Last month, Universal flew me and a group of other writers to London for the home entertainment release of Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw, which is now available on digital, 4K, Blu-ray, and DVD. In addition to getting to sit down and talk with director David Leitch, I also got to do a lot of ridiculously fun activities that helped put me in the mindset of an action hero, proving a potent reminder that I’m no hero; I’m a doofus who writes about movies on the Internet, and nowhere is that more clear than in the video above.
To give you a bit of detail, the trip kicked off with our group heading to Wembley Stadium to see the Rams take on the Bengals. I know that Hobbs & Shaw has nothing to do with football or stadiums or Rams or Bengals, but Dwayne Johnson played college football for the University of Miami and went on to play in the Canadian Football League so close enough. It’s been ages since I went to a live football game (I faithfully watch my Atlanta Falcons on TV every week during the season, and yes, this year is going horribly there will be no further questions at this time), but the crowd at Wembley was there for it, and it wasn’t even supposed to be a close game. That’s no offense to anyone involved, but the Bengals still have yet to win a single game while the Rams went all the way to the Super Bowl last year and are doing pretty well in 2019. But the packed stadium all had a blast with a game, and I enjoyed cheering the Rams onto victory even though they had pulverized my beloved Falcons just a week before.
But where things really popped off was the following day where we headed to Silverstone Circuit to race McLarens. Unlike football, McLarens are very much a part of Hobbs & Shaw since it’s the car that Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) drives, and the good people at Silverstone and McLaren wanted to give us a taste of that.
It should be noted that I am not a speedy driver. While my father, my brother, and my wife all know how to put the pedal to the metal, I like to cautiously obey all speed limits and ride the brake like an elderly person who’s about to have their license taken away for driving too slowly. But thankfully, my terrific instructor Olly was able to help me shake that cautiousness as we made our way around the track. Every time we made our way around the track and to the straight away, Olly encouraged me to go a bit faster. First to 100mph, then 110, and then to 120, and while I will never be able to afford a McLaren, those that do are certainly getting their money’s worth with a car that can accelerate that quickly and brake just as fast.
I was also surprised at the amount of exertion required when steering and braking. In a normal car, you never want to slam on the brakes if at all possible because a regular car isn’t made for that. But when you’re behind the wheel of a real sports car like the McLaren, you feel like you are driving rather than just transporting yourself from one location to the next. Steering, accelerating, and braking all require real force and so you feel like you’re (and I apologize because this is going to sound pretentious as hell, but I don’t know a better way to put it) one with the machine. (Yep, pretentious as hell)
But the drivers at Silverstone were good enough to let me see how a real professional handles the track, I got to ride along on both a hot seat where the driver pushed the acceleration of the car to 160mph easily while I was pushed so far back in my seat I gained a southern accent (you can see that in the video above; it’s weird). There was also a simulation of a car chase where we swerved and maneuvered around another car, and I can now definitively say that car chases are not for me. I will not chase you in a car. I probably won’t chase you on foot either. You are free to get away from me.
After collecting myself and getting my legs back under me after going faster in a car than I have or will ever again in my life, the group headed over to the McLaren Technology Centre to do interviews with Leitch (which was appropriate since the Centre serves as the HQ for the film’s bad guy organization, Eteon) and also to tour the facilities. As our tour guide pointed out, McLaren makes it a point to compete in the world of F1 racing, so photography was strictly regulated since corporate espionage is rampant in F1 (note to movie producers: make a film about F1 espionage).
He then took us to the assembly floor, and pointed out that while other factories are all about using machines and assembly lines to produce as many cars as possible per day, McLaren will only put out about 6,000 for the entire year and each one is crafted by skilled technicians to the buyer’s specifications. It was kind of amusing bringing in a bunch of movie journalists who will never be able to afford these vehicles to see how they’re made, but if you are wealthy enough to get one, I understand now. You really are getting what you pay for here if you’re all about sports cars and want something made specifically for you.
The following day, we got to engage in some stunt training. We were going to reenact the scene in the film where Hobbs goes to the tattoo parlor to get some information. Our stunt trainers couldn’t be nicer or more professional as they walked us through the choreography in a way that helped us do the moves safely and helped us retain the order. So, for example, instead of just saying “Slam the fake tray into this guy’s face and then grab their wrist,” our trainer would say, “Shut the door and check the time” which provided a useful mnemonic for keeping everything straight.
Then we got to do the real deal in a set directed by stunt coordinator Chris O’Hara. Since no one would ever buy me saying “I’m an ice cold can of whoop ass,” the way Dwayne Johnson says it in the movie, I decided to say it in the most prim and proper tone possible. Then I found that I could really get into “character” by doing all the moves while screaming. The real stunt guys could not have been better sports about my antics and all the credit goes to them and O’Hara’s direction for making me look even halfway believable as an action star.
But if you want to see the pros go at it, then you need to pick up Hobbs & Shaw on Blu-ray. After flailing at that action star life for a few days, I have a newfound respect for the professional movie stars who make it look effortless.