With the Vin Diesel-starring “The Fast & the Furious” franchise having mostly run out of fuel, it seemed natural and wise to spin off the two newest and popular side …
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With the Vin Diesel-starring “The Fast & the Furious” franchise having mostly run out of fuel, it seemed natural and wise to spin off the two newest and popular side characters. Appearing in the previous four “Fast & Furious” films, Dwayne Johnson’s Luke Hobbs is a wise-cracking, muscle-bound behemoth, tatted up and practically sweating testosterone. Basically, he’s the Rock. Meanwhile, Jason Statham played British military man turned mercenary turned good guy again Deckard Shaw as, well, another Jason Statham action character, snide and snarling with little regard for friends and foes alike.
The entire “Fast & Furious” ethos is predicated on the premise of enemies eventually becoming friends. And so it is with frenemies Hobbs and Shaw, who don’t like or trust each other, even after grappling for two films and then teaming up in “The Fast of the Furious.” Now, this modern action movie incarnation of Abbott and Costello get their own eponymous show. However, any hopes of a blowing a breath of fresh air into the franchise quickly evaporate.
When a group of MI6 agents try to retrieve a stolen virus that could cause a worldwide pandemic, they’re nearly wiped out by terrorists led by Brixton Lore (Idris Elba), a former British operative gone rogue who is now a cyber-genetic superhuman. The last surviving MI6 agent, Hattie (Vanessa Kirby), injects herself with the virus and escapes, becoming a carrier until the capsule dissolves in 72 hours, killing herself and unleashing the pathogen. Yes, it’s basically the plot to “Mission: Impossible 2.”
Hattie, who is framed for murder and theft of the virus, is also Shaw’s little sister, so naturally he and Hobbs are recruited to bring her in and recover the contagion. Hijinks naturally ensue, primarily cookie-cutter car-motorcycle chases, shootouts, and fisticuffs. There’s a lazy attempt at flirtations between Hobbs and Hattie, if only to further irk Shaw. There are jailhouse visits with Shaw’s naughty mum (Helen Mirren), for no real reason. And on it goes.
The bickering bromance between Johnson and Statham is the only reason to endure this illogical, temporally-challenged, cartoonish CGI fest. After Hattie injects herself, Hobbs somehow manages to receive his mission assignment from a CIA handler, travel to Las Vegas, then skirmish in London, then skirmish in the Ukraine, and finally take a last stand in Samoa, all supposedly inside a 72-hour window. Oh, he also makes time to Facetime repeatedly with his daughter, because he’s a family man, see?
Johnson and Statham teeter on the edge of self-parody—heck, the entire “Fast & Furious” series is guilty of that—without any of the genuine emotional payoff that salvaged the Diesel vehicles. Meanwhile, we never really learn why or how Brixton became a cyborg, or who made him this way (his handler remains a disembodied voice that only appears as a sort of Winamp equalizer). Nor do we find out where the killer virus came from. Even welcome cameos from Ryan Reynolds and Kevin Hart drift too long, as director David Leitch lets them ad-lib their way to weariness.
By the time an attack helicopter is chained to four roadsters, all careening down a dirt road along seaside cliffs, you might not care about linear fidelity, or at least the filmmakers hope so. And when Hobbs decides that the only person to repair the only high-tech gizmo that can extract the virus from Hattie is his estranged Samoan brother, who owns a chop-shop, you’ll just stop caring.