Tag Archives: Jason Statham

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.

Man Bites Shark

The Meg

by George Wolf

You didn’t think Great White-invested tornados meant the pool of shark movie premises was running dry, did you? Not so long as someone is just conscious enough to mumble “Statham fights a shark” in a drunken pitch meeting!

The Meg brings that premise to 3-D life, with Statham wet-suitting up as Jonas, the reluctant hero with a haunted past. After a tragic encounter with a giant underwater beast, Jonas hangs up the scuba mask to drink away his days in the bars of Thailand.

But five years later, his ex-wife is part of an undersea research team at the mercy of the legendary Megaladon, a 70-foot long “living fossil” of a shark thought to be extinct for over 200 million years. Jonas, of course, knew it wasn’t, and now he must tell everyone “I told you so” with his most steely glare, go back on his vow to never dive again, and take everything much too seriously.

And that’s the biggest misstep weighing down the entire film. You get the feeling that with a knowing, “Kong: Skull Island” type of monster vibe, this could have been fun, but director Jon Turteltaub (National Treasure) can’t settle on one charted course.

Turteltaub and his team of writers adapt the first of Steve Allen’s “Meg” novels with a host of changes, presumably meant to bolster Statham’s damaged hero quotient. The dramatics are overdone by nearly all involved (though Rainn Wilson, as the billionaire behind the research, finds a mark), and when a nicely subtle hat-tip to Jaws opens the gates for all out scene stealing, The Meg becomes a water-logged mess.

A Chinese co-production with a clear eye on international markets, the film has moments of promise that are quickly snuffed out by exposition that’s neither needed, wanted or interesting. Where’s the fun, sharky nonsense promised by the trailer? That movie might have been a guilty pleasure.

The Meg is just guilty.

 

 





Fate of the Furiosa

The Fate of the Furious

by Matt Weiner

Maybe it was when it rained cars down on 7th Avenue in New York. Maybe it was the shootout on a plane with a baby. Or maybe—just maybe—it was when the gang attacked a nuclear submarine with sports cars gliding across a tundra.

However naturally each absurd setup manages to segue within the operatic universe of the franchise, the totality of The Fate of the Furious finally answers the question: how much is too much Fast and the Furious?

In the eighth installment of the series, the gang goes up against one of their own: Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel) breaks bad to abet a criminal hacker (Charlize Theron) in mass genocide, and only Dom’s makeshift family of gearheads and misfits can save the day.

(If you need to review how Dom’s crew went from outlaw street racers to extralegal super-spies over the last 15 years, there’s Wikipedia—or there’s the fact that it doesn’t make sense and it doesn’t matter, you’ve either bought into these movies by now or you haven’t.)

To help take down Dom, the gang has to work together with a former foe, Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham). It’s not an original twist, but the chemistry between Statham and Dwayne Johnson is the most pitch-perfect sendup of action movie homoeroticism since Hot Fuzz—maybe more so, given how truly gifted the two men are at contrasting their action figure physiques with deadpan comedy.

If the film has one glaring weak spot besides a wanton disregard for physics, it’s that Cipher is a too-aptly-named villain. Charlize Theron does her best to inject some genuine fear and malice into the character, but all the effort in the world can’t change a flimsy backstory and the fact that she’s basically just there as the catalyst for Dom vs. Everyone Else.

When the film sticks to that hook, director F. Gary Gray (Straight Outta Compton. The Italian Job) delightfully serves up the best and worst of the franchise. There’s more excess, more teenage boy wish fulfillment, more glib treatment of women, more stereotypical wisecracking—and since more is more, there’s over two hours of it.

Which brings up the question: has the series gone too far? The Fate of the Furious without a doubt sacrifices some of the franchise’s ramshackle charm in order to deliver a smorgasbord of winking action comedy.

But it would be unwise to accuse this franchise of jumping the shark. Really, it would be unwise to mention sharks anywhere near these movies. If the crew ever does come across a shark, they’re just as likely to punch it in the face, strap sticks of dynamite to it, launch it at some larger, angrier target and keep moving without missing a beat. Isn’t it comforting to have a family you can rely on?

Verdict-3-5-Stars

 

 





Do You Smell That?

Mechanic: Resurrection

by Hope Madden and George Wolf

Who smells hot trash? Is it a dumpster fire?

No, it’s just the latest Jason Statham movie.

Mechanic: Resurrection revisits the by-the-numbers Statham character Arthur Bishop. Back in 2011, Statham reprised the role first held by Charles Bronson in a middling-to-fair remake of The Mechanic. That film inexplicably merited a sequel that was not direct-to-home-viewing. Why that is confounds us.

Get nervous Gods of Egypt and London has FallenMechanic: Resurrection wants that “worst film of the year” award, and it is not above soiling itself with incompetence to get it.

“WHO SENT YOU??!!”

Bishop faked his own death years back so he could escape his pointless existence as an assassin, but an old enemy has tracked him down. And brought henchmen! And kidnapped master thespian Jessica Alba! Damn this confining shirt!

“WHERE’S CAINE?!!”

Statham removes his shirt no fewer than 8 times in the film’s 99-minute running time. That’s almost once every ten minutes. The man is 49, so good for him, and for that core audience he’s built over a career of shirtless man-on-man action.

“PLAYTIME’S OVER!!”

Alba’s character development is more nuanced. She keeps her shirt on, but it’s always clingy and sometimes…even wet.

Remember how great Statham was in last year’s Spy? His turn as Rick Ford, uber-macho super agent, was hilarious specifically because it was sending up ludicrous movies just like Mechanic: Resurrection.

Bishop criss-crosses the globe with nary a toothbrush, yet at a moment’s notice he has access to countless bomb-making chemicals, ammunition, kick ass scuba equipment and multiple expensive watches. Then, before Bishop has to dive into shark-infested waters, the film is careful to show him applying a shark repellent lotion (patent pending), just to keep it real. Come on, by that point we’re expecting any sharks to have lasers on their heads on a direct order from Dr. Evil.

The sad thing is, this movie could have been saved. Make a few edits, give it a new score, call it Spy 2: Ford Gets His Own Movie, and you’ve got comedy gold. As is, this film is so bad John Travolta is jealous.

Verdict-1-0-Star





Furiouser and Furiouser

Furious 7

by George Wolf

So, I went to a car racing movie and the next Avengers broke out. And that’s okay.

After six installments of Fast & Furious, a savvy new director is smart enough to go all in and take number seven to the superhero playground that the previous installments were yearning for.

The entire premise puts the “donk” in redonkulous anyway, so why not go..ahem, full throttle? Remember, these are street racing criminals that have “won” their freedom and are now working for the Feds to take down drug lords and mercenaries. Up to now, the films were just too earnest about what they were shoveling. Credit director James Wan for a welcome “let’s just have fun and do some cool stunts” attitude.

Wan (The Conjuring, Insidious, Saw) lets you know this is a different sort of ride even before the first credits, with a fluid opening full of action and style. After that, we learn that ex-British black ops killing machine Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) has come to avenge his brother from part 6, which means Dominic (Vin Diesel) and his gang have to take Shaw out first.

That mission is sidetracked by Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell), a covert intelligence honcho who offers Dominic a deal. Track down a hacker who has invented the world’s best surveillance program (“God’s Eye”!), and get the the full support of U.S. black ops in return.

Ooh, it’s on!

Turns out, though, the hacker gave her program to some guy in Dubai, so it’s off to the UAE so she can sport a bikini and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez’) can fight Ronda Rousey and Dom can fly a super car between two…check that…three skyscrapers!

Wan makes sure that stunt and many others, both car and fist related, look fantastic. In particular, the sequence with Brian (Paul Walker) escaping as a bus falls over cliff is likely to bring roars of gleeful approval.

Dwayne Johnson is still huge, Vin Diesel is still as wooden as his dialogue, and the plot is much more convoluted than necessary, bloating the film by at least thirty minutes. A faster Furious is a leaner, meaner, better Furious.

But there’s fun here. As the gang fights a terrorist and blows up half of downtown LA in the process, just think of these cars as Iron Man’s newest super suit, and go with it.

 

Verdict-3-0-Stars

 





Look What’s Cookin’ on the Homefront

Homefront

by Hope Madden

Those of you heading to Homefront looking for your typical Jason Statham film are in for a shock. Statham never disrobes. Not at all. He never even strips down to a wife beater.

Otherwise, yeah – exactly what you expect. Statham’s a retired undercover cop looking to settle down somewhere quiet and rural to raise his daughter. But a local meth dealer stirs up trouble, and Statham’s Phil Broker has to set things straight…with his shirt on!

The film, penned by Statham’s buddy Sylvester Stallone from Chuck Logan’s novel, offers a comeuppance fantasy rooted in a very modern American problem – that our rural areas are now more likely to house meth dens than chicken coops. What can we do about it? I mean, besides create an excuse for a good, decent, law abiding dad to find the bastards responsible and beat them to death?

Statham is Statham – unrepentantly British, steely-eyed, quick with his wit and even quicker with an elbow to the face. Kudos to Kate Bosworth as a white trash tweaker and prize winning mom. Not only is Bosworth physically perfect for the role (eat a sandwich, please!), but she actually acts, giving some heft to her scenes.

Winona Ryder also inexplicably co-stars. Why are these two taking tiny parts in a disposable action flick? It’s sad, really, but where Bosworth digs in and performs, Ryder waffles and grimaces instead of acting. Too bad, because she shares most of her scenes with James Franco, and that seems like it could be a pretty nutty experience.

Franco plays Gator, town meth king. Unsurprisingly, he’s the most interesting thing the film has going for it. He’s a very natural presence – no false bravado, no stilted movie-actor-villain-toughness. His Gator is kind of a weirdo. Whether that’s why the role works for Franco, or whether that’s because Franco is in the role is hard to tell, but it’s certainly a big perk for this film.

Between Franco’s goofiness and Bosworth’s performance, Homefront does actually contain enough surprises to freshen the tired concept to a watchable degree. That’s not so much a recommendation as a consolation, but hey, at least it’s something.

 

Verdict-2-5-Stars

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kupgq9utzE8