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Bod couple - ‘Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw’

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Remember “The Fast and the Furious”? The movie that was about illegal street racing?

Those days are long past, of course; as things currently stand, these movies exist in a physics-defying universe of impossible stunts, ridiculous fistfights and cornball dialogue. Notice I didn’t mention plot or character development, because that is very much not what these movies are about.

And never has the franchise been as fully all-in on the nonsense as it is with this latest iteration. This new installment – the first in what will almost certainly end up being a cavalcade of spinoffs – is “Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw” (for the sake of brevity, we’ll go ahead and just call it “Hobbs & Shaw” moving forward – no one will have any trouble remember the connection to “F&F”).

This one leaves behind Dominic Torretto and his street-racer-turned-international-superagent “family” to focus on later arrivals Luke Hobbs and Deckard Shaw, allowing for an expansion of the franchise into a whole new realm of lunacy.

And expand it does, offering audiences a spectacle even sillier and more outlandish than the extremely silly and outlandish stuff we’ve seen in the most recent “F&F” films. There’s no narrative cohesion to speak of and a lot of what happens doesn’t really add up, but let’s be real – you’re not coming to this movie for the story. What you ARE here for is the action – and there’s a LOT of that, with set pieces that lean into the big, dumb and ultimately loving embrace of the franchise.

It doesn’t make much sense, but hey – it doesn’t have to.

Government agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson, “Skyscraper”) is still doing his thing, trying to save the world from bad guys. Semi-reformed villain Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham, “The Meg”) is reluctantly helping deal with the baddies as well, at the behest of his own government.

However, their two divergent paths are brought together thanks to the theft of a weaponized virus, genetically engineered to be wildly contagious and totally fatal. An attempt to steal the virus is made by a menacing fellow named Brixton (Idris Elba, TV’s “Luther”); Brixton, working at the behest of shadowy masters, has been cybernetically enhanced and turned into the perfect human weapon. He is thwarted at the last minute by Hattie (Vanessa Kirby, “Julie”), an MI6 agent who infects herself with the virus – dubbed Snowflake – and flees before Brixton can take her.

Brixton frames Hattie for the crime, which leads to both Hobbs and Shaw being brought in by their respective bosses. The two, bearing great antipathy toward one another – a carryover from their previous encounters – initially refuse to work together, though they eventually (and VERY grudgingly) agree to team up.

What follows is some of the most bonkers action nonsense of the summer. It turns out that Hattie is actually Shaw’s sister who stayed out of the family business (we get a couple of delightful scenes featuring Shaw family matriarch Queenie (Helen Mirren, “Anna”) along the way as well), so there’s that. And it turns out that there’s some global conglomerate behind Brixton that wants to use the virus to advance its goal of helping humanity evolve by … killing everyone? Like I said, it doesn’t make a lot of sense.

And so it’s up to Hobbs and Shaw (and eventually Hattie) to take down the nigh-invulnerable Brixton and get the virus out of Hattie before the conveniently-long time release capsules pop and turn her into a pandemic-causing Patient Zero. This plan involves breaking into super-secret labs and fighting wave upon wave of faceless henchmen and – in perhaps the silliest bit of a very silly movie – going to Samoa for the final showdown because Hobbs needs to reconcile with his estranged family and also because they hold the key to saving the day for reasons that are – like much of the movie – never adequately explained.

It can’t be stressed enough – “Hobbs & Shaw” doesn’t make sense. Nor is it particularly interested in trying. It is a sweaty smorgasbord of CGI explosions and oiled-up biceps. There are gun battles and car chases and SO MANY FISTFIGHTS. The dialogue is rife with macho posturing and stupid jokes. And even in a franchise noted for its utter denial of physical laws, this movie stands out for the ludicrous unreality of its set pieces.

With all that said – it’s still a pretty good time. I mean, it’s The Rock and Jason Statham. You’d have to try hard to NOT have a good time.

Director David Leitch has a lengthy resume packed with action-oriented credits. He spent a couple of decades as a stuntman and stunt coordinator before assuming the director’s chair, co-directing “John Wick” and helming “Atomic Blonde” and “Deadpool 2.” He knows how these movies work and has used that knowledge accordingly. It’s a well-crafted film, even if it doesn’t make any sense.

The chemistry of the film’s titular duo does a lot of the heavy lifting (figuratively and literally). Johnson and Statham bring different flavors of action stardom to the table, but the two tastes taste great together. It’s that dynamic – both physical and comedic – that lets the film succeed despite its nonsensical narrative. They’re allowed to do what they do best.

Elba is a delight as Brixton, clearly enjoying himself. He gives himself over to the lunacy of the thing, embracing the over-the-top nature of it all and really going for it in a way that is fun to watch. Kirby has a whiff of next big thing about her; hanging tough on a screen full of movie stars is no easy feat, but she acquits herself nicely. Mirren is great in her scenes, as is Ryan Reynolds when he appears as a sort of government handler for Hobbs.

“Hobbs & Shaw” is big and dumb, yes, but it is also undeniably entertaining. Thanks to its two leads, you’ll have a good time, even if you’re not quite sure why any of this is even happening. And really, is there a more apt representation of the summer blockbuster?

[3.5 out of 5]


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