Noble savages bent on creative destruction
Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham return in the ninth instalment of ‘Fast & Furious’, joined by Idris Elba
Before watching some films, you should park your brain like your car. But when you un-park the first, should you bother to un-park the second? Unless it’s to take it straight to the scrapyard?
For 18 years the Fast & Furious franchise has been teaching us, with wit if not absolutely apparent wittingness, that the car is a handsome but meretricious piece of metal, designed for systematic and spectacular annihilation. It should be hurled, swirled, crashed, battered or blown up. Never mind the cost. Consider its cost to the environment.
We’d love to believe that was the conscious message of the saga. Amazingly, in Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw, the ninth instalment (directed by David Leitch), we almost can believe it. Never mind the eye-candy destruction visited on cars, jeeps and helicopters. The movie has it in for IT too.
In the action romp’s last reel, Dwayne Johnson’s Hobbs and Jason Statham’s Shaw travel to the former’s ancestral Samoa. Here the rollicking, bickering duo of bicontinental strong-armers (first introduced in F&F7) have a showdown with Idris Elba’s black-garbed robo-villain, flying in with his matching army of super-goons.
Here is a paradise regained with calendar scenery and a calendar-stopping culture. No bad tribalism (as in Facebook, Twitter). Lots of good tribalism. Before the showdown there is a hoedown, a communal Samoan war jig. During the showdown, high-tech digital weaponry goes up against South Seas spears, clubs and shillelaghs — or tries to — while transport items are flung about, like demons for exorcism, in a concluding chase atop a scenic cliff road.
In the first case: it’s amazing what simple sabotage can do to cripple sophisticated computer systems. (World, please learn.) In the second: if natural wastage or phase-out won’t suffice to terminate fossil-fuelled vehicles, Hollywood storytelling (noble savage division) can clearly show the way.
The film should be subtitled Coming of Age in Samoa — the maturing of a planet, action-movie-style. Sadly, the visionary Luddism of late scenes doesn’t stretch back to earlier ones. Here it’s all hands to the dreck deck. Hokey action sequences; viral McGuffins (an actual virus threatening global wipeout); techie overload; and a desperate plethora of pop-up guest stars. Before the screening, the Universal press folk begged me not to name the surprise celebs. So I’ll only observe that they are stellar enough, while properly chosen for cultural diversity, multiracialism and good-hearted outreach in the cameo-role arena.
Five other things to watch
The Red Sea Diving Resort — Netflix
In the early 1980s during the civil war ravaging Ethiopia, Israel assigned a group of crack Mossad agents to rescue the African country’s Jewish refugees and bring them to the homeland. This is a dramatic thriller based on that event, directed by Homeland creator Gideon Raff and starring Chris Evans, Michael Kenneth Williams, Greg Kinnear and Sir Ben Kingsley. It’s a fascinating if sometimes slightly propagandist and a little patronising film about a time before the racism of the Netanyahu era that has characterised much of the Jewish state’s recent attitudes to race.
Inspired by remarkable true life rescue missions, The Red Sea Diving Resort is the incredible story of a group of international agents and brave Ethiopians who in the early 80s used a deserted holiday retreat in Sudan as a front to smuggle thousands of refugees to Israel.
Project Blue Book — Showmax
Developed for the History Channel and produced by Robert Zemeckis, this series takes a look at the years between 1952 and 1969 when the US Air Force investigated over 12,000 reported sightings of UFOs. Based on declassified government files and starring Aidan Gillen (Game of Thrones’ Little Finger) it’s all a lot of slightly paranoid, intriguing thrilling fun that will get you asking questions you hoped you’d never have to ask.
First look trailer: History's new UFO drama series "Project Blue Book" starring Aidan Gillen ("Game of Thrones") and Michael Malarkey ("The Vampire Diaries").
Warrior — Showmax
In the late 19th century, the Tong Wars in the city’s Chinatown shook San Francisco. This series follows Ah Sahm (Andrew Koji), a martial arts prodigy who arrives in the American city and becomes a hard man for one of Chinatown’s most powerful crime families. Filmed in Cape Town and packed with plenty of over-the-top martial arts action, it’s based on the writings of the legendary Bruce Lee and, while it may not be a reliable portrait of history, it certainly has plenty to keep action and martial arts junkies glued to their screens.
Set during San Francisco's Tong Wars in the 1800s, HBO's gritty series Warrior follows Ah Sahm, a martial arts prodigy from China who becomes mixed up in the world of organised crime.
Dear White People Season 3 — Netflix
Based on the groundbreaking 2014 film, the spinoff show has come into its own over the last two seasons. The third season offers plenty more unflinching examination of racial relations on US campuses with a strong cast and hard-hitting but necessary jokes that make you think, laugh and keep rooting for its characters struggling to make sense of their identities and reactions to the world of Donald Trump.
Change is in the air. Dear White People returns to Netflix August 2 with new characters, new relationships, and new secrets.
Whitney Cummings riffs on feminism, technology, service dog buttholes, and more in her fourth stand-up comedy special. Prepare to be touched.
Whitney Cummings: Can I Touch It? — Netflix
American comedian Whitney Cummings delivers plenty of sass, cringe and in-your-face jokes and prods to the era of MeToo in this comedy special. It even features a sex robot of the performer created especially to make you feel uneasy and guilty, and to realise that a change is going to come, whether you like it or not.