Here’s a fun experiment: Watch the ninth installment in a major action series you’ve never seen before and don’t really know anything about. And find out if any of that makes a difference.
OK, I’ll just tell you right now: It doesn’t.
Now, technically, Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw is not the ninth part of the Fast and the Furious series; it’s a spinoff, and so I think probably helped me catch on quicker.
Dwayne Johnson is Hobbs and Jason Statham is Shaw, two secret agents who really hate each other and express that through a series of emasculating jokes. I assume we’ve covered that in earlier movies. They’re tracking down a third agent, a woman who had to infect herself with a virus after being attacked by… well, really, it doesn’t matter. I mean, come on, of course it doesn’t matter. It’s all an opportunity for Johnson and Statham to crack wise while running or shooting or driving or flying as they battle a bio-engineered supervillain played by Idris Elba, who gets to look cool but, sadly, not to use his ridiculous charisma as he glowers and throws people through walls. All the men are obscenely fit, with comical cheekbones and five-day-old stubble, and all the women are gorgeous buttkickers with razor-sharp tongues.
Johnson is a great action star because he’s so darn charming and takes nothing seriously, and Statham is great because he remains entirely stone-faced while doing the most absurd things. And it is all absurd, enough so that it’s close to a cartoon, which is, frankly, how most action movies should handle themselves. There’s plenty of it that tries too hard, and its 135-minute running time is unconscionable, but we both know nothing I say is going to have any bearing whatsoever on whether you’ll see this movie.
So, for the few who are curious, but worry you won’t know what’s going on: If you’re up for spending 10 bucks to see good movie stars make jokes and explosions, that’s what you’ll get, and some of it even kind of works.