‘Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw’ [REVIEW]

The Fast & Furious franchise has always been hit and miss for me. They seem to vacillate between an overly serious police drama to insane stunts with people leap-frogging from one building to another in a car. I much prefer the latter.

The most recent entry Fate of the Furious was a disappointment with far too little fun and too many boring scenes of people staring at screens (my greatest action movie gripe!). Now we are getting the franchise’s first spin-off film with the unwieldy title Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw. This is no doubt meant to perpetuate the franchise into new avenues but also allow feuding cast-members to make their movies in peace. So what’s the result of this new Jason Statham/The Rock vehicle? I’d say it is as unwieldy as its title but mostly a good silly time at the theater.

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I’ll spare you much of a plot summary. Basically there’s a convoluted reason that Luke Hobbs (The Rock) and Deckard Shaw (Statham) have to work together to fight a mutanized Idris Elba and help Shaw’s sister Hattie (Vanessa Kirby) clear her name and save her life. Along the way we go to London, Moscow, and Samoa with over-the-top action and lots of witty banter between the charming cast. I was particularly impressed with Kirby who holds her own in both departments.

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The film does a great job surprising the audience in ways that really paid off and had me smiling (no spoilers from me!). I also liked there wasn’t much standing around staring at screens, which is very boring. For the most part it moved effortlessly from one action set piece to the next and that kept it fun.

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Unfortunately on the downside the movie is way too long at 136 minutes and especially the extended portion in Samoa wares out its welcome. There are some major exposition dumps and the attempts to become sentimental didn’t work. Even though I know appeals to family are part of this franchise the Samoan warrior scenes came off as patronizing rather than heart-warming.

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There’s some impressive sequences in Hobbs & Shaw but also some I have seen before in other movies and the special effects were hit and miss. Sometimes within the same action scene there would be edits that looked like a tv budget and then the next edit would be really impressive. For example, there were definite moments within a fighting sequence I could tell The Rock wasn’t in Samoa but in front of a green screen. It’s harder to have fun when these type of distractions take me out of the movie.

However, I still walked away from Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw with a smile on my face, having had a good time. It’s not going to change your life but if you are looking for a silly, over-the-top entertainment with very likable leads than there is more than enough to enjoy here.

6.5 out of 10

smile worthy

Rampage Review

Often when I don’t respond favorably to movies like Jurassic World, San Andreas, Geostorm and Kong Skull Island I am asked with derision “Rachel, why can’t you just turn off your brain and enjoy a dumb movie…?” Well, my friend I can enjoy dumb fun but not when it is uninspired and boring as the 4 movies listed above. When the film can provide charismatic performances, new visuals or an energetic pace/tone I can enjoy a stupid film. Case in point- Rampage.

What Rampage gets right is pretty simple. First, the two main lead actors, Dwayne Johnson and Jeffrey Dean Morgan are charismatic as heck. They are both funny, engaging and Johnson and the Gorilla have a nice chemistry together. There is a believable relationship between the gorilla and Johnson that works and gives heart to the film.

The second reason it works is the CGI monster-fest was actually something new and fresh. I have seen a million dinosaur scenes like in Jurassic World (snooze) but I haven’t seen a giant wolf fight an oversized gorilla and crocodile creature. That’s novel and enjoyable. The movie also gets pretty grisly which was kind of refreshing. Several named characters are eaten by the monsters and in one scene the wolf gets his teeth right up next to the character and stays there before snapping. Pretty memorable moment!

The science in Rampage is stupid but it isn’t dwelt on too much. It’s basically some magic genetic goo that gets the plot going. Rampage is a blessed 107 minutes and doesn’t waste our time trying to justify the ‘science’ of giant monsters fighting each other. Most of the movie is a fun cat and mouse type chase to capture these giant creatures.

Unfortunately there is one part of Rampage that seriously holds it back. Malin Akerman and Jake Lacy play corporate execs who want the genetic goo to do something with, and they are SO AWFUL. Every scene they are in is like nails on a chalkboard. I am sure Akerman is a lovely person, but I honestly don’t know why she has a career acting. She has been terrible in every project I’ve seen her in, and she’s terrible here. Every scene they are in is painful to get through, and they are in quite a bit.

Naomi Harris also does not work as the female scientist who agrees to help Johnson out. She seemed like she was in a different, more serious, movie than the rest of the cast.

Still, if someone asked me to recommend a ‘dumb fun’ movie to enjoy with friends on a Friday night I might go with Rampage. It had engaging performances with some heart and gave me new images and spectacle to enjoy. That’s all I’m asking for folks. It’s really not that complicated.