While it doesn’t quite promise to sweep the box office like the franchise it spun off from, Hobbs and Shaw is garnering a fair amount of excitement among demographics that want to see Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson do to a helicopter what Chris Evans already did in Captain America: Civil War back in 2016. Well, that and audiences that want to watch two of the biggest, burliest men in Hollywood punch a third big, burly man. That’s not to say that these are the reasons to give this action movie a pass (and in fact seem like strong arguments to actually go check it out).
As the marketing on some posters seeks to remind audiences, “This time there is no team.” In spite of the fact that Hobbs and Shaw is “presented” by Fast & Furious, Dominic Toretto and co. are nowhere to be seen. Not only is la familia absent, but this movie stars two of their former antagonists. Johnson plays the titular Luke Palagi Hobbs, a federal agent hellbent on taking them down in Fast Five, and Jason Statham is Deckard Shaw, an assassin-turned-mercenary who sought revenge on the team for putting his brother in a coma. That said, the general quality of villain-centric films isn’t the reason to skip this one, either (though Suicide Squad should have been enough of a deterrent on its own).
The reason not to watch Hobbs and Shaw takes place at the very end of Fast & Furious 6.
The answer to the question the title of this clip poses is answered by the very screenshot of the man walking with a phone held to his ear (written SPOILERS for the Fast & Furious franchise and others moving forward)–
Deckard Shaw Killed Han, But Who Is That?
For those who don’t follow the increasingly more intricate Fast & Furious franchise, Han (Sung Kang) was first introduced in The Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift, which in spite of being the third film actually chronologically took place between the sixth and seventh installments. The vastly superior Fast Five reintroduced the character as the “chameleon” that Dominic’s crew needs, a precision racer who also has the ability to “blend in anywhere.”
Although Han had to compete with nine (depending on how you’re counting) other co-stars on Dom’s heist team, he quickly set himself apart by being a cool contrast to such boisterous, in-your-face personalities as Tyrese Gibson’s Roman Pearce, as well as catching the eye of Gisele Yashar (Gal Gadot’s big role before becoming the DCEU’s first big success story). Not to belabour the character’s’ history, but this is all to say that Han Seoul-Oh was part of the crew, and that made him a member of the family.
The Fast and the Furious Franchise Is About Family
The film series that began way back in 2001 is more than just a wildly elaborate Corona ad campaign, it’s a long-running parable on the importance of family. If watching a now-out-of-date compilation of all 33 times that a character speak the word aloud doesn’t convince you nothing else will. If there’s any wildly misquoted adage that might represent Fast & Furious it’s “blood is thicker than water.” The friends you choose become your family, and they’ll never betray you.
Given the intense emphasis placed on these bonds, it’s almost incomprehensible that prior to Hobbs and Shaw the last time we saw Statham’s character in The Fate of the Furious he was shaking hands with Dom and being thanked for saving his son. Following the trend of these action flicks wrapping up with a barbecue to put the newly expanded family on display, it’s an insult to (Han’s fatal) injury that F8 has Shaw joining them all for a meal.
Again, Shaw killed Han, a member of their family. It’s hard to imagine a Thanksgiving dinner more tense than one that has the guest sitting down to dig in to some turkey also being the man who vehicular manslaughtered everyone’s favourite son/cousin/nephew/grandson. To be fair to that illustration, fiction has plenty of examples of redeemed villains, but-
There’s Barely Any Precedent for Shaw
(And the One Example Doesn’t Make Things Any Better)
Audiences love a heel-face turn. From Yondu to Captain Barbossa to Spike to Peridot, having a villain form a (frequently shaky) alliance with the heroes is exciting. It is worth pointing out, however, that in the films Yondu doesn’t kill any of the Guardians of the Galaxy. Captain Barbossa threatens but does not harm Will, Elizabeth, or Jack Sparrow. Spike doesn’t bleed any of the Scooby Gang dry and Steven Universe and the Crystal Gems all survive Peridot (both before and after her redemption).
In recent memory there’s only one major example of a villain offing a member of an ensemble cast and going on to garner to spotlight for themselves, and wow, the optics are BAD.
Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s Negan appeared on AMC’s The Walking Dead in the show’s sixth season, and cemented his status as a true threat by bludgeoning fan-favourite Glenn Rhee (played by Steven Yeun) to death with a barbed-wire-wrapped baseball bat at the beginning of the seventh.
Come the end of Season 9 the former warlord is on good terms with people who once considered him the devil himself, largely due to his closeness with and rescuing of Judith, the daughter of former leader Rick Grimes. To reframe that, in spite of having brutally murdered the only Korean member of a tight-knit team this antagonist finds redemption and is welcomed as a result of saving the leader’s child.
Is Justice For Han Coming?
During the writing of this blog post two articles were published online in which Chris Morgan, who has written every Fast & Furious movie since Tokyo Drift, revealed his awareness of other fans of the series who have made many of the above observations. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Morgan shared (emphasis added):
“I love ‘justice for Han, [. . .] Sung Kang is a great friend, and Han is a character that I adore. I would say that the super-arc for Deckard Shaw is going to be one of the most interesting, cool, rewarding character arcs in the franchise. Justice for Han is owed. It’s something we have discussed for a very long time and want to give the right due to. I think the audience will be satisfied and should know it’s coming. There’s a line in Hobbs & Shaw that is right before the battle in Samoa where Shaw says to his sister, ‘There’s things I’ve done that I have to make amends for.’ That line was specifically written and put in there just to let everyone know that he is talking about Han — it is on his mind. It tortures him, and he’s going to get to it.”
That very same line is quoted in his conversation with /Film, explicitly citing the moment as “[him] referring to Han there.” Unfortunately Ben Pearson, who conducted that interview, admitted that:
“Shaw’s brief line from Hobbs and Shaw didn’t initially stick out to me as being about Han, who’s never mentioned by name. It makes sense after hearing Morgan’s explanation, but since Shaw has never shown any remorse for that specific killing before, I missed the intentionality behind that line and I thought he just meant that he needed to right some of the wrongs of his past in a more general sense.”
In other words, it appears that Morgan dropped that line as it was the only evidence that Shaw feels any remorse at all for killing a member of Dom’s family. That’s even more unfortunate given another EW interview in which the screenwriter is asked about Shaw, specifically about that he’s introduced to the franchise as the man who kills Han. (That’s right, the YouTube clip above is both the closing scene of Fast Six and our first glimpse at Deckard Shaw in the Fast & Furious universe.) Morgan explains:
“There are a couple of things I would say [about Shaw]. We don’t know his full story yet, so there are things we’re going to learn that I think will be cool when it comes to light.”
[ . . . ]
There are things, as developers, that we know about the character that you guys, the audience, do not know. We have the luxury of getting to that. I think people will be surprised and interested in it. This movie gets to a little bit more about who he is, and we learn a lot of new things about him.
I think the response will be that, because of what happened to Han, there is going to be a residual drama and tension. We’re going to lean into that. We haven’t forgotten about it. We’re going to investigate all of that. But also, you can see, in this film, a little more in [Deckard’s] core, as well. I know it’s a little unsettling, I know it’s a little different. Maybe the audience isn’t expecting it. I think it’s all, in the end, going to be a really exciting, fun, valuable experience. They’ll come to understand.
Given all of Fast and Furious 8 and Hobbs and Shaw it doesn’t appear that enough of Shaw’s “full story” has “[come] to light” in order for them to be able to justify murdering Han and being adopted into the family. At this point it appears that fans, especially those calling out #justiceforhan, will have to wait until Fast & Furious 9 for answers. Though given that at the time of this writing Jason Statham has not been announced as part of the currently-filming production, it seems unlikely.
It’s not that fan-favourite characters should ever be completely immune from harm, but that if and when they are killed their death has a more significant event than absorbing their murderer into the team they were once part of. If you liked Han’s character at all then you shouldn’t watch Hobbs and Shaw because he doesn’t receive the justice he deserves in this film. The focus isn’t on how a key member of Dom’s heist crew was T-boned before perishing in a fiery explosion, it’s about two musclebound hulks unwillingly teaming up to save the world from “Black Superman.”
At bare minimum Han is worthy of enough respect to have a scene where the team questions why Shaw has been so readily accepted into their number and allowed to roam free. It’s a scene he’s owed, but it’s also not one that shows up in Hobbs and Shaw.