In case of bad-movie emergency, break glass.
Over the two hour-plus running time of the painfully long, exceedingly tedious, consistently unimaginative and quite dopey “Hobbs & Shaw,” I counted some 13 instances in which humans and/or vehicles went crashing through panes of glass.
Ooh, look at all those tiny shards of broken phony glass flying through the air as our anti-heroes go about their business. It’s sooooo … cinematic.
In an empty-calories kind of way.
This loud and lazy and lumbering actioner is a sequel/spinoff to the “Fast and Furious” franchise, reuniting the Hulk-ish American lawman Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) with the outlaw loner Shaw (Jason Statham).
These two REALLY don’t like each other, mostly because much of the movie is built on that wobbly and ancient foundation.
Forced by their respective bosses to team up in order to save the world from a terrorist threat recycled from a number of other movies (more on that in a moment), Hobbs and Shaw are forever bickering, threatening each other and making jokes about the sizes of their respective, um, egos.
That’s right. There’s a plethora of “junk jokes” and testicle-related “humor” in “Hobbs & Shaw.”
Not to mention the leads taking turns barking “Nobody tells me what to do!” at one another, just before doing something so stupid and reckless it would kill half the characters in the Marvel Universe.
On the “Fast and Furious” timeline, “Hobbs & Shaw” takes place some two years after these two helped Vin Diesel’s Dominic Toretto and his crew take down the evil cyber-terrorist Cypher.
Single father Hobbs is still working for the Diplomatic Secret Service, while Shaw is growling and brooding his way across the pond in London — visiting his mother (Helen Mirren), who is in prison but apparently is allowed to keep wearing her jewelry and having her hair done, and still estranged from his sister Hattie (Vanessa Kirby), an MI6 agent with enough hand-to-hand combat skills to keep at least a couple of stunt doubles gainfully employed.
Hattie has gained possession, in a certain way, of a deadly virus that in the wrong hands could lead to mass casualties around the planet. (Gee, how original.)
This makes Hattie the target of one Brixton Lore (Idris Elba), a former MI6 agent who has gone rogue and has gone mad. (I wonder if there’s a Facebook group for all the MI6 and other secret agents who have gone rogue. That way they could keep in touch!)
And get this: after Shaw “killed” Lore some 13 years ago by putting two bullets in his chest and one in his brain, Lore has been rebuilt into a half-man, half-robotic killing machine.
Basically he’s “Robo-Criminal.”
Or as Lore labels himself, “Black Superman.” We get a couple of those black Superman references, perhaps as a nod to rumors about Idris Elba one day playing the Man of Steel. We also get multiple references to “Game of Thrones,” I guess to demonstrate the pop-culture savvy of these characters.
Lore works for one of those evil technology corporations that has a high-tech, glass-walled, Google-worthy headquarters, housing hundreds of employees who are either (a) scientist/researchers or (b) henchmen who will be killed before the movie is over.
As Lore explains it, the company wants to use the deadly agent to wipe out the weaker human beings on the planet in order to create a better world. If he controls that virus, it’ll be as if he can snap his fingers, and half the population will disappear!
Anyone seen my Thanos?
When it’s pointed out to Lore this would constitute genocide, Lore fires back by saying:
No joke. That’s actually what he says: Genocide schmenocide.
This is the kind of weak writing punctuating many a scene. One character is even given an alias that when spoken quickly, turns into a small-penis joke. We’re in prank-call territory, people.
“Hobbs & Shaw” features separate, semi-surprise guest cameos by a couple of likable, very funny actors who are helpless against the weight of the crushingly bad lines they have to deliver. Other terrific actors, including Eiza Gonzalez and Cliff Curtis, are saddled with equally unmemorable, borderline cartoonish parts.
You can almost see the green screens behind the actors during some of the more outlandish chase sequences, which come across as second-rate imitations of the action scenes from the “Mission: Impossible” movies. And there’s so much quick-cutting during the many, many hand-to-hand combat sequences, the dramatic and/or comedic effect is often diluted. (Even one easy payoff, involving a seemingly invincible foe going down after one punch, is ruined in the editing.)
We don’t expect a whole lot of acting in these movies, but even for a “Fast and Furious” entry, the two enormously cool leads are given so little to do they could have shown up on set without ever having the read the script and been just fine handling their respective parts.
The cardboard standees of these guys in movie theaters across the world will have just as much depth.