The Fast and The Furious Presents: Rejecting Toxic Masculinity

Hey, everyone. Once again, I’m doing more of an analysis than just a straight up review. If you don’t want to hear about how Hobbs and Shaw prevent a killer virus from wiping out the world before Fast and the Furious 9, then go, watch the movie, and come back.

The Fast and the Furious series has come a long way since it was basically just Point Break but with cars instead of surfers. Over the eight movies in the franchise, a strong theme of family has infiltrated the less strong but still there themes of fast cars, insane chases, bank heists, and the occasional bikini clad lady starting any number of street races. The spinoff Hobbs and Shaw obviously picks up the theme of family – you’ll note this because if you took a drink every time someone said “family” you’d die– but they add a new wrinkle: they take on toxic masculinity.

It would be easy for The Fast and the Furious Presents: Hobbes and Shaw (I’m not typing that every time) to simply be a throwback to the mismatched buddy comedies from the 80’s. Deckard Shaw, played by Jason Statham at his Jason Stathamiest, is a proper British agent. Luke Hobbs is of course, The Rock, so he’s basically The Rock but also a DSS Agent. After an introduction to the bad guy and of course, Shaw’s never mentioned sister (in fairness, he spent a lot of time as a bad guy in previous movie so they didn’t trade family histories)  we get a split screen of how they spend their days: Deckard being all James Bond-y and suave while the Rock filmed one of his workouts. Then there’s a killer virus, secret organization bent on cleansing the world, a super-enhanced Idris Elba, explosions, car chases, the word “family”, blah, blah blah… hijinks ensue.

What makes this movie so unique is that even though it features two of the toughest actors in Hollywood either beating each other up or beating up random, faceless goons who don’t really have a chance of hurting the people who’s names are above the credits, this is very much not about all of that. And it oddly works. The best place to really focus on this is the end, where Hobbs and Shaw finally go one on one with the I swear I’m not making this name up Brixton Lore, played by Idris Elba. He’s a super-enhanced solider/cyborg with a grudge against Shaw who has the ability to calculate when people are going to hit him, taking away the biggest advantage Hobbs and/or Shaw really have. In the end, they realize that they can beat him not with just fists, but by the power of teamwork. You see, while Lore has the ability to calculate that he’s about to get hit with some Hobbs fists or Shaw fists, he can’t predict when he’s going to be hit by both at the same time. That means that if either of them can put away their egos and allow themselves to be hit by a cyborg, then the other person can get the hit.

While this seems like a pretty convenient plot point at first, it does amount to breaking down the two men who do spend a good amount of time basically saying, “no, I’m not going to work with him!” despite the fact that their names are literally in the credits. This is a very macho film one that could have easily gone the route that ended with a generic fight. But the ending very much requires the two men to put away their egos and not just work together, but not be that one who gets in the last punch. They have to allow themselves to literally be vulnerable for a second to allow someone else to win.

I start at this point because I think it’s a good way to build into the rest of the film. We can’t talk about the film’s rejection of toxic masculinity without also discussing that sister who just happened to pop up and sort of took the place of Deckard’s brother. Hattie Shaw, played by Vanessa Kirby is an MI6 Agent who is tasked with guarding a dangerous bio virus from getting into the wrong hands. Naturally, with this type of movie, the wrong hands pop up right after the movie gets started. In order to prevent it, she injects herself with the virus, as it has an incubation period of just long enough for everyone to have their globe trotting adventure.

I bring up Hattie because she is the glue that continues to keep things on track while Hobbes and Shaw essentially try to out-ego each other. It’s an interesting dynamic. For instance, after a brief fight with Hobbs, she is taken to the CIA headquarters in London. Lore breaks in to kidnap her with the virus, and while Hobbs and Shaw mainly fight each other on the side of a building, she manages to escape. It’s not even big moments like this: these two dudes keep fighting each other instead of taking care of the fact that there’s a virus that can wipe out most of humanity. I like the way that they play this off, I think it’s a unique take for a movie that’s a recipe for everything we’ve seen before. There’s nothing new in Hobbs and Shaw. What makes it interesting is this perspective that perhaps in order to be the top dog, it’s important to not really be the top dog. Sometimes, it means taking a step back.

This is also pretty evident as both protagonists have to find time to reckon with their respective families. Shaw, not just with his sister but also his mother played by Dame Helen Mirren. She has a character name, none of that will really change the fact that if you want to see pure joy, you should probably watch Dame Helen Mirren act opposite Jason Statham for a few scenes. Honestly, they need to give her an action franchise as well. But this development also forces Hobbs to go home and reconcile with his long lost brother who also owns a high-end automotive shop (where else are they going to get the cars for the car chase at the end, guys) who can also jury rig a machine to take all of the virus out of Hattie.

Just go with it.

But even this scene tends to reject the toxic masculinity tropes as we are expecting a big gunfight, but Hobbs’s family has gotten rid of all their weapons. Instead they have to rely on their wits to disable everyone else’s weapons and set up the Island to provide them cover. Again, it’s a message that at the end of the day one’s most important tools aren’t their fists or guns, it’s each other, and their love for each other, that will win in the end. I like the way they are able to incorporate all of that into such a busy film that by that point, has already managed to feature several jokes about each other’s manhoods.

In some ways, Hobbs and Shaw is the film you expect: the good guys win, the bad guys lose, Jason Statham plays a character that’s basically Jason Statham, and there’s just enough loose threads to ensure that we’ll all meet again in Fast and the Furious Present: Hobbs and Shaw 2: 2Hobbs 2Shaw. But the way they manage to subvert those expectations are amazing. The way it continues to focus not on the ways one person can make a difference but by putting away your ego so that everyone can make a differences, well… we need more movies like that.

Hamlet T. Wondercat Says

hamlet 5

Out of Five

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