Tag Archives: David Leitch

Bald & Bickering

Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw

by Hope Madden

Somewhere around its 6th installment, the Fast & Furious franchise tweaked its direction, abandoning logic and embracing ludicrous action as it jumped cars from skyscraper to skyscraper and waterskied off the back of launched torpedoes.

But things took off for real around Episode 7 when some mad genius decided to pit mountainous government operative Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) against Limey nogoodnik Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), each of them playing a self-lampooning version of themselves. Fun!

Where to go from there? How about we drop that whole car heist and espionage thing, expel Vincent Toretto and gang, bring in Idris Elba and see what happens?

And for the very first time, I was kind of looking forward to a F&F film.

Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw boasts more than ampersands. Internal logic? Cohesive plot? Thoughtful insights on man’s inhumanity to man?

Why, no.

Cheeky fun? Indeed!

The film indulges in the best elements of F&F (action lunacy, self-aware comedy) and dispenses with its weaknesses (schmaltz, Diesel). F&F: H&S consists primarily of fistfights, gun fights and vehicular chicanery stitched together with comic lines. Unfortunately, there is a plot, but it doesn’t get in the way too much.

A virus meant to thin the herd falls (or is injected!) into the hands of a rogue
(or is she?!!) MI6 agent. The CIA (or is it?!!!) pulls together the two old enemies for no particular reason, but Ryan Reynolds shows up in a decidedly peculiar cameo (one of several to look out for) that draws your attention away from the first of many gaping plot holes.

By this point (about 7 minutes into the film) we’ve been through three separate fight sequences, each meant to articulate the character of one of our leads: down-and-dirty badass (Hobbs), smoothly lethal sophisticate (Shaw), smart and efficient and highly contagious (Vanessa Kirby as MI6 virus thief Hattie), and Black Superman (Idris Elba, who gives himself the name, but if it fits…).

Right. Enough with plot, on to stupifyingly illogical and imaginative action. Hobbs & Shaw offers quite a spectacle.

It bogs down when it gets away from the explosions, wheelies and punches. Whether devoting excessive time to pissing contests or to dysfunctional family backstories, director David Leitch—who proved his action mettle with Atomic Blonde—too often forgets that words are not this franchise’s strongest suit.

Still, there is something compelling about watching Black Superman V Samoan Thor. I don’t know that there’s enough here for a franchise springboard, but there’s plenty for a wasted afternoon.

Dead Again

Deadpool 2

by Hope Madden

Machine gun fire gags, self-referential comments, foul language, meta laughs, gore for the sake of comedy and fourth-wall bursting—it appears the sequel to 2016’s surprise blockbuster Deadpool cometh.

Since we left Wade/Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds), the avocado-faced super-anti-hero spends his days dispatching international criminals and his nights snuggling tight with his beloved Vanessa (Morena Baccarin). When tragedy strikes, Wade spirals into suicidal depression and finds himself in the titanium arms of X-Man Colossus (voiced by Stefan Kapicic), by the side of troubled adolescent mutant Russell (Julian Dennison, Hunt for the Wilderpeople), and then in the path of time-traveling mercenary Cable (Josh Brolin, having a good year).

In the midst of all this, Reynolds never stops cracking wise on every comic book or pop cultural reference that can be squeezed into two hours. Bursts of laughter pepper the film’s landscape like mines. It’s fun. Hollow, but fun.

Origin stories are tough, but following a fresh, irreverent surprise of an origin story might be even tougher. Deadpool’s laughs came often at the expense of the gold-hearted, furrow-browed, money-soaked superhero franchises that came before it. Now a cash machine of a franchise itself, riffing on that same bit is a difficult sell. Deadpool 2 has essentially become the butt of that very joke.

Writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick return, sharing the pen with Reynolds this go-round. Atomic Blonde director David Leitch takes the helm, promising the inspired action that made his Charlize Theron spy thriller so very thrilling.

But Leitch’s action feels saddled and uninspired, and Reese and Wernick’s screenplay is basically a reimagining of a truly excellent time-travel flick from a few years back (that will remain nameless to avoid spoilers).

Deadpool 2 is very funny, often quite clever, and sometimes wrong-minded in the best way. An Act 2 parachuting adventure feels magical, and the new blood brings fresh instinct to the mix. Dennison straddles humor and angst amazingly well, and Zazie Beetz brings a fun energy to the film as the heroically lucky Domino.

Brolin, for the second time in a month, commands the screen with a performance that has no right to be as nuanced and effecting as it is.

Ryan Reynolds is Ryan Reynolds, but he’s just so good at it.

The film’s cynical, hard-candy shell makes way for a super-gooey inside that Reynolds doesn’t have the capacity to carry off. Worse still, it undermines the biting sensibility that made the first Deadpool such an antidote for the summer blockbuster.

But I guess that’s what happens when you become the thing you mock.