dir: David Leitch
This is a gloriously stupid movie, and yet somehow that didn’t decrease my enjoyment of it not one whit.
If there are net negatives it’s that there is a certain amount of laziness involved in all the dick squeezing competitiveness of the two leads, one of whom is built like the proverbial brick shithouse, and the other being built like a pre-verbal shit brickhouse, only on a different scale, and yet much of the flick is watching them slap their metaphorical machismo all over each other in order to feel like the bigger man.
And there’s never a winner in those kinds of contests, except for the viewer in theory(?)
There’s a market for that, I guess. A lot of people like seeing men do manly things to each other. I’m not sure that’s the market this flick is aiming for, but it probably doesn’t hurt either.
Throw into the mix the self-titled Black Superman Idris Elba as the villain, with the unlikely name of Brixton Lore, and you have a very unlikely story about some people with very unlikely names doing very unlikely things that rarely involves cars. And it’s…okay.
It’s okay if you’re watching a flick with a premise whereby a baddie of some kind wants to release some kind of virus onto the world that will kill much of humanity. That bit seems a bit too close to home at the moment, but let’s ignore the fact that humanity is currently struggling with a virus, and all the efforts of The Rock, Jason Statham and Stringer Bell ain’t going to do diddly squat to help us, we’re on our own.
The last film, which I think had the even dumber name of Fate of the Furious in order to be able to incorporate an eight into its title, completed the trajectory of these films that started off being about, I kid you not, illegal drag racing, into now being sharper, shinier James Bond flicks. And for this one, the producers thought “those other characters are shit, people only care about the other people with shiny heads that aren’t Vin Diesel”, so they got rid of the plethora of C-list nobodies (no-one misses you Tyrese), and pared it down to an almost manageable amount of scenery chewers and people who yell stuff for expository reasons.
Plus if they hadn’t already in the most recent dumbass flicks, these ones have elevated / degenerated into the most mindless type of science fiction in which they’re presumably set in our world at this time, but technology is somehow way more advanced for the bad guys.
All of the most recent flicks, as far as I can remember (which is really fucking hard, I have to admit), have had a strange need to make the villain seem like the villain for the majority of the flick, whether they’re familiar to us or not, until they’re revealed to have been doing whatever the fuck it is they’re trying to do or steal because someone has been making them do it. Many dumb films ago Statham’s character of Deckard Shaw, which is not a name people give their kids, was a villain but then… And then Shaw’s brother was the villain, and them Dom Toretto was the villain, but the real villain was Charlize Theron, but then there was someone behind her, and then Black Superman kills so many people, but he’s being used by… The Director? Is that a thing, like, within the movie the characters are all being manipulated by The Director?
Aren’t we all? As these flicks roll along, and develop ever more implausible and frankly nuts storylines, the one thing they keep consistently doing is adding siblings or family members as having some connection to the cast in order to what, save time? Anyway, in this flick Shaw also has a younger sister called Hattie Shaw, which is again not the name anyone gives their kid anymore, or ever. She’s played by the delightful Vanessa Kirby, which is a name no-one probably knows, but I remember her as the amazing young Princess Margaret in the first two seasons of The Crown.
If she wasn’t believable as the younger jealous sibling of the queen, well, it’s going to be a bit harder to believe a) she’s the younger sister from the same mother (played again by Helen Mirren) of a man who is clearly 20 years older than her, or b) that she too is a superspy from a family of superspies that neglected to ever mention her in the past. But believability has never been the stock in trade of these flicks. Believability or even physics stopped being relevant in this 9 film saga about 8 films ago.
But they’re meant to be getting by with swagger, attitude, family or the nebulous notion thereof and spectacle. As such they’re less logical than the Marvel movies, but they’re even somehow more unbelievable than a flick where a purple guy clicks his fingers with a magic glove and kills half the universe.
These people are consummate hams, who act for maximum bacon, and get paid accordingly. No-one’s ever going to accuse The Rock of being a great actor, but he’s a great presence, so he can deliver eye-rolling dialogue or dick jokes with enough grunting that it sounds funny. He bullies you into thinking he’s funnier than he actually is.
Statham does the same thing, but from a different direction, also grunting out his unfunny bullshit but with an implausibly Cockney accent that makes it somehow funnier as well. Hearing these two mounds of muscle joke about the smallness of each other’s equipment or lack of sexual prowess is pretty funny coming from two guys who have probably abused as many steroids as these guys have… but whatever.
Hattie is a spy trying to stop Brixton from getting the Snowflake virus, which has been designed to kill everyone. Brixton kills like twenty people, but before he can kill Hattie, she injects the virus into herself. Brixton works for … something, an AI or something, some kind of company which is a cross between the Murdoch press and Facebook, which can dominate all media instantly with the fakest of fake news. So Hattie is on the run because the Fake News says she killed a bunch of people for no reason, despite the fact that she had no reason to, and she’s never going to be confused for an 8 foot black man.
So Hattie brother is after her, Hobbs is after her, Brixton is after her, and probably Claire Foy is angry at her too for getting a gig in such a lucrative franchise when she played the bloody queen – where’s her million dollar payday?
Of course there’s travel to multiple countries, and complex heists, and even more complex and made up technology to make this or that happen, and even a trip to Chernobyl, which sounds fun. It’s not like you’re meant to take any of it too seriously, but it is a bit wearying. I can say that these flicks, like all flicks in successful franchises, seem to be getting longer and longer, and now that all the cinemas are going to be shutting down, it seems increasingly likely that they’re going to get even fucking longer.
The question isn’t whether it makes any real world sense, but whether we have fun with them along the way. I guess it’s okay? It really does seem like they’re going through the motions when they’re talking to each other, and the forced jocularity and one-upmanship between Hobbs and Shaw is mostly just tedious.
Vanessa Kirby does better paired with any character, though the sexual tension stuff with the Rock is a bit off. The Rock, somewhat ironically, despite having the kind of physique that we are meant to think is the pinnacle of Man doesn’t ever get any in these flicks. Sure, some women have to act around him like he’s the bee’s knees who fucks like a Viking volcano, but there’s a reason why he displays all the raw sexuality of a roided up Ken doll in every movie he’s in. I don’t know what the reason is, but I assume it’s from choice.
And good on him. I mean, probably no-one these days tells him what to do.
Unless they’re the bad guy. Idris, I’m ashamed to say, isn’t that memorable in this. Because of the magic of Technology, he isn’t even afforded the luxury of being a malevolent villain who wants to destroy everyone because humanity sucks, or because they did him wrong, or because a drunk driver killed his girlfriend and he wants revenge / justice / cupcakes.
He’s just a guy controlled by someone or something else, like by remote control. And when he goes, he’ll go unlamented, and unmourned.
But also, when he goes, it’ll be on the isle of Samoa, because this flick somehow even more implausibly ends up there, with Hobbs somehow coming to reconcile with his brother (the awesome Maori actor Cliff Curtis) as the primal tribal power of Samoans with hotted up cars and trucks take on and defeat the AI Technology of Colonialism or something.
I have to admit, I might have been inebriated when I watched this. And this was before the shutdown of air travel, having travelled for work, in a hotel room, with literally nothing better to do. It’s definitely a Saturday night flick, which can’t really be remembered that well by Monday. But sometimes we need that in these crazy, crazy times.
6 times I really thought the flick would be an argument between Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan and George Bernard Shaw’s Man and Superman for who had a lower opinion of humanity out of 10
“I’m trying to save the world, which, for the record, will be my fourth time, ‘cause I’m really good at it.” – I’m glad you’re keeping track – Hobbs & Shaw.