Hobbs & Shaw | David Leitch | August 2, 2019
If nothing else, 2017’s The Fate of the Furious made it clear that Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham shared some undeniable chemistry with the next obvious step being their own spin-off movie that marks the first Fast & Furious Presents entry – Hobbs & Shaw. Directed by David Leitch (Deadpool 2, Atomic Blonde, John Wick), Hobbs & Shaw combines both the two stars’ witty banter-filled chemistry and the series’ infliction for over-the-top cartoonish action that is as dumb as can be but also very much the film that it sets out to be. It’s the sort of film where you should leave your brain at the door, grab some popcorn and soda, and just take completely at face value. In that regard, it’s one of the only popcorn films this summer that actually delivers exactly what it promises.
Hobbs & Shaw wastes no time kicking into high gear, with MI6 agents led by Hattie Shaw (Vanessa Kirby) trying to get a programmable virus capsule that could wipe out a targeted population if it gets in the wrong hands. The particular wrong hands are those of cybernetically-enhanced supervillain Brixton Lore (Idris Elba), who wants the capsule, forcing Hattie to self-inject the virus to keep it out of his hands. Naturally, Lore’s next step is to track her down, while international espionage agencies call in assets Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) and Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) to find Hattie and clear up Brixton’s frame-up jobs. The two are forced to put their differences aside and figure out how to remove the virus from Hattie before it not only kills her but humanity at large.
As you can only assume, the plot details aren’t nearly as important in the film as to how the giant action set-pieces are manifested on the big screen. The script, which was written by Chris Morgan (who’s written every Fast-entry since 2006’s Tokyo Drift) and Drew Pearce, goes for broke, literally living up to the phrase “go big or go home”. Truth be told, all the best tricks are already spoiled for you in the trailers. Even with that said, there are some pretty massive and insane action set-pieces that deliver the type of high-octane ridiculousness that you have come to expect from the series. If you are not a fan of the series or do not want to buy into any of the cartoony superhero aspects of what Hobbs & Shaw offers, you may as well stay home; there’s nothing that could win you over at this point. But if you came to play and just embrace all that it is offering, you’re more than likely going to get the fun experience that you’ve set out to receive.
Not all of the sequences work as well as the next, with the third act feeling a bit fatigued and over-long, with the film stretching to a rather unnecessary 2 hours and 15 minutes. Being a Fast & Furious entry, there are elements of family incorporated in both Hobbs’ and Shaw’s plot lines to help provide the characters with a little bit of extra depth. Despite the noble intentions, the placement feels a bit forced and not totally earned, ultimately resulting in a shallow distraction from where the film is leading full steam ahead. And where it’s leading is the big-budget action sequences that are Hobbs & Shaw‘s big selling point and the bread and butter for the Fast & Furious series. There’s some choppy and distracting CGI, but it’s more so the repetition of the action beats in the scenes that can start to feel a bit like a chore once you get past the two-hour mark. Not to mention some pretty off-putting and safe pop music choices, but ones that aren’t really a surprise in a picture like this.
While it is undoubtedly a big fun popcorn flick, Hobbs & Shaw doesn’t work without the one-two punch of Johnson and Statham, whose back and forth rapport is the true driving force and winning formula of the entire film. Seeing them spit out one-liner insults at one another while beating the living pulp out of nameless bad guys proves to be every bit as winning as it was the first time around and reminds you of some of the buddy cop films that used to dominate Hollywood. Idris Elba brings about as much as he can to a pretty safe and standard villain role (including monologuing), bringing what he can to the role of the self-dubbed “bad guy” and “black Superman”. But the scene-stealing shining star is Vanessa Kirby, who first caught our attention last year in Mission: Impossible – Fallout. She is a magnetic presence on screen, not only when it comes to dialogue but also in hand-to-hand fight sequences and larger action scenes, which goes to show why she may be in consideration for the role of Catwoman in the upcoming The Batman (a rumor that’s to be taken with a grain of salt). There’s also some small but solid work from the likes of Eddie Marsan, Cliff Curtis, Helen Mirren, and Eiza Gonzalez, not to mention a few surprise cameos that the studio kept pretty well guarded.
Critically, there are surely shortcomings and issues of logic and, uh, physics. But you know damn well what you’re getting into before you enter the theater. In terms of pure entertainment value, it’s hard to argue with what Hobbs & Shaw delivers. It isn’t likely to sway your opinion on the series in any way but it provides you with a rather fun and entertaining time at the theater that does its job. When looking back on the rest of the summer 2019 tentpole slate, it’s one of the few films that can actually say that.