Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw
*** Even according to the less than rigorous standards of its franchise, Hobbs & Shaw takes a perverse delight in playing fast and loose and, sure, furious with storytelling conventions. Opening with an armored car heist led by ex-MI6 cyborg and self-described "black Superman" Brixton Lore (Idris Elba), we're quickly introduced to Hattie (Vanessa Kirby), Shaw's (Jason Statham) estranged intelligence-agent sister who safeguards the deadliest virus ever engineered by injecting herself with the super-plague. Despite the ticking time bomb in her body, she manages to become the eventual love interest of Shaw's counterpart, Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), while hiding amid the crowds of London. That's as close as we come to plot exposition. Her actions never feel remotely rational, and throughout the disturbingly entertaining 130 minutes that follow, it doesn't matter. Just as Johnson's cartoonish braggadocio blends seamlessly with Statham's patented slow burn, John Wick and Atomic Blonde director David Leitch dials down the brutality for a steady stream of action sequences expertly tailored to his leads' particular gifts. Most of the film plays out like a smarter, stylized distillation of the essential Fast and the Furious tropes, but evidently, even this remote outpost of the shared Dom universe can't avoid mentioning "family" any more than Star Wars films could jettison the Force. Pinning any sort of emotive backstory upon characters so flimsy can't help but slow momentum, and sustaining such a bonkers plotline at breakneck pace across barely understood scenes of aorta-bursting carnage requires a precision-tuned machinery borne upon soulless posturing. Keep insisting blood's thicker than water, and the engine's bound to clog. PG-13. JAY HORTON. Dine-In Progress Ridge 13, Mill Plain 8, Vancouver Mall 23, Cedar Hills, Clackamas, Cornelius, Eastport, Milwaukie, Oak Grove, Bridgeport, Cascade, Cinema 99, City Center, Division, Evergreen, Lloyd, Pioneer Place, Sherwood, Tigard, Vancouver Plaza, Scappoose, St. Johns Twin Cinema & Pub, Studio One.
*** Brian Banks was a football player with a scholarship to USC until he was accused of a rape he didn't commit. The movie Brian Banks follows his path to freedom. At just 16, he went to prison, leaving football and his loving mom behind. Despite a daunting succession of failures, many of which would make a lesser man crumble, he finally got his day in court. Thanks to his attorney (Greg Kinnear) and an inspirational speech in jail from Morgan Freeman (in Shawshank Redemption mode), Banks (Aldis Hodge) proves that hard work pays off. If this sounds like another faith-based film, it is. Don't be fooled, though. Put your own faith in this crowd-pleasing biopic and it will grip you with its urgency, astonish you with its story, and move you anew. This is something new for director Tom Shadyac (Liar Liar), who's known for his slapstick humor, but here turns his sights on the truth. The film can be a little too sappy for its own good—cinematographer Ricardo Diaz seems to have mistaken "seeing the light" for an overlit setting. And the script takes its cues from film clichés as opposed to real life. But there's no denying its powerful result. By the end, Banks becomes a reminder that the system is broken, and that we don't have to be. PG-13. ASHER LUBERTO. Dine-In Progress Ridge 13, Vancouver Mall 23, Clackamas, Eastport, Bridgeport.
Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood
*** Everyone knows that on the night of Aug. 8, 1969, three brainwashed hippies broke into the house of director Roman Polanski and his pregnant wife, actress Sharon Tate, massacred five people, and in the process drove one final knife through the heart of the Sixties and the utopian idealism it promised but never delivered. What Quentin Tarantino's new movie presupposes is: What if something different happened? Apologies if that constitutes a spoiler, but c'mon now. If you thought Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood was going to stick to the facts of the most famous mass murder of the 20th century, then you must've missed the fairy-tale allusions of the title—not to mention the past decade of the dude's career. The story on the surface is about a pair of show-biz veterans trying to navigate a changing industry that is rendering them "slightly more useless each day," as Leonardo DiCaprio puts it, playing a nearly washed-up TV cowboy named Rick Dalton. His longtime stuntman, handyman and designated driver, Cliff, is also watching the world gradually turn away from him, but he's mostly cool with it. Played with rugged insouciance by Brad Pitt, he's the perpetually unbothered yin to DiCaprio's stammering, sobbing yang, and their interplay results in career-highlight performances. But this is not their movie, really. More than anything else he's done, this is a film that exists to indulge Tarantino's deepest aesthetic obsessions. It works, mostly, to a degree many of his recent efforts haven't. Tarantino has a reputation as a man of many intense passions, but this is the stuff he really cares about—the L.A. of his childhood and the gritty glamour of Old Hollywood—and it inspires some of his most quietly effective filmmaking. Well, quiet for him, anyway. It's enough of a departure that when the blood really starts to splatter, in a screaming climax that both subverts expectations while simultaneously caving to them, it registers as a disappointment. For a director whose imagination—and ego, frankly—cannot be contained even by the bounds of history, it's a wonder he can't dream a bit bigger. R. MATTHEW SINGER. Dine-In Progress Ridge 13, Mill Plain 8, Vancouver Mall 23, Cedar Hills, Cinema 21, Cinemagic, Clackamas, Cornelius, Eastport, Hollywood, Laurelhurst, Living Room, Oak Grove, Bridgeport, Cascade, Cinema 99, City Center, Division, Evergreen, Fox Tower, Lloyd, Sherwood, Tigard, Vancouver Plaza, Scappoose, St. Johns Twin Cinema & Pub, Studio One.