Reviewed by: Ruth Eshuis
Working as a team with a person one intensely dislikes
Cyber-genetic enhancement of humans
Anarchists / anarchism
Terrorists / terrorism
Deadly virus that threatens the human race
Dwayne Johnson … Luke Hobbs
Jason Statham … Deckard Shaw
Idris Elba … Brixton Lore
Helen Mirren … Magdalene Shaw
Vanessa Kirby … Hattie Shaw
Eiza González … Madam M
Eddie Marsan …
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|Director:||David Leitch—“Deadpool 2” (2018), “Atomic Blonde” (2017)|
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This latest “Fast and Furious” produces mixed feelings. At times one can only laugh at its fast, fun ridiculousness, which is somewhat likable. Yet, most of the time, one is more likely to grimace at its odd inconsistency and lack of moral grit. And why would they make a 2-hour “Fast and Furious” film with only one traditional car race?? Let me know if you can work that out.
This installment’s storyline is concerned with a mission to rescue the planet from biochemical warfare waged by a cyber-enhanced soldier named Brixton Lore (Idris Elba) who wants to use a nasty virus to wipe out all ‘the weak,’ to advance ‘the evolution of man.’ At the same time, the screenplay revolves around the pairing-up of former agent Hobbs (Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson) and former criminal Shaw (Jason Statham), who bicker hatefully the whole way, accompanied by Shaw’s brave and talented sister Hattie (Vanessa Kirby) who holds a key to the puzzle. Will they be able to avert disaster? Can they learn to work together before they destroy each other?
Each of the other films in the Fast and Furious franchise has been heavy on violence, cursing, illegal activity, sexuality or all of the above. This one is too.
Crude or vulgar language (40-60 times in total) includes f*ck (4), sh*t (10), bl**dy (3), *ss (10), b*tch/S.O.B. (5), d*ck (4), c*nt, w*nker, c*ck, b*lls (dozens!) and an*s. And that’s not counting misuse of God or Jesus’ names (8 times) plus d*mn (4) and h*ll (3). Final count exceeds 70 curses.
Violence is also heavy, predictably regular and occasionally gasp-worthy, though rarely bloody. Nevertheless, there are probably in excess of 100 blows to heads and bodies, plus mass casualties from blasts and guns of many kinds. The ‘heroes’ are just as violent as their enemies, never restricted or led by a boss of any kind, thus as brutal as they want to be.
One walks away from a man whom he’s dangled from a window, kept alive only by his own waning strength, and soon due to feel the noose tighten round his neck. Also of note are several point-blank executions, repeated electrocutions using jumper leads, horrifyingly violent threats to a child while she is present, a shooting rampage that echoes eerily off city buildings, and a sudden blast that shatters the whole glass wall of an office building. Several crashes happen which impact on cars, trucks, a bus and more. Other weapons featured are trays, bottles, desks, a motorbike helmet, chairs, chains, kitchen pots, a cricket bat, huge wrench, bolt cutter, knives, chainsaw, metal rods, tasers to the neck (thrice) and heavy usage of a flame thrower. Professionals slap, punch (including a one-punch knockout), headlock, strangle, shoot and kick.
The villain particularly loves killing off vulnerable people—on a global scale.
Crime is ‘the family business’ for one of the ‘heroes,’ and another is in a relationship with a Mafia leader. Crimes planned or committed include theft, assaults, hate speech, control of the media, death threats, murder, attempted murder, a jailbreak, ID falsification, carjacking, speeding, car bombings, kidnapping, biological warfare, genocide and torture. The ‘heroes’ act as though they are above the law, make lots of money through their reckless missions, and are prepared to end or threaten others’ lives at the drop of a hat. They even try to get each other detained by authorities for ‘a body cavity search.’
There are very few females and the scripting attempts to increase females’ character development and importance to the story, and to reduce objectification and emphasize all the lead woman’s best qualities. Nevertheless, there remains a large amount of dialog about ‘the hot spy lady’ and about potentially having sex with her, even to “impregnate your sister.” Some of these phrases seem carefully worded to appear respectful (e.g. “I’m gonna let her climb this mountain if she wants to”) but it is not convincing.
One time that lady lands on the man’s lap awkwardly before sidling off and smiling to herself. And on one occasion this woman is picked up by one of the heroes, and left helplessly dangling from his hand, far above the ground, which could trigger a fear of men’s misuse of physical power. Then he fights her with his face in her crotch area for more than 10 seconds, and the chemistry tension continues between them for the rest of the film.
The other major female role belongs to a criminal who shrugs off any kind of sin or crime. Even a hero’s 9-year-old daughter shrugs off crime (“I’ve seen worse in “Game of Thrones”) and is always seen perfectly groomed, wearing makeup. A dozen or so model-like women wear tight and brief clothing. One woman, in particular, shows more than enough cleavage, while men are often bare chested and sometimes with their chests oiled.
In case you hadn’t guessed, I’m not impressed. Overall, I believe the violence, swearing and crudity are way overdone, and attempts at decency fall a long way short. There’s a big focus on ‘coolness’ and vanity. Life is portrayed as very cheap, except for the heroes’ families’ lives. The story seems to be written for the violence, not the other way around. If not for the comedic mood and low gore, it could almost qualify as a horror movie.
The Bible warns against those who invent new kinds of evil, those who dwell on sinful fantasies, and those who ultimately give glory to what is vile.
These behaviors go hand in hand with grave dishonor to God, which is also sadly a feature of this film (see Themes and Morals).
As a woman I’m pleased at any step away from using women as mere objects in action films. Only 2 kisses occur, and no sex or foreplay. It’s good to see some meaningful conversations and teamwork instead. There are some patches of real heart work and reconciliations of families, which are thought-provoking and inspirational. This took some focus off money and lust, perhaps helping the viewer to appreciate what is truly precious in life.
It is also pleasing to see less illegal street racing in this film. This may be helpful to those who tend to go home from such films with an excited urge to drive in a similar manner. If I am to see a car-racing film like Fast and Furious, it’s because I want to safely, impersonally learn about the interesting world of cars and driving… but without any temptation towards driving dangerously in daily life.
Sadly, there are few good ones to be found in “Hobbs and Shaw.”
Valuing family and respect for elders are the main areas of benefit. Each of the main characters comes to realize the importance of not running away from family and their problems, but instead facing them and asking forgiveness. They may even commit to making amends and prioritizing time with family.
However, be warned that this part of the film also calls on ancestors and false gods for provision and strength. The true God is never respected. Despite this, many choices have been made to include Biblical phrases. The film uses 7-10 phrases from the Bible, but they are way out of context, or downright rude.
Yet we do see humbling. Initially, Hobbs and Shaw frequently speak with pride and belittle others. They compete until they realize they’re inadequate for some tasks unless they work together. This reminds me of the Bible verse:
“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up… Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.” —Ecclesiastes 4:9-10, 12
And again, from the same wise author, something which these characters would do well to heed:
“Words from the mouth of the wise are gracious, but fools are consumed by their own lips. At the beginning their words are folly; at the end they are wicked madness—and fools multiply words.” —Ecclesiastes 10:12-14
The film made me think about such issues as…
Is a little coarse language and teasing with insults acceptable? What would Jesus do?
Is it okay to include God as a character in our joking?
Violent ‘heroes’ say, “Nobody tells me what to do,” throw tantrums, have trouble working together and betray friends. Are they truly good?
Why does saving require sacrifice?
What does it mean to buy or sell your soul? Do we lose control of our soul if we commit to evil instead of God? What if we commit to God?
Again, this is mixed. Clearly huge amounts of money and technical skill have been poured into this movie. Some great stuff has been done with lighting, polished glass surfaces, special effects and stunts. The vehicles are fun and beautiful to look at. It’s good to see realistic city streets and a variety of international locations, as well as some cultural elements such as a Samoan war dance, traditional weapons and a family’s respect of elders. Acting is universally impressive… most of the time…
Unfortunately, though, many production elements are not so positive and decrease the believability and enjoyment. The villain borders on being more likable than the ‘heroes.’ He keeps calling himself ‘the black superman’ and at he least has an explanation for his lack of injuries, but the ‘heroes’ seem to take dozens of brutal falls and blows without so much as a bruise, scratch or time-out. Many scenes are simply ridiculous visually and logically, such as when Hobbs uses nothing but muscle to prevent a racing truck and a powerful helicopter from going their separate ways. Certain sequences look to be straight out of video games, and the extra digital touches fall flat.
I’m not sure what to think about the soundtrack, which is acoustic or near-silent for most of the way, and has hip hop and rock during fight sequences. Perhaps it is refreshing to have the light and shade, or perhaps it contributes to the film feeling slow. One moment of soft piano music during a family scene definitely pushes the tenderness a bit far though, as it steps outside the action genre.
Slow-motion is used heavily for three action scenes and looks okay, but it amounts to overkill. We don’t need to see the spit being knocked out of a man’s mouth from 8 different angles. There is also blatant product placement, with long full-screen flashes of car logos, and rainbow flags also seem to be specially chosen for lingering glimpses of city streets.
Viewers who stay through the credits will find 3 extra scenes, one of which is another foul and strange outburst.
Though “Fast and Furious Presents: Hobbs and Shaw” boasts great personality, effects and relationship development, it flunks in many other areas. There is a lack of the car racing for which the other films are loved. There are many bizarre and poorly-considered scenes, and I’m pretty sure I laughed more at the screenplay than with it. And it is, of course, heavy on unnecessary and glorified brutality.
Because I like car racing, fantasy thrills in action movies and strong personalities trying to get along, this one could have been great, but doesn’t come up with the goods. It’s abnormally clunky, long, morally shallow, as well as highly crude. Family men who can easily ignore vulgarity and profanities may be able to get a tiny bit of good from it, but don’t hold your breath.
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.