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.