Lamborghini underneath two trucks. There are many other things that I really don’t want to spoil, from cameos to actions bits. Suffice to say, Hobbs & Shaw is stuff with amazing, fun, nonsensical stuff.

The dialogue, mostly, is the same kind of ridiculous fun. They try really hard for banter between Rock and Statham, but their hyper-masculine posturing has fun elements. It still manages to feel like a Fast & Furious movie. Cars play an outsized role in everything. It all comes down to family, though the movie seems to forget that Statham’s character had a brother.

Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw is everything I’ve liked from the recent F&F movies. It is big, dumb, explosive fun. It is a tone that few other movies manage at all. Bring on Hobbs & Shaw 2.

9. 2 Fast 2 Furious

8. Fast & Furious

7. Fate of the Furious

6. Fast & Furious 3: Tokyo Drift

5. The Fast & the Furious

4. Furious 7

3. Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw

2. Fast & Furious 6

1. Fast 5

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Skyscraper Review

Skyscraper could and should be much better than it is. All of the elements for a fun summer action movie are here, but they just are combined haphazardly to make for something shockingly unenjoyable. There is a modicum of fun to be had with Skyscraper, Dwayne Johnson remains the best action star on the planet and there are some well done scenes, but this movie is eminently skippable.

Skyscraper looks like straight up Die Hard rip off, but that is only part of what it is. It combines Die Hard with plenty of Jurassic Park. The basic idea is Die Hard, with terrorists in a skyscraper and one man having to work his way through them to save his family. But in Skyscraper, the building is a technological marvel. Viewers are supposed to awed by it like they were when they first saw dinosaurs in Jurassic Park. The building owner is happy to show off his creation, which is brought low by sabotage and then disaster. So not only is The Rock working against the bad guys in the tower, he is also working against the building itself. It isn’t a bad idea, but it mostly just makes the movie feel super busy.

That plays into the movie’s biggest problem; all of its characters are just voids. It has only been a few days, but I can’t remember anyone’s name. Other than loving his family, The Rock’s character is a nonentity. His kids have personalities like “has asthma” and “is girl.” His wife is … also there. The villains get no more development, nor do the cops or the building owner. They all have maybe one trait or more likely just a goal, but there is nothing there to grasp onto.

The Rock does have a handicap, which is an interesting choice. He lost a leg in an explosion, so he wears a prosthetic. It adds a layer of vulnerability to the normally indestructible persona he exudes. In the end, the prosthetic is used as more of an asset than a handicap.

There are some solid action scenes, mostly dealing with The Rock hanging off the side of this very tall building. The less effective scenes happen in the building. Early on the movie sets up a completely unrelated to the building technological marvel whose use in the finale is so blatantly obvious that it is insulting. The building is topped by what is essentially a Star Trek holodeck. It feels like someone took the climax out of a different screenplay because there wasn’t a satisfying conclusion to this one.

Skyscraper is just not good. I can’t fault any of the actors, they are giving it their best. The Rock never appears to be giving less than 110 percent in any movie. But the material here is somehow both too thin and overstuffed. A lot happens in the movie, but since it doesn’t happen to characters someone could care about it feels completely pointless.

**1/2

Baywatch Review

The trailers for Baywatch made it very clear what the film makers were trying to do, which is replicate the formula that lead to the success of 21 Jump Street. This should have been a success. Dwayne Johnson is always charming and Zac Efron has underrated comedic chops. Director Seth Gordon has turned in fine work before, like pleasantly surprising Horrible Bosses. While the cast is largely fine, the movie they are trapped in is a complete mess.

Baywatch proves unable to pick a tone and stick with it. It works best when the Baywatch team, led by Johnson’s Mitch Buchannon, is completely oblivious to the fact that lifeguards don’t investigate crimes. The team soldiers on, oblivious to the inherent ridiculousness of the situation. Less effective are the jokes about balls or the numerous slo-mo running jokes. Or anything involving the nerdy trainee played by Jon Bass. There are three or four tones going on and the only one that even kind of works is the played straight buddy cop movie that Baywatch sometimes wants to be.

I went in really wanting to like this movie. I love The Rock. He is frequently enough to get a movie over just on his charm. That is what this movie has going for it. Him playing a superhumanly competent lifeguard is fun, and funny enough that this movie didn’t need the wealth of terrible jokes, including some that just seem mean spirited for the sake of a few gross out moments. Zac Efron can be fun as a dimwitted foil for The Rock, but this movie has him play both the goof and the straight man, making neither work. Alexandria Daddario has nothing to do, nor do bit players like Rob Huebel, Hannibal Burress and Oscar Nunez. Priyanka Chopra has fun as the villain, but she doesn’t get enough time to play off the rest of the cast.

The movie just feels like a missed opportunity. This is a formula that can work, they have the right cast. But they are stranded completely by a lackluster script, assuming that there was a script. That is the biggest reason the humor falls flat; there are no funny jokes here. There are funny premises, but they are not taken advantage of for any real comedy. The action stuff works better, but it is still second banana stuff in what should be a comedy.

Baywatch is a bad movie that barely keeps it head above water thanks to an all-around charming cast.

**