I watched Fast & Furious Presents Hobbs & Shaw

And so closes my adventure, although I shall endeavour a post later summarising my experience.

To close this sequence of movies that are nominally about the illegal street racing culture of young urban Americans, let me say three words: Bionic Idris Elba. Words that you can utter in dark times, like a hobbit shouting at the darkness: “A Elbereth Githoniel!” You are not exactly sure what they mean or how that sequence of words came about but here they are.

There is an un-policed and porous border between techno-thrillers and science-fiction, that sits happily alongside the superhero genre. James Bond can fly into space, Iron Man can fight alien invaders. Genre distinctions can be tricky at times but here we can probably boil the distinction down to just how fictional the tech involved might be. 2Fast2Furious had some kind of magical EMP weapon used to stop cars that goes almost unremarked upon but I wouldn’t call it science-fiction, I’d just call it lazy writing. However, Bionic Idris Elba is sitting safely across the border into (at the very least) superhero territory, if not overt science fiction.

Let me explain. The antagonist of this film is Idris Elba but he is bionic. He has to be bionic because he must fight Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham simultaneously and keep beating them. Now, Idris Elba could be cast as somebody who fights just one of them but not somebody who could fight both of them at the same time, hence: Bionic Idris Elba.

If you’ve been following this film series you will note that the above makes a lot of narrative and casting sense. It makes far more sense than the previous ~16 hours of film. Fast & Furious Presents Hobbs & Shaw is absolutely distinct from its ancestors in this regard. We have a conventional plot than move from scene to scene, much like any action-comedy-thriller. The core cast is smaller (Hobbs, Shaw, Shaw’s secret agent sister, and Bionic Idris Elba) and their roles more clearly defined. The plot is still nonsense but it is far more linear than a typical Fast & Furious film.

There are cars but no car races. There is a nice reference to the Italian Job (Statham was in the remake). Ryan Reynolds cameos as a CIA handler for Hobbs, and does Ryan Reynolds things. Things get blown up. Helen Mirren shows up again. The chemistry between Hobbs and Shaw is exactly as advertised and fun is had by all.

The most Fast & Furious thing about the film is when Hobbs discover that a key macguffin has been broken in an action scene in the Ukraine. With time pressing and the fate of the world at stake, Hobbs naturally makes the only choice you can make when a complicated high-tech gizmo (created by a highly funded transhumanist apocalyptic cult) is broken — you fly to Samoa to get your car-mechanic brother to fix it. An axiom of the Fast & Furious films is that car mechanics have a set of easily transferred technical skills making it easy for them to move between fixing cars to fixing anything that has blinking lights.

On Samoa, Hobbs reunites with his family and heritage and via an actually fairly neat bit of plot logic, his extended family get to fight the baddies using traditional weapons. Spoilers: the world is saved and finally Bionic Idris Elba is defeated.

Fun. Yes, you can watch this without knowing anything about the previous films — indeed that may even help.

9 thoughts on “I watched Fast & Furious Presents Hobbs & Shaw

  1. Honestly, this post sent me off on a 45 minute long tour through YouTube clips of Idris Elba as Stringer Bell on The Wire.

    Stringer taking macroeconomics notes in community college and applying to his drug business.
    Robert’s Rules of Order “The chair recognizes the Veronica Street Boys”
    “Is you taking notes on a criminal fucking conspiracy??”

    So, so, so good.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. That bit about the mechanic stirred up a memory in me – many years ago, now, I did a sort of survey of skills systems in various tabletop role-playing games, trying to figure out how each one approached a simple task, like changing the spark plugs on an engine.

    Some of them were fairly sensible – quite a few had rules where you succeeded automatically at trivial tasks if you had any sort of training at all. Then there were a few anomalies, like the James Bond RPG where “being good at cars” was all one thing, so your chance of repairing a car was based on your driving skill, and there were inconveniences like the convoluted rules of FGU’s Space Opera, where a combination of a Byzantine skills system and a frankly broken index meant I spent twice as long working the problem out as the mechanic would have done, doing the actual task.

    Anyway, I think your Fast and Furious mechanic is based on the fairly obscure Avalon Hill RPG called Lords of Creation, where levelling up in a skill doesn’t make you better at anything, it just opens up a whole new range of possibilities. A level 1 mechanic in this system can fix cars and ground vehicles, but if they practice hard and build up their skjils, they can reach level 2 and suddenly be able to work on ships. Level 3 is aircraft, but I think your mechanic must be really good, and have reached level 4 (spaceships, starships, magical vehicles) or even level 5 (interdimensional travel, things like the TARDIS), and can therefore fix anything at all in an invariant period of 2d10 hours.

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    1. FGU’s Space Opera

      *twitch* … *twitch*

      (Yes, I have played that once, back in University. Even playing with pre-generated characters the rules were obviously a mess. This is a game that makes Champions look simple and elegant. And Champions was literally described by some of my friends at a University famous for its math program as ‘as complicated a game as you can get and still be playable’. I suspect a lot of gamers would disagree on the ‘playable’ part.)


  3. I saw this in the theater (the only F&F movie I’ve ever seen), and of course it’s a lot of fun. I did think that they managed to get from one place in the world to another rather more quickly than ought to be possible. “Willing suspension of disbelief”, I suppose, not that anyone comes to movies like this with an intention to disbelieve.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Sooooo you’re not gonna risk trying Netflix cartoon show Fast & Furious: Spy Racers? =)
    Wikipedia says there’s actually street racing in it and also a “crime organization called SH1FT3R that is bent on world domination”.

    Anyway, huge thank you for this series of reviews, enjoyed it immensely.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Technically, Hobbs’ brothers, cousins and mother were tech smugglers as well as car thieves/chop shop fences of high end, highly computerized cars, so they were a bit above being straight car mechanics. But I will say that out of the whole F&F universe, this movie made the least sense. But it didn’t matter because bionic Idris Elba.


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