Posts Tagged ‘Vanessa Kirby’

Review: Hobbs & Shaw

Friday, August 2nd, 2019

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.