Why Is Shaw a Good Guy Now? Even the ‘Fast & Furious’ Movies Don’t Seem to Know
Hobbs & Shaw is a fun movie. It’s not revolutionary, but it delivers what you expect from this sort of blockbuster action spectacle. Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham tease each other mercilessly, punch dudes in the throat, and dangle from tow trucks hooked to the backs of helicopters. The film’s biggest problem can be traced to three words and an ampersand.
“Fast & Furious Presents.”
Granted, there couldn’t be a Hobbs & Shaw without a Fast & Furious. Both characters come from the long-running franchise. Johnson’s Agent Luke Hobbs chased the series’ original protagonists, played by Vin Diesel and Paul Walker, in Fast Five. Statham’s Deckard Shaw first appeared in a wicked post-credits sequence after Fast & Furious 6, then went on to serve as the main antagonist for Hobbs and the rest of the heroes of Furious 7. After Diesel’s Dominic Toretto and his crew put Shaw’s brother Owen (Luke Evans) in a coma in Fast & Furious 6, Deckard Shaw swore revenge. He killed Dom’s friend Han (Sung Kang), put Hobbs in the hospital, and almost killed Dom, his sister Mia (Jordana Brewster), his brother-in-law Brian (Walker), and Brian’s son Jack with a mail bomb.
Then they ... became friends?
In the next film, The Fate of the Furious, Shaw gets recruited to work with Hobbs and the rest of Dom’s team. A few months earlier, Shaw chased these characters all over the world. He went to jail promising to break out and resume his hunt. He vowed to kill all of them — and succeeded in one case. Somehow, in the span of one movie, he goes from not caring if he blows up Dom’s nephew to risking his life multiple times to save Dom’s son. That’s not a change of heart; that’s a change of personality.
I enjoyed Hobbs & Shaw, but revisiting the last couple Fast & Furious movies in the days since my press screening have left me retroactively shaking my head about the fact that movie even exists in the first place. It is true that characters in the Fast universe switch sides with surprising frequency; Dom and Brian began the franchise as enemies; Hobbs doggedly pursued both of them through Fast Five and then became their closest ally. But all of those characters’ actions felt consistent; Brian was always attracted to Dom’s lifestyle and gearhead philosophy. Hobbs partnered with Dom because he had no other choice to stop Owen Shaw. And all of these guys live by the same code of honor. Allegiances shifted, but who these people were at their core never did.
The same cannot be said for Deckard Shaw. He straight-up murders Han and others. The very first scene in Furious 7 introduces him at his brother’s bedside promising to avenge Owen’s injuries; as he walks out of the hospital we see that he’s torn the place to pieces and killed who knows how many innocent bystanders to get inside. Hobbs & Shaw’s Deckard Shaw cracks jokes with his sweet old mom (Helen Mirren) and goofs around while he’s trying to unlock the door of a highly secure laboratory by repeatedly banging dude’s faces into the security scanner.
The Fate of the Furious includes a few brief attempts to retcon Shaw’s earlier villainy — supposedly he and his brother were both manipulated by the cyberterrorist Cipher (Charlize Theron), and all the shady parts of his military records were frame jobs — but they don’t change the fact that he acts totally different from one movie to the next. Really the only way to reconcile the two versions of the character is to pretend the first one doesn’t exist — which is essentially what Hobbs & Shaw does. Shaw makes vague mention of mistakes he’s made in the past, but otherwise ignores his previous crimes. When he flashes back to his childhood, he doesn’t even remember that he has a brother that he was once obsessed with avenging; the young version of Luke Evans’ character is never seen or referenced in scenes that show the young Deckard playing with his sister Hattie (played as an adult by Vanessa Kirby).
In an interview with UPROXX, Hobbs & Shaw co-writer Drew Pearce says they considered “a couple of ways” to address Han’s death, but they ultimately “chose not to.” That’s probably because addressing it in any way would acknowledge that the guy who’s yukking it up with Helen Mirren is also the one who burned Han alive in the flaming wreckage of a car crash. A protagonist wracked with guilt and remorse is generally not advisable in a buddy action comedy.
It’s worth noting that Jason Statham is not the problem here. He’s very effective as both the remorseless, relentless Shaw and as the charmingly grumpy Shaw. The problem is that the two don’t mesh — and that’s especially jarring in Fast & Furious, a franchise that has built a reputation for its obsessive attention to its own continuity. A Fast rewatch used to be recommended before each new sequel roared into theaters to reacquaint yourself with the characters and their intricate backstories. The best way to enjoy Hobbs & Shaw is to avoid reading or watching anything related to the last couple movies. At least to this longtime fan, that’s kind of disappointing. It almost feels like the series has gone from hero to villain in the blink of an eye.
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