Fast & Furious presents: Hobbs and Shaw
Yes, “Fast and Furious” is fast and furious, as advertised – and not much more than that. It’s a muscle movie showcasing great editing and amazing stunts, without a great deal above the thick necks.
It’s also evidence that a prediction of a Seattle movie executive has come true: Movies now must go big or go home.
This Nostradamus moment occurred in perfect setting: Bob Bond was standing in the lobby of a single-screen movie palace, next to a horse, in about 1985. Yes, a live horse, brought to the John Danz Theatre in Bellevue to help promote a classic family horse movie from Hollywood’s golden age, perhaps “My Friend Flicka.”
The theater had more than 1,000 seats, and it was packed.
With the horse nodding in agreement, Bob Bond, an SRO executive, pondered the future of movies.
“Movies are going to have to become an event,” he told me. “Otherwise people will stay home.”
He explained that movie “events” must fill the screen with sights and sounds, sound and fury, that demand to be seen in a theater, on the biggest screen possible. He could intuit DVDs, Netflix and online home-viewing coming.
He also knew that the age of the multiplex would shut down big theaters like the Danz, and he was already grieving the change. Five years later, the Danz closed.
Well, that future is now.
Flash forward 30 years to the era of the $100 million movie. Studios don’t want small movies costing pocket change, perhaps $10 million, they want blockbusters like “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” which cost $245 million, but grossed more than $2 billion.
So much for quiet movies, paid for by refinancing the director’s home, although some indie films still get made that way.
There’s no better proof that Bob was right than the 21st century Hollywood blockbuster.
Enter Exhibit A: “Fast and Furious”
Fast and Furious” sole goal is to put every penny of its budget on the screen for us to see and hear. It’s like a fireworks display that explodes repeatedly across the sky/screen.
We encounter action of every type: car chases, helicopter chases, motorcycle chases, plus some old fashioned mano-a-mano showdowns. For good measure, we also watch Samoans with sticks face off against a modern army.
At the center are action stars Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham, who made $20 million and $13 million, respectively. “Supporting actor” Idris Elba got a mere $8 million.
Fortunately, for Universal, “Fast and Furious” is well positioned to cover its overhead. First weekend box office: $60 million domestic plus $120 million overseas. In other words, it will just about to match its $200 million budget after five days.
I’m not sure the plot matters, but for the record it involves an American spy (Johnson) and a British spy (Statham) teaming up – even though they hate each other – to stop “Black Superman” (Idris) from spreading a super-virus throughout the world.
Yes, the 007 movies have told this tale many times – and so have recent action films.
The supporting cast includes Hattie, Shaw’s sister, an M16 field agent, not that I cared.
Hattie comes with some attitude that makes her considerably more interesting than our T-shirt popping, testosterone-fueled leads. They spend most of their time insulting one another, lines penned by clever writers who don’t really care if these guys ever become real.
And, as a final gift to the furious faithful, we get extensive cameos from Ryan Reynolds, Kevin Hart and Helen Mirren. They also are more interesting than Jason and Dwayne. I’m sure Helen’s salary for this will tide her over between queen movies.
And, for the patient, there are a few end-credit moments, including one at the very end. I was the purist, this time – but I had one foot out the exit door as it faded to black.
I’ll admit the Samoan sequence was touching. Nice to see a warm portrayal of some people of color in an age where the fuse of intolerance is burning rapidly towards the dynamite. Recent gun violence sends shivers through me. How did we turn into this? Love they neighbor – no exceptions!
So, what can we conclude? This brainless action flick will please its franchise followers, I’m sure. And those who wouldn’t like, it won’t go. And no critic is going to convince a single skeptic to go or talk a believer into staying home, that’s certain.
A final furtive plea for some real people with real fears and vulnerabilities to show up on the screen and help us figure out life. It’s legal to include insight amidst car crashes.
Go big if you must, but go real, too?
Pretty high bar, I admit.