Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw
Director: David Leitch
Writer: Chris Morgan, Drew Pearce
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Idris Elba, Vanessa Kirby, Helen Mirren
Distributor: Universal Pictures
Rated PG-13| Minutes: 136
Release Date: Aug 2, 2019
There’s no denying that the Fast & Furious franchise has been through some crazy things. What first started out as a humble cinematic look at illegal underground street racing has since supped up into a global phenomenon where Dom and his family – a strong theme that courses throughout the franchise – do things like drive cars out of planes in mid-flight or sling torpedos across a large stretch of ice. Oh, there’s also the occasional cars stunts, bone crunching fights, and cheesy one-liners.
But now it’s time for the franchise to venture outside of its wheelhouse with Hobbs & Shaw, the first Fast & Furious spinoff. In it, Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), two people who don’t even belong in the same room together much less be paired up on a mission, work together to save the world from a cyber terrorist organization bent on evolving humanity by augmenting them with their technology and purging out the weak. Are these two incompatible people up to the challenge? Or will they let their egos get in the way? Of course they are, and it’s how they reach that point that can be simultaneously fun and infuriating. My full review here below.
By now, we should know that David Leitch can craft an action film that looks sleek and fantastic. Since he’s already co-directed John Wick and directed Atomic Blonde and Deadpool 2, his sensibilities fit well into the Fast & Furious franchise, which runs on wild and crazy fight sequences and sleek car stunts. The fight choreography seen in Hobbs & Shaw is terrific and speaks to Leitch’s ability to bring audiences popcorn fun. But at the same time the camera work and cuts can be very dizzying, thus making you lose a sense of where you are or what you are supposed to be looking at.
It’s not as though that was not to be expected. This is a Fast & Furious film after all. There are plenty of gravity-defying and death-defying wacky moments that will make us laugh. And everything about it is anything but subtle. These films are meant to be explosive, jaw-dropping, and loud. If it is anything but, then it will fall short of what a Fast & Furious film should be.
As such, the dialogue is cheesy. Very cheesy, I might had. Much of it is comprised of Hobbs and Shaw trying to prove who the alpha male is. Which means there will be plenty of ball-busting one-liners that attack the other person’s looks, intelligence, or endowment. See, these two are two very different sides of the very same coin. Hobbs is anything but subtle and is a person who isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty. He’s all about the diesel, dust, grime, and rust. Whereas Shaw does things with more high-class finesse and is all about the clean, cool, and sleek, and does things with a sense of style. During fight sequences, they try to out muscle each other in their own signature ways. In one instance, Hobbs takes out a trio of soldiers who are running down a building, while Shaw takes an express elevator. In another, Hobbs has to knock out a large henchman in one room, while Shaw has to take out a group of henchman in a parallel room. Both are able to see each other and make faces to each other during the fight as though their efforts mean nothing to them.
That was pretty clear when the two were paired up in Fate Of The Furious, and Hobbs & Shaw is meant to be a spinoff that expands on that dysfunctional relationship while also expanding on the world. As if Fast & Furious wasn’t already crazy enough.
See, now these two have found themselves working together to save the world from a terrorist organization called Eteon. Eteon’s goals are simple, yet very high-tech: to use their technology to evolve humanity to the peak of their ability. This means they are sending out their best soldier and apostle Brixton (Idris Elba), a former associate of Shaw who has an axe to grind, to retrieve said virus. Brixton’s enhancements include superhuman durability, spacial awareness, and strength. And he isn’t afraid to showcase them as he embarrasses Hobbs and Shaw in various fights. He even goes as far as to proclaim himself as “Black Superman.”
But none of these special abilities prove to be useful when he fails to retrieve Snowflake, a virus that could turn one’s insides into soup. See Snowflake is no longer in a secure canister, it is now inside Hattie Shaw (Vanessa Kirby), an MI-6 agent who is on the run after Brixton uses Eteon’s tech to manipulate the media to make Hattie look like she killed her team. Unfortunately, Hattie doesn’t have very much time because the virus within her will become airborne and cause a global catastrophe within a matter of days.
And the only two people who can save her can’t stand each other. Not only that, but there’s some history with their respective families, which only adds to Hobbs and Shaw’s frustrations. While that can be fun, it can be a bit overbearing, and it seems as though the characters forget about the bigger picture. They are so intent on getting the final word with a clever insult that we can forget about the world-ending possibility. So one could say it would have been better if the stakes were perhaps a bit smaller and the riffing was larger. Cameos from Kevin Hart and Ryan Reynolds are also fun at first, but soon wear out their welcome.
Once again, the theme of family plays a huge role, even in a Fast & Furious spinoff. Queenie Shaw (Helen Mirren) wants to see Deckard and Hattie be brother and sister again, and Hobb’s daughter knows nothing about her father’s family tree. So the film goes through the motions, in only the way the Fast & Furious could, and resolves a lot of those issues. And that couldn’t be more prevalent in the third act where Hobbs finally goes home to the island of Samoa, where he is met with a not so friendly welcome from his estranged brother (Cliff Curtis). And the film finds a way to help even the playing field while also honoring Johnson’s heritage.
Hattie serves as the larger female presence in the film. Her icy disposition plays off nicely in this spin-off, especially against two egomaniacs like Hobbs and Shaw. She is also, for whatever reason, the love interest of Hobbs. The two do the dosey doe and deny that they are into each other schtick.
But everything about and in Hobbs & Shaw is par for the course for a Fast & Furious film: bat-shit crazy stunts, cheesy ballbusting one-liners, bone-crunching fights. It’s basically the film you expect it to be. That can be fun for those who have enjoyed the franchise, which has become a cult phenomenon. And even though this spinoff is meant to be an expansion of the franchise, it is completely devoid of anything that would develop into something that would reinvent the franchise. It has already gone through the motions of jumping the shark so many times. It even jumps the shark in this film whether that’s with cars rolling and avoiding a complete collapse of a nuclear reactor or hitching trucks together while they’re chained to a helicopter.
Even with all of its flaws, Hobbs & Shaw never forgets about its main theme of family and hammering that in with a good sense of popcorn fun. And the one most surprising thing about it all is its meta-ness and its awareness that its craziness has nearly reached its zenith. So say what you want about these Fast & Furious films, they know how to entertain you.