I’m “biast” (con): mostly not a fan of this series
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)
It’s a stew of “hilarious” toxic masculinity and nonstop violence as the solution to all problems. You know, for kids! (This movie is rated as suitable for tweens on both sides of the Atlantic.) We are beset by movies like Hobbs & Shaw because everything is “ironic” and everything is a joke and we all just need some “entertainment” and some “diversion” from horrible fucking reality. Well, I am here to tell you that the likes of Hobbs & Shaw — and especially this particular movie — are part of the problem that is horrible fucking reality.
It’s not ironic, however, that this movie had a huge hit opening on the same weekend during which two mass shootings in the United States by angry young white men dominated the news cycle and contributed to horrible fucking reality. It’s just goddamn foreseeable.
No, I’m not saying that violent movies cause mass shootings. They don’t, no more so than violent video games do. It’s perfectly clear that ready access to military-style weapons is what makes mass shootings possible… and I don’t think there’s any question that if other nations besides the US offered ready access to military-style weapons, those other nations would have more mass shootings too. Because what causes young men to want to perpetrate mass shootings is shit like the attitudes on display here. In movies like this one, which are enormously popular all over the planet.
Please note that I’m not even blaming this movie, nor am I suggesting that any movies — or games or anything else — should be banned. (Except guns. Guns should be banned. For fuck’s sake already.) I’m blaming the culture that makes it possible for movies like this one to get made and to be so immensely popular. This movie — this tediously familiar, dully predictable movie — is a symptom, not a cause. Ideally, we would get to a place where movies like Hobbs & Shaw are utter flops, totally money-losing propositions, because the antediluvian ideas they embody are considered laughably, pathetically outmoded, and no one wanted to spend two-plus hours wallowing in them.
DO NOT EVEN with the “but one of the heroes is a man of color.” I know The Rock ain’t white. I even see that, offscreen, he seems to be a decent human being, and a decent man, and maybe even one who is pushing back against the toxic masculinity that is killing all of us, male and female and everyone else, literally and figuratively. But this is not reflected onscreen.
Hobbs & Shaw is a movie, an “entertainment,” that, at best, allows his character, secret operative of a vague American security agency, to make absentminded nods toward healthier perspectives on modern manhood — he has a charming relationship with his little daughter! they eat pancakes together! — while overtly having him engage in “comedic” trading of insults with another man over much more socially dominant, much more bullshit ideas about manliness… which pretty much come down to how well they can inflict physical damage on other human beings. And also over the size of their dicks.
This is a movie in which two ostensibly adult men literally discuss the size of their penises AS IF THIS HAS ANY BEARING ON ANYTHING INCLUDING THEIR APPEAL TO WOMEN. (There is no appreciation here for the fact that obsessions with the size of one’s penis and with one’s ability to hurt other people are functions of insecurity and of immaturity, and nothing to be proud of, and nothing to be boasting about out loud.) This is also literally a movie in which one of the men polices an adult woman’s potential sexual interest in the other one of them, because of the absurd notion that it is the job of manly men to own “their” women and make decisions for them and to prevent unauthorized sexual access to them.
This is where some of this movie’s intended audience will jump in and mansplain to me that there’s nothing wrong with Shaw (Jason Statham: The Meg, The Fate of the Furious) warning Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson: Fighting with My Family, Rampage) off having any romantic or sexual interest in Shaw’s sister, Hattie (Vanessa Kirby: Mission: Impossible – Fallout, Me Before You), because that’s a man’s right, to “protect” his female property from any male attention that he disapproves of. But you would be wrong about this, you pitiable losers: you do not get to tell your sisters whom they may screw, or fall in love with, or do anything the fuck at all with. (Also, oh yes, LET US ABSOLUTELY discuss the optics of a white man telling a black man to stay away from his sister.) Hattie is in her 30s and a badass MI6 agent who is clearly able to take care of herself and would have no trouble fending off any unwanted interest from even The Rock. But the movie still apparently believes that it’s “humorous” and “entertaining” for us to witness two men discussing whether one of them may be “permitted” sexual access to the other’s sibling. Just two manly men squaring off in the way that manly man whom we should emulate and respect gonna do.
ABSOLUTELY LET US also discuss the fact that Hattie is continually and universally referred to as “the girl” by everyone onscreen, which is incredibly obnoxiously sexist and is a thing that absolutely needs to die, onscreen and off. (If you don’t understand why this is a problem, think about how adult men would react to being called “boy,” and think about the few contexts in which that does actually happen. Nothing about it is good or indicative of a healthy relationship or a positive appreciation of the agency of the person in question.) It’s also possible for Hattie to be continually referred to as “the girl” only because she is darn near the only human female to appear onscreen for most of the movie. If there were genuinely only a handful of living female members of the homo sapiens species on the planet, this movie would barely look or sound different than what we see here, in a story seemingly set in the real world in which women constitute *checks notes* slightly more than half the population, and also coexist with many many men to whom they are not biologically related. (We also must note that actor Lori Pelenise Tuisano [Fun Size] looks to be about the same age as the 47-year-old The Rock… and she’s playing his character’s mother. I cannot find any reference to her age online; she might even be younger than Johnson. *grrrr*)
Plot? You need plot when clearly Hobbs & Shaw has little interest in anything beyond men proclaiming their social, cultural, and physical dominance? Okay, so a guy called Brixton (Idris Elba: Avengers: Infinity War, Molly’s Game), who’s been Six Million Dollar Man–esque upgraded by a “secret tech cult,” is after a genetically programmable supervirus that could wipe out humanity, or at least the demographic slices of humanity that the cult deems undesirable. And Shaw, Hobbes, and Hattie (note how she gets only a first name *grrrr*) have to stop him, and the cult. This “secret tech cult” is obvs evil, because they want to wipe out weaklings and unwanteds and so on. But Brixton keeps talking about how “unevolved” Hobbs and Shaw are… which they are, in personal and cultural senses. Eugenics as a way to justify killing people is bad; this goes without saying (I hope). Making a sly joke about how “unenvolved” men, as Hobbs and Shaw are, win the day, as of course they do, is just a dick move. This movie thinks it can have its woke cake — “Nazi shit is bad!” — and eat it too: “Hur hur, unevolved manly man who ain’t into pussy shit are what we need to save the world!”
*pinches bridge of nose in exasperation*
(Also this: Naming a black British villain Brixton is like naming an African-American villain Bronx or Compton. Thank you, white dude screenwriters Chris Morgan and Drew Pearce, who probably thought this was edgy. *sigh*)
But hey, let’s say you’re able to see past or forgive all this bullshit, then you’ve got yourself a great odd-couple buddy action comedy, the movie Hobbs & Shaw thinks it is, right? Nope. The level of “humor” here, when it isn’t outright sexist and isn’t “jokes” about balls and dicks, makes me think of Rusty in Ocean’s Eleven saying, “Be funny but don’t make ’em laugh”: You can recognize that a line here or there is intended to make you laugh, but they never do, except accidentally, when the movie is trying to be serious with such pseudo philosophizing as “In life, things happen.” The action is characterized by Looney Tunes physics — often faked with really bad green screen — and yet nothing about any of it, from the car chases to the hand-to-hand combat, is energetic or visually compelling.
It’s impossible to believe that this was directed by David Leitch, who gave us the thrillingly kinetic, often downright balletic battles of John Wick and Atomic Blonde. This might be because both Johnson and Statham were allowed to dictate precisely how they got beat up onscreen, which apparently meant “not at all”: they may throw punches and kicks, but the actors never wanted to be seen as real human beings who are bodily vulnerable and can be hurt. How are we supposed to believe they’re ever in any danger if they’re impervious to injury? Violence free of all consequence to the (allegedly) righteous men doling it out is another HUGELY problematic notion that needs to die now. (We could also talk about the fact that Shaw has previously been nothing but a villain, a man who killed a member of the F&F posse to send a message to the others and perpetrated enormous damage to property and to utterly innocent people to avenge his also-villainous brother. How is Shaw suddenly heroic?)
Look, even if all you want is another Fast & Furious movie full of muscle cars vroom-vrooming, you won’t even get that here. Has a franchise ever drifted so far from its roots? The original F&F may have been emotionally histrionic, but at least it was physically grounded and plausible. With Hobbs & Shaw, we are now fully in a realm of science-fantasy nonsense. It’s not even fair to call this cartoonish, because it’s utterly lacking in the satire and social commentary that, say, Bugs Bunny had to offer. (And before anyone pipes up with “Oh, I suppose the Roadrunner was satirical,” yes it fucking was. You think Wile E. Coyote’s capitalistic crutch that was the Acme Corporation wasn’t satire?) The only thing it does well is reinforce a damaging cultural status quo, which is precisely what we do not need more of right now.
• The Fast and the Furious and 2 Fast 2 Furious (review)
• The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (review)
• Fast & Furious (review)
• Fast Five (aka Fast and Furious 5: Rio Heist) (review)
• The Grating Toretto, by Nick Carraway (Fast & Furious 6 review)
• Fast & Furious 7 (aka Furious 7) movie review: head-on vehicular hard-on
• Fast & Furious 8 (aka The Fate of the Furious) movie review: notes from the critics’ ward