This time around we turn our attention to Fast and Furious Presents Hobbs and Shaw, The Sun Is Also A Star, and Knife+Heart.
It’s a pretty depressing bunch for our glorious 150th episode spectacular, to be honest, but we won’t let that get us down.
Fast and Furious: Hobbs and Shaw
It is traditional for us, in these reviews, to express our bafflement that Fast and Furious became A Thing in the first place, and also that it continued to be A Thing, indeed A Thing so successful there is now a Spin Off Thing. So let’s not retread that and instead get straight into this not-Diesel fuelled outing.
Hobbs and Shaw sees, as you might expect, the mismatched odd couple of The Rock’s one of them and Jason Statham’s other of them team up, despite their continuing distaste for each other, to take on a bit of business at the behest of the C.I.A. It seems an MI6 operative sent to retrieve a exceptionally deadly weaponised virus has gone rogue, killing her team and vanishing. The sting in the tail here is the operative is Vanessa Kirby’s Hattie Shaw – Deckard’s sister.
However, we, and before very long our other protagonists, know that she’s been set up by the shadowy, mysterious Eteon Corporation, creators of the virus, who want it back to complete their flat out Bond villain Moonraker / The Spy Who Loved Me-esque scheme of killing the weak and repopulating the Earth with their superpowered human/machine hybrids, or hyborgs as I believe is the term. Chiefly these hyborgs are represented by Idris Elba’s Blokey Bloke Brixton, whose history with Shaw completes the retcon of Statham’s face turn in so far as anyone could laughingly apply continuity to this franchise.
This is my absolute least favourite type of film to talk about – something I watched and enjoyed well enough in the cinema, for what it was and intended to be, and in the normal course of things I could go about the rest of my life and never think about it again apart from perhaps the odd fond memory of the dafter sections. But no, I had to go and do a podcast, which means remembering the just plain bad bits, and giving the structure the very slightest of taps and watching it fall apart like the Bluesmobile at the end of The Blues Brothers. Talking about this film requires thinking about it, and if ever there was a film designed not to be thought about, it’s Hobbs and Shaw.
In common with 90% (at least) of the films we talk about it’s at least half an hour too long. It comes to a logical end point after destroying Eteon’s Eastern European Facility O’Evil, including a flamethrower wielding Eddie Marsan which is a high water mark that the series is never going to reach again. But, it stumbles onwards to a final showdown in Samoa, which has Vin Diesel’s fingerprints all over it.
I imagine earlier drafts ended before this, but on submission for approval he was all, “There’s not enough talk about family in here. Go away and add in a bunch of stuff about family. Just slap it in anywhere. Fankoo”. It’s not that these sequences are significantly worse or better than the other stretches of the film, it’s just too much. Which happens a lot. The first few times The Rock and Statham settle in for an insult session, it’s funny enough, the last time seems forced. The initial Ryan Reynolds’ Deadpool as a CIA agent schtick is funny enough, the second and third times are forced. Ditto Kevin Hart’s turn, ditto, well, pretty much every element of the film, really.
We could talk about the plot, I suppose, but I’m not going to. Look, it’s very, very silly, but in common with the rest of the series it’s not occurring here on Earth Prime, but some alternate version where cars, and bikes, and technology, and reality, do not follow the same rules. So I could tell you how dumb the handling of the virus is, or how even fancy advanced bikes should obey the laws of physics, or several dozen other things that you could call a plot hole, but, well, as they’re fairly transparently handwaves to get to the next action sequence I’m not going to bother. It’s the same schtick as the rest of the series really, just much more blatant, and if you’ve got to this point making your peace with the mainline F&F series then I can’t see this annoying you more than they did.
Hobs and Shaw is, objectively, a bad film, for the reasons stated above. As an explosion and fight scene delivery vector, I think there’s a bit more of a defence – I enjoyed those sections, and of course The Rock and Jason Statham are more likable than the mainline cast.
I’m not going to defend this opinion with facts, but despite this being awful, I liked it. It’s perhaps not the Biggest Big Dumb action film of the year, but it’s certainly the Dumbest. So if you want a big dumb action film, then this delivers, if you want anything more from it than that, continue your search.
The Sun Is Also A Star
Yara Shahidi’s Natasha Kingsley is an overly rational physics student based in New York who doesn’t believe in love. Charles Melton’s Daniel Bae is a romantic with a belief in destiny, both in general and specifically that he’s destined to be a poet, and not the medical doctor his parents are railroading him into becoming.
Natasha’s got her own concerns with parents, namely launching a last ditch effort to stop them being deported back to Jamaica tomorrow. She’s off to see an immigration lawyer when a rogue car almost knocks her over, being saved by, would you believe, Daniel. So begins a whirlwind romance, of the sort you’ve seen before a couple of dozen times, certainly if you’re as old as I am.
There’s not a great deal more to it than that, really. It’s primarily about the characters of Natasha and Daniel, and their getting to know each other and falling in love before being ripped apart, which if we’re brutally honest isn’t all that well sketched out, and a clutch of coincidences masquerading as destiny that just doesn’t add up to a whole lot. It is to Shahidi and Melton’s credit that something so flyaway isn’t a total drag, as they both have charm and charisma to spare, which this film coasts by on.
I don’t want to be too harsh on this film – it’s entirely inoffensive stuff, and doesn’t really deserve the box office battering it’s taken. I also must recognise that I’m at least twenty years outside of the target audience. That said, it’s tough to recommend anyone actually go out of their way to see this. There’s many better examples of the type, and while this is one of the very few to feature two non-white leads, that representation doesn’t overcome the lack of inspiration shown in the rest of the film.
I wonder what Vanessa Paradis has been up to lately, thought no-one. The answer, it appears, is that she’s starring as Anne in Yann Gonzalez’ Un couteau dans le coeur.
Set in 1979, she’s a producer of low rent Parisienne pornography, reeling from her recent split with her lover and editor, Kate Moran’s Loïs. Loïs could no longer deal with Anne’s controlling nature, but we don’t have to deal with that for very long before the film morphs into a slasher, as the cast of Anne’s films seem to be targeted for death by a dude in a leather face mask and a dildo with a retractable knife.
At which point, well, if the film’s not taking itself seriously, I don’t see why I should. It flicks around between Anne using these events as inspiration for the continued production of her films, before briefly crossing genre into some sort of fantasy while she attempts to find out who’s behind the killings, and then back into slasher territory for the bloody end.
I normally have a soft spot for this sort of ill-advised lunacy, and had quietly allowed myself to hope that this was shaping up to sit alongside Mandy, but sadly the hodge-podge of exploitation, relationship melodrama, giallo-esque slasher and weird, presumably purposefully awfully realised fantasy elements never cohere into anything worthy of your, or certainly, my attention. It has something of the feel of a film that’s trying to position itself from the off as a cult classic, which just feels cynical. That’s a status that’s bestowed by the audience, not created by the filmmaker, and this has something of an air of desperation to it.
I’ll give it this, I was never bored, as you could never quite be sure what nonsense it was going to throw at you next, and for that reason I can’t say that I hate the film. Who knows, maybe you are in the market for something incredibly strange and irredeemably French, and this will scratch that itch and become a firm favourite of yours the way something like Tetsuo: The Iron Man did for me as a youth. After all, that’s no less weird a concept, however, given that I didn’t like Knife + Heart all that much, I’m not going to recommend that you roll that dice. At least, not until those dice appear on a streaming service you’re already paying for.
Thanks to everyone who has got in touch with us on this, or said kind words about the show – it’s all very much appreciated.
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