When art imitates life in cinemas, the results can be pretty interesting. In Sunset Boulevard Billy Wilder cast reclusive silent film star Gloria Swanson as a faded heroine of the silent era in a movie featuring a host of cameos from silent movie luminaries. Much of Michael Winterbottom’s recent success has come alongside Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon playing exaggerated, yet nuanced, versions of themselves across both cinema and television. Even Mel Gibson, not long after his controversial, drunken outburst, managed to generate some interest in his acting career by playing a man on the edge of a breakdown in Jodie Foster’s The Beaver. Along comes Hobbs and Shaw then, or to give it its full title Fast and Furious Presents: Hobbs and Shaw brimming with self-reflexive glee but with all the subtlety of a house brick wrapped in newspaper. With production on the main series seemingly stumbling, in part, due to a pissing contest between Dwayne Johnson and Vin Diesel, here we get a spin-off whose plot revolves around Johnson and fellow Furious classmate Jason Statham engaging in so much dick-waggling. What could go wrong?
When an attempt to retrieve a biological weapon goes awry, MI6 agent Hattie Shaw (Vanessa Kirby) injects herself in order to prevent its spread. Branded a traitor in the resulting confusion, she must go on the run avoiding her previous employers and Idris Elba’s terrorist cell intent on capturing the virus for its own ends. Johnson’s DSS agent Hobbs and Statham’s ex-MI6 operative Shaw, Hattie’s brother, are both assigned to work with each other to track her down and secure the weapon, with the inevitable rub being that neither man will take direction from the other and a whole load of headbutting and chest-puffing will ensue.
A clashing of styles, a meeting of two disparate philosophies it is, then. Like 48 Hrs. or Lethal Weapon only with much less hair.
In the grand old tradition of the buddy cop movie, the emphasis is on action and comedy. Chris Morgan and Drew Pearce’s script has a sly, winking air to it, but never manages to provide evidence of any actual sense of humour. Statham and Johnson banter and bicker, but the back and forth feels flat throughout With Statham, an actor of relatively limited means but one for whom I have a lot of time, looking particularly adrift as he stumbles, foul-mouthed, through his lines.
When it drags its balls out of the bath to wallop you with the heavy artillery, the results are not much better. Idris Elba, as the arch villain, looks dispiritingly bored throughout the entire thing, phoning in a performance with such indifference that he resembles a man doing an impression of himself.
It flubs along with a series of action set-pieces that bleed into one amorphous, forgettable mess. When, in its final act, WWE star Roman Reigns appears in a grass skirt to stare, blank-eyed at the camera and do precisely eff-all, you can almost hear Vin Diesel piss himself laughing.
Chris Banks | [rating=2]
Action | USA, 2019 | 12A | 1st August 2019 (UK) | Universal Pictures | Dir.David Leitch | Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Idris Elba, Vanessa Kirby, Helen Mirren, Eiza González