by Rob DiCristino
Learning to deal with loss is an important coping skill. Time is finite. Things end. They die. They fade away. On the other hand, maybe they evolve. They leave us behind because they’ve grown beyond us. That’s kind of beautiful, you know? Certainly better than dying. Either way, their absence leaves a gap, and how we fill that gap often comes to define us moving forward. What the hell does this existential postulation have to do with the Fast & Furious franchise? Well, we lost something, didn’t we? We lost Paul Walker, and — as 2017’s joyless The Fate of the Furious more or less proved — he took our beloved Fast & Furious franchise with him. It’ll go on, of course. Money is money. Vin Diesel is still out there trying to prove whatever it is he’s trying to prove. He’s the most bald? Who knows. The point is this: The Family is dead. Nothing is going to bring them back to their glory days. It’s best we all learn to fill the gap and move on.
Look, it honestly doesn’t matter. Johnson is Taller Action Man and Statham is Shorter Action Man. They fight Bad Action Man with the help of Action Woman. Don’t bother thinking about it. Don’t bother trying to make sense of it. Don’t bother catching up on the Fast & Furious franchise. There are no real character details to know, no real Fast Easter eggs (save for the end credits) to find, and no tangible connection to anything having to do with reality. Here’s the twist, though: That’s all in Hobbs & Shaw’s favor. Despite the film’s seemingly-cynical origins, series writer Chris Morgan (teaming with Iron Man 3 and Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation writer Drew Pearce) feels loose and free for the first time in forever, making the most of an opportunity to get out from under the Family-centric lore he built way back in 2001. Ostentatiously directed by John Wick’s David Leitch, Hobbs & Shaw is unapologetically loud, swaggering, muscular, and goofy. It’s 135 minutes of dick-swinging and face-punching hysteria set against CGI nuclear reactors and Samoan thunderstorms. Again, these are all good things.
The Raid or John Wick. It’s not as snarky as Deadpool or as grand as Star Wars. You’re not going to remember much about it after you leave the theater. But rather than try to recreate some kind of insincere Family dynamic with a sprawling and scattershot group of people who barely seem to know each other (and, in fact, have every reason to hate each other), Hobbs & Shaw gives us an actual family learning to get along. You may not like the way Dwayne Johnson has hijacked the Fast & Furious franchise — if that’s the case, you really won’t like the third act of this film — but you might come to agree that he’s using this particular power for good. He’s allowing us to move on from the Toretto Saga with grace. He’s coping. Adapting. He’s filling in that gap with something worth watching. That’s enough for me. That ought to be enough for you.