Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw is the latest movie in the Fast & Furious franchise, and functions as the first-ever spin-off film to break from the run of numerical entries, the 9th of which is slated for release on May 22nd of next year. It was directed by John Wick co-director and Atomic Blonde helmer David Leitch, and stars Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Jason Statham, Idris Elba, and Vanessa Kirby. In this film, Luke Hobbs (Johnson) and Deckard Shaw (Statham) have both been tasked with finding Shaw’s sister (Kirby) in order to secure a super-virus that could wipe out half the planet’s population, a bio-weapon which she stole from a secret organization obsessed with forcing an “evolution” on humanity in order to turn them into machines. Unbeknownst to Hobbs and Shaw, the man she stole it from is Brixton, a genetically enhanced super soldier with impeccable perception skills and a whole lot of extra strength, and he’s hunting them down in order to get the virus back. With only 72 hours until the virus goes global, Hobbs and Shaw have to figure out a way to stop it; the fate of the world is at stake.
The Fast & Furious franchise used to have always been about one thing: cars, cars, cars…and Vin Diesel saying the word “family” about every 35 seconds. But after the success of 2011’s Fast Five, Universal seemed to hit a gold mine of ideas banked off of a single concept: just get creative, and make it fun. After all, no one was coming to see these things for the plot after the first one anyway, and now they had The Rock (in arguably his most action-packed mainstream role ever) to boost the series’ profile. Couple that with some genuinely thrilling car chases and a fast-paced (if a bit non-sensical) heist thriller, and Fast Five is often credited with saving the series from all but certain straight-to-video death. From that point on, the franchise became somewhat of a miracle in terms of its box office success, with the 7th film actually launching itself into the highest-grossing movies of all time worldwide, remaining in the top 10 to this very day.
While I’ll admit I’ve never seen all of them, the ones I have seen, I’ve enjoyed for their simplicity and the up-front self-awareness that’s boosted the series on ever since that 2011 entry. In fact, one of the things that made The Fate of the Furious (as terrible of a title as that is) more easily digestible was the banter between Jason Statham and Dwayne Johnson during their prison combat sequence, so it’s no surprise at all that the first spin-off for the franchise would see these two characters re-unite to do basically a feature-length version of that. And yeah, that’s basically what Hobbs & Shaw delivers: an (almost) non-stop action thrill ride where the two coolest people in the franchise are joined by Vanessa Kirby in an extension of her Mission: Impossible Fallout action sequences and are hunted down by “black Superman” Idris Elba.
In that vein, I’m not sure if everyone can enjoy this movie on the same level, because that’s about all the good in the movie right there, and your enjoyment of this movie is going to heavily depend on whether or not that’s enough. Most of the plot boils down to just getting characters into different locations with a lot of fast vehicles and cool new weaponry so the movie can at least pretend that it has anything to do with the original franchise other than a handful of characters and the title itself, but if that’s what you came to see, you’ll be pleased to know the marketing didn’t lie to you; car chases, hand-to-hand combat, huge bass-filled soundtrack, it’s all there. What works best about Hobbs & Shaw (aside from the terrific chemistry between its four main cast members) is that it mostly dispenses with pretending that anyone in the audience would remember or care to remember the plots of the previous movies since they have basically nothing to do with this one apart from a few cursory references, instead focusing on making the most charismatic person of all time (Dwayne the Dwayne Dwayne) and the coolest non-spy character Jason Statham has ever played bounce banter off of each other while they and Vanessa Kirby fight Idris Elba (who looks like he’s just having so much fun with this role) until they’ve run out of song ideas and cars to destroy. It’s a simple concept, and the plot is nonsensical as a whole, but it works, especially since the main cast is essentially a murderer’s row of good-looking people who can pull of believable action sequences in franchises which operate in the decidedly unbelievable.
Those action sequences are mighty impressive too, both from a choreography standpoint and from a pure cinema standpoint (particularly an extended finale taking place on Johnson’s home island of Samoa), as much of it is in-camera with the visual effects added around the main sequences, something director David Leitch is known to be very particular about given his recent endeavors as both stunt coordinator and director of two very stunt-heavy movies that largely rely on thrilling combat sequences to get the job done. He’s no less on top of his game here, and while a few of the sequences can get a little silly, that’s always been a franchise staple for this series anyhow, so it’s not so much a negative as it is an observation of Leitch’s ability to adapt to different styles of action filmmaking, even if the stories are little more than simple exercises in how many different moves he can throw into one hand-to-hand fight and how brutal those hits can get.
The Rock remains just as fun a presence as he’s ever been in these movies, and of course Statham is just effortlessly cool, but special attention has to be paid to Vanessa Kirby’s performance, because aside from Elba just living it up as Brixton, she’s really the glue that holds this story together, and ends up kind of stealing the show in more than a few scenes. It’s not exactly a surprise that she’s as good as she is, but even in a movie like this, she’s easily the most compelling performer, and she really sells everything she has to do and say, despite how ridiculous some of it can get. Even in the combat sequences, her performance never wavers, and it’s genuinely impressive thinking back on it just how well every facet of her character comes to life.
Of course, as with any Fast & Furious movie, there are a few flaws that I have to point out, if only to give credence to the idea that no, this movie will not be getting any awards any time soon. During those roast sessions between The Rock and Statham (fun as those are), one can feel the clock starting to tick a little more slowly, if only because many of these scenes are just a bit too long for their own good, and given that there are about 5 of them in total, it starts to feel like a waste of time after a while. This only serves to further agitate the main issue I have with the movie, and that’s that it is way too long. At a point, it feels like the logical climax of the film has just finished…and then the movie keeps going for about another 45 minutes because it’s almost 2 ½ hours long, which is about an hour longer than any Fast & Furious movie needs to be, spin-off or otherwise. As well (and this is on the smaller issue, nitpicky side), the final fight between the main characters (not the final chase, the final fight) may have used its slow-motion effects for the right reasons, but they’re a also a bit overdone, like the movie wants us to relish in how cool this is, but doesn’t trust itself to be cool enough to retain our interest.
Other than those few small negatives, however, Hobbs & Shaw accomplishes exactly what it sets out to do, and while it mostly fails to accomplish anything extra on top of that, it does put forth a sincere effort at being as engaging as it can be, largely succeeding thanks to the self-aware nature of the franchise thread from which it’s spun. It certainly won’t be taking home any Oscars, but the performances are fun and engaging, the action sequences are terrifically helmed (if a bit over-the-top in some parts), and despite its overlong run-time, it’s a nice little summer action escape where The Rock gets to face off against “black Superman” with Vanessa Kirby, and Jason Statham takes out bad guys with a sledgehammer. (And yes, there’s fancy cars, too.) I mean, how could that not be fun?
I’m giving “Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw” a 7.3/10
- The Friendly Film Fan
Film critic in my free time. Film enthusiast in my down time.