“Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw” is a spin-off of the franchise bringing two familiar faces, Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and Shaw (Jason Statham), to the screen for one of the best, most humorous and visually captivating of any of its predecessors. Directed by David Leitch who gave us “Deadpool 2,” the film delivers so much more than anticipated with great banter, preposterous stunts, and interesting characters; it’s the fuel injection this sequel needed to cross the finish line reigniting your faith in summer blockbuster flicks.
If we can forgive the opening scene typical of most of the “Fast & Furious” films of close-ups of women’s nearly bare butts, etc., and I did, we find our stars aka heroes leading two separate and polar opposite lives. Hobbs, the elite muscle-bound physical specimen and father of an adorable 9 year-old, Sam (Eliana Su’a), discusses school and the lack of knowledge of the family tree. Half-way around the world, Shaw, whose more refined and sophisticated British ways, leads an orderly and solitary life. They’re re-enlisted into their respective governmental intelligence agencies to team up, much to their utter distaste for one another, to find Hattie (Vanessa Kirby), an MI6 agent who has gone rogue and stolen “Snowflake,” a globally lethal virus. Hot on this agent’s trail is “Brixton” (Idris Elba) the ultimate bad guy. It’s sure to be an explosive, high intensity showdown among them all.
While this certainly sounds like a formulaic, we’ve-seen-it-before, storyline—stolen weapons, save the world, all against the clock—and it is, it also breaks the mold with a focus on the characters’ chemistry, backstory, and hilarious banter between them. Co-writers Chris Morgan and Drew Pearce never let that comedic aspect cease. They know the pacing and balance of the film to entertain all audiences and find the right beats throughout this 2 hour and 15 minute film. While it is a bit long and after the 100 minute mark, perhaps an edit to a few action scenes would have helped, the stunts are still extraordinarily captivating and I truly cared about the characters.
It isn’t necessary to know anything about the other “Fast & Furious” films, making this a stand-alone spin-off, and there are plenty of unexpected surprises with cameos as well as unanticipated relationships. ***No spoilers here for you! *** If you’re expecting over-the-top and outrageous stunts, they’re here, but instead of making you roll your eyes, they make you laugh. This film laughs at itself, acknowledging the impossibility of it all and uses it accordingly.
For action fans as well as car enthusiasts, “Hobbs & Shaw” doesn’t disappoint either, staying true to what this F&F Franchise started out as. The stunts are also incredible, mind-boggling, actually, as you wrap your head around what’s real and what’s not. Sliding under a bus, jumping a line of cars, all on a motorcycle; careening around corners and cliffs high above the water’s edge, and so much more, creates unfathomable situations that glue your eyes to the screen. Equally captivating is the global travel, particularly as the chase leads them to a familiar country for Johnson, paying homage to his ancestral roots.
“Hobbs & Shaw” has its moments of seriousness as Brixton shares his reasons for going to the dark side. The underlying realities of our world, the environment, and politics drive the plot forward, but never does it overshadow the lightness of this film. Quite surprisingly, the violence is quite rampant, yet no more than a bruise or a little redness on a forehead is ever seen. There’s not grotesque blood-spurting; just a lot of hand-to-hand, well-choreographed fight scenes allowing our heroes to shine. Brixton, a combination of man and machine, showcases his unique abilities and features, highlighting the differences among all of them.
The key ingredient in this film is Johnson and Statham’s explosive chemistry. With an intuitive sense of comedic timing and the ability to somehow bring nuanced performances to a story typically not requiring this, they breathe fresh air into what could have been an ordinary, repetitive, action film. Johnson is more than just a bulky persona and we connect with him and even feel empathy as we see his feelings are hurt, looking more like an adolescent who has been picked on by a bully. And beneath the tough exterior of Statham, lies a sweet teddy bear with a big heart. Statham and Johnson are the epitome of a dynamic duo. The entire cast is exceptional as we see Eddie Marsan honing his skills as the confused and physically inept scientist and Alba creating a villain like no other. Another standout in this film is how strong and smart the character of Hattie is with a layered backstory which Kirby skillfully portrays.
“Hobbs & Shaw” is an unexpected blockbuster gem capitalizing on the strength, skills, and personalities of its stars. Hilarious, thrilling, and fun are exactly what a summertime movie should be and this pushes the pedal to the metal to give us total entertainment.
3 out of 4 Stars