‘Fast & Furious: Hobbs & Shaw’ review: Audacious and ridiculous

Part-car-chase-action, part-buddy-comedy, and arguably part-superhero film, ‘Hobbs and Shaw’ serviceably assembles the requisites for a popcorn blockbuster.

The plot of the Fast & Furious films truly came a long way from illegal street-racing and high speed heists. Its newest spin-off, Hobbs & Shaw, ratchets up the stakes by involving a deadly virus that can wipe out half of the population. Apparently, it boils down to averting a Thanos phenomenon. I’m not sure if screenwriters Chris Morgan and Drew Pearce originally intended their script as a pitch for a Marvel or a Mission: Impossible film, but do we really care? The latest chapter may feature less cars and more formulaic blockbuster elements, yet one thing has always been consistent – the franchise’s over-the-top ambition to wreck your suspension of disbelief. Hobbs & Shaw knows that its explosive stunt choreography is the main reason why we’re along for the ride. It’s outrageously fun and ridiculous.

There are at least two more reasons for this spin-off: 1. Vin Diesel and The Rock reportedly had some beef, so both are not exactly thrilled to work together anytime soon; and 2. This actually serves as a way to extend the franchise without the need of having all the A-listers. Hobbs & Shaw capitalizes on two previous anti-heroes and puts them in a buddy action-comedy: a federal law enforcement officer Luke Hobbs (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) and a world class thief/mercenary Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham). Both are epitome of toxic masculinity, but these bald, muscle-bound alpha males are different in many ways and they hate each other’s guts. Soon, they have to work together. For Hobbs it’s another job of saving the world, while for Shaw, it’s a personal quest to save his estranged sister Hattie (Vanessa Kirby).

Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and Shaw (Jason Statham) attempt to infiltrate the bad guys’ lair.

Director David Leitch (Deadpool 2 and John Wick) mostly assembles Hobbs & Shaw with spare parts from previous action films – you will be reminded of M:I – Fallout, Mad Max: Fury Road, Skyscraper and even Kingsman at some point. The resulting model feels less like a F&F film and more like the standard flicks that The Rock and Statham have starred in. The film also tries to occupy the comedic lane with its brand of lowbrow banter. And in case it’s not clear, Leitch drops a couple of big star cameos doing gags along the way (they will remain unnamed for your surprise). Or you can just wait for the part where Hobbs and Shaw funnily engage in slow-mo punches. Or the part where Hobbs and his brothers perform a Samoan chant before throwing themselves into battle. Yes, that really happened. Sure enough, the film gets away with its absurd setups with the help of the winning charisma of its leads.

Elsewhere, I saw the order of the epic stunts coming from a mile away – no thanks to the trailers that spilled too much of the set pieces. There’s supposed to be a grave sense of danger – moments where butts should be lifted from seats – but since almost everything here defies physics and common logic, you might as well get a good laugh at its audacity and willingness to lunacy. In one scene, Hobbs fearlessly jumps out of a skyscraper to catch a henchman who’s rappelling down below. Twenty seconds later, he jumps again in pursuit of a different henchman, effortlessly changing the trajectory of his freefall.  And lest we forget the portion where Hobbs holds down a helicopter using his terrific biceps. Captain America would be proud.

Bad guy. Idris Elba plays genetically enhanced MI6 agent Brixton Lore.

And since we’re almost dealing with superheroic stuff now, it’s only fitting that Hobbs & Shaw introduces the franchise’s most formidable villain yet – the Winter Soldier, er, Brixton Lore (Idris Elba), a bionic MI6 agent who calls himself as the “Black Superman.” Given his skillset and abilities, he can also be a terminator and a transformer for all we know. Elba knocks his role out of the park, however, the biggest revelation here is neither him or the two leads. Vanessa Kirby’s Hattie steals the show with her exquisite balance of classiness and feistiness. Her character does not succumb as a damsel in distress – she can beat up guys on her own, all while remaining to be the film’s source of emotional friction. Someone please give Kirby a solo action feature.

Vanessa Kirby plays Hattie Shaw, Deckard’s estranged sister.

You can accuse Hobbs & Shaw as a mindless form of entertainment but it’s never soulless. No matter how bonkers the action sequences can get, the film abides by the franchise’s hallmark of putting the family first above anything else. Such a theme can be a contractual obligation by now – both leads here are in need of a family reconciliation. Their respective subplots could’ve been done better as they’re a bit overplayed and underdeveloped. But it’s the sentiment that counts, I guess. 

Overall, this spin-off manages to have fun without having the burden of tying much of its ends to the F&F universe. Leitch keeps the action and comedy running at full speed, even if the pacing starts to drag at times. The outcome is something you’ve seen before – more or less, but it’s still highly enjoyable. And sometimes, that brand of ridiculous and fun is just enough to keep the action aficionados happy.

3.5 out of 5 stars
Directed by David Leitch, written by Chris Morgan and Drew Pearce, Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw stars Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Idris Elba, Vanessa Kirby, Eiza González, Eddie Marsan, Cliff Curtis and Helen Mirren. 135 minutes. PG-13.

‘Game of Throne’s’ Richard Madden fights terrorism in ‘Bastille Day’

Richard Madden who has gained mainstream attention with his notable role in the global hit TV series “Game of Thrones” takes action on the big screen in “Bastille Day” starring alongside award-winning Idris Elba. Michael Mason (Madden) is an American pickpocket living in Paris who finds himself hunted by the CIA when he steals a bag that contains more than just a wallet. Sean Briar (Elba), the field agent on the case, soon realizes that Michael is just a pawn in a much bigger game and is also his best asset to uncover a large-scale conspiracy.

“Bastille Day” finds two everyday man and unlikely heroes in present-day scenario when all the world is doing everything at all cost to fight terrorism. They’re thrown into a drama and they are forced to team up and navigate their way through a heinous plot aimed to kill thousands of people.

For his part, Madden saw the character of Michael as “a street rat, with not much of a moral compass or sense of responsibility for his actions. He’s an American pickpocket in Paris, and he’s a bit adrift, but he’s got this incredible skill set, he’s really wonderful at what he does. But I think he’s not sure who he is and who he wants to be and he’s slightly lost in the world and has a certain sense of perhaps self-loathing and but he’s really ready to embark on a journey and try to find a different side of himself.”

The actors did most of the stunt work, including the fight scenes. Not having to cut between the actors and stuntmen was a way of keeping the film grounded in reality. Stunt coordinator Jimmy O’Dee worked for several weeks with the actors, preparing them for the scene. He would cut the action into manageable parts and then design the choreography of the fight and the actors would train together until they were completely in sync.

Madden was just as thrilled to be involved in the action scenes. He started training with the stunt team about six weeks before filming. “They built these 15-foot high obstacle courses which I’d have to run up and over, jumping over things, throwing myself through windows, tumbling down stairs. It was really tough but it prepared me for the chase sequences where I had to scramble over roofs and hang off the edge of buildings. It was important that it didn’t look too professional because Michael isn’t a base jumper or anything; he’s just an ordinary guy, so the rooftop chase is quite scrappy. I wanted him to slip and fall and really scrambling for his life trying to get away.”

A more interesting aspect of the training for Madden was learning how to pickpocket. Working with a consultant named, appropriately, Keith the Thief, Madden learned sleight of hands tricks and distraction techniques. “We wanted some of the manoeuvres he pulls to be a bit flamboyant so that it reflects Michael’s cockiness at his own ability. Director James was very keen to make sure that that the stealing didn’t appear to be like magic, but that it seemed realistic. So if anyone watching the film on DVD pauses and watches it in slow-motion to check it’s really me doing it, I did actually do it!”

Another of the main set pieces which required a tremendous amount of preparation was the bomb blast. Production designer Paul Kirby, and his team, built a replica Metro stop into the back of a building located right outside of Paris. David Kanter adds “Richard worked really hard. He was pulled on a wire, repeatedly, to dramatize the force of the explosion. Everything had to be timed out right; there’s the explosion part which we did in different sizes and is comprised of many different components that convey a truly awful moment.”

“Bastille Day” opens April 20, 2016 in theatres nationwide from Axinite Digicinema.

 

Idris Elba, Richard Madden face bomb attacks in ‘Bastille Day’

Timely as today’s major concerns on battling terrorism comes the riveting action film “Bastille Day” based on true events starring Idris Elba and Richard Madden out to stop a series of bomb attacks in Paris.

In “Bastille Day,” Michael Mason (Richard Madden from ‘Game of Thrones’) is an American pickpocket living in Paris who finds himself hunted by the CIA when he steals a bag that contains more than just a wallet. Sean Briar (Idris Elba from ‘Luther’ and “Prometheus’), the field agent on the case, soon realizes that Michael is just a pawn in a much bigger game and is also his best asset to uncover a large-scale conspiracy.

Going against commands, Briar recruits Michael to use his expert pickpocketing skills to help quickly track down the source of the corruption. As a 24hr thrill ride ensues, the unlikely duo discover they are both targets and must rely upon each other in order to take down a common enemy.

“Bastille Day” is a story with buried layers – personal, action, and geopolitical – and, even though it’s a very, very fast paced action thriller, it does touch on the anger that a lot of people have in terms of feeling disenfranchised from the political process. You see it in London, you see it in Paris, and it is a big theme in the plot because the bad guys exploit it. As Michael demonstrates to Briar, we live in a world of sleight-of-hand where ‘it’s all about the distraction.’

Taking the lead is Idris Elba as Sean Briar, the CIA operative who has been confined to a desk job in Paris after a mission in the Middle East went wrong. Elba describes Sean Briar as “a CIA veteran, he’s been around for a long time and the posting in Paris is a step down for him after the high profile covert work he was doing before. He’s an army guy who just wants to get the job done and go home. His boss, Karen, instructs him to go and get Michael, who’s the prime suspect in the bombing, but Briar believes that there’s more to the story than that. So he has to follow his hunch even though he’s disobeying orders. These two characters – Briar, and Michael- make for an unlikely duo of heroes. They’re thrown into and are forced to team up and navigate their way through the twists and turns of the impending catastrophe. It’s not just action for action’s sake. It’s an action-packed film; but at the heart, there are characters that you care about and there’s a very compelling storyline. “Bastille Day” feels unique and modern, because it’s a European take on an action film.”

One of the most visually impressive and logistically challenging set pieces is the rooftop chase at the beginning of the film featuring Idris Elba’s character, Sean Briar, and Richard Madden’s character, Michael Mason. The chase starts in Michael’s apartment, moves out and up to the rooftops of Paris and then plummets into the hustle and bustle of a crowded market.

The actors did most of the stunt work, including the fight scenes. Not having to cut between the actors and stuntmen was a way of keeping the film grounded in reality. Stunt coordinator Jimmy O’Dee worked for several weeks with the actors, preparing them for the scene. “Jimmy O’Dee was really specific about being fit,” says Elba. “I’ve never done a film with so many fight sequences before, and I loved it. I have a little martial arts training so it was great fun for me to exercise some of my knowledge. I think the film definitely attempts to be as raw in the fight sequences as we can get. Scrappy was the word I kept hearing. I mean it really feels like you’re in there.”

Join the war against terrorism when “Bastille Day” opens April 20, 2016 in theaters nationwide from Axinite Digicinema.

Idris Elba speaks for tiger, Shere Khan in Disney’s ‘The Jungle Book’

Bengal tiger Shere Khan bears the scars of Man, which fuel his intense hatred of humans. Powerful and menacing, the fearsome tiger makes no secret of his feelings about man-cub Mowgli and his presence in the jungle. Shere Khan’s mission, above all else, is to ensure Mowgli—and the fire he knows Man wields—pose no future threat. Deep down, Shere Khan seeks revenge upon Man, and it’s Mowgli who will pay the price.

Recently winning the Screen Actors Guild award for Best Supporting Actor (“Beasts of No Nation”), Idris Elba brings the tiger Shere Khan to life, in Disney’s new family adventure “The Jungle Book.” Directed by Jon Favreau (“Iron Man”), the new movie is based on Rudyard Kipling’s timeless stories and inspired by Disney’s classic animated film.

(Watch the “Intro to Shere Khan” clip below.)

“Jon [Favreau] and I sculpted what the sound should be,” says Elba. “It was a delicate set of negotiations till we found the right voice.”

“Idris wields tremendous presence in a room, which is evident in his voice,” says Favreau. “He’s got such gravity and brings his steely presence, a deep timbre that echoes in a larger-than-life way. He understands this scarred, imposing tiger in a way the character demands.”

“Shere Khan reigns with fear,” says Elba. “He terrorizes everyone he encounters because he comes from a place of fear.

Elba was shocked when he saw the character come to fruition. “When Jon [Favreau] showed me Shere Khan’s expressions and how he moves, I had to ask, ‘Is that a real tiger?’ The technology is incredible.”

“The Jungle Book” is an all-new, live-action epic adventure about Mowgli (Neel Sethi), a man-cub raised by a family of wolves. But Mowgli finds he is no longer welcome in the jungle when fearsome tiger Shere Khan (Idris Elba), who bears the scars of Man, promises to eliminate what he sees as a threat. Urged to abandon the only home he’s ever known, Mowgli embarks on a captivating journey of self-discovery, guided by panther-turned-stern mentor Bagheera (Ben Kingsley), and the free-spirited bear Baloo (Bill Murray). Along the way, Mowgli encounters jungle creatures who don’t exactly have his best interests at heart, including Kaa (Scarlett Johansson), a python whose seductive voice and gaze hypnotizes the man-cub, and the smooth-talking King Louie (Christopher Walken), who tries to coerce Mowgli into giving up the secret to the elusive and deadly red flower: fire.

The wild adventure swings into Philippine theaters in 3D on Thursday, April 7, 2016. “The Jungle Book” is distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures through Columbia Pictures.

Follow the official social media accounts of Disney in the Philippines, namely, (FB) WaltDisneyStudiosPH, (Twitter) @disneystudiosph and (Instagram) @waltdisneystudiosph and use the hashtag #JungleBookPH.

Triptych poster revealed for Disney’s ‘The Jungle Book’

Walt Disney Pictures has unveiled the triptych poster of its new, imaginative take on the classic children’s adventure “The Jungle Book.” The triptych features lead star Neel Sethi who plays Mowgli together with talking animal characters on either side, in a sprawling and extended horizontal shot.

Directed by Jon Favreau (“Iron Man”), based on Rudyard Kipling’s timeless stories and inspired by Disney’s classic animated film, “The Jungle Book” is an all-new live-action epic adventure about Mowgli (newcomer Neel Sethi), a man-cub who’s been raised by a family of wolves.

But Mowgli finds he is no longer welcome in the jungle when fearsome tiger Shere Khan (voice of Idris Elba), who bears the scars of Man, promises to eliminate what he sees as a threat. Urged to abandon the only home he’s ever known, Mowgli embarks on a captivating journey of self-discovery, guided by panther-turned-stern mentor Bagheera (voice of Ben Kingsley), and the free-spirited bear Baloo (voice of Bill Murray).

Along the way, Mowgli encounters jungle creatures who don’t exactly have his best interests at heart, including Kaa (voice of Scarlett Johannsson), a python whose seductive voice and gaze hypnotizes the man-cub, and the smooth-talking King Louie (voice of Christopher Walken), who tries to coerce Mowgli into giving up the secret to the elusive and deadly red flower: fire.

The all-star cast also includes Lupita Nyong’o as the voice of the fiercely protective mother wolf Raksha, and Giancarlo Esposito as the voice of wolf pack’s alpha male Akela.

The wild adventure swings into Philippine theaters in 3D on April 2016. “The Jungle Book” is distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures through Columbia Pictures.

Follow the official social media accounts of Disney in the Philippines, namely, (FB) WaltDisneyStudiosPH, (Twitter) @disneystudiosph and (Instagram) @waltdisneystudiosph and use the hashtag #JungleBookPH.

WATCH: ‘Star Trek Beyond’ boldly reveals first trailer

Paramount Pictures has released the first trailer for “Star Trek Beyond” which may be viewed below.

“Fast & Furious” filmmaker Justin Lin steps into the director’s chair this time around, working from a screenplay written by Simon Pegg and Doug Jung that finds the Enterprise crew stranded on an alien planet.

“Star Trek Beyond” stars Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, John Cho, Simon Pegg, Zoë Saldana, Karl Urban, Anton Yelchin and Idris Elba.

“Star Trek Beyond” opens across the Philippines in July 2016 and will be distributed by United International Pictures through Columbia Pictures.