FAST & FURIOUS PRESENTS: HOBBS & SHAW

The Fast and the Furious franchise didn’t really become enjoyable to me until Fast Five. Not only was it a lot more fun and self-aware by going for full action schlock, it was also the introduction of Dwayne Johnson that further added to the fun factor. Compared to the brick-faced, emotionless Vin Diesel, his charisma was a welcome breath of fresh air to the franchise. I’m also a big fan of Jason Statham’s personality and action prowess, and bringing him to the series felt like a no brainer. Despite some important story and character elements being swept under the rug, the producers clearly saw potential in the two due to their popularity in The Fate of the Furious and commissioned a spin-off. Who knew the franchise would ever go this far?

Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw begins with cybernetically enhanced supervillian Brixton Lore (Idris Elba) attempting to steal a deadly virus that could potentially kill millions of people. MI6 agent Hattie Shaw (Vanessa Kirby) is able to retrieve the virus before Brixton, but he’s able to immediately brandish her as a traitor. Hattie’s brother Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) is recruited to track her down, but only with the help of Lucas Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson). Hobbs and Shaw don’t really get along, but they realize they need to work together to save Hattie and the world from Brixton and the virus. 

So, yeah, other than Hobbs, Shaw, and the continuity, this has absolutely no connection to the prior The Fast and the Furious films. Universal is looking to milk the franchise in any way they can, with this spin-off moving away from cool cars to more traditional action. There’s still a car chase here and there and a terrifically over-the-top final action sequence featuring a line of cars hooked together. A lot of the action are your typical fight scenes and shootouts, though. What I love about the series is that they come up with these absurd action sequences centered around driving and cars doing ridiculous, sometimes impossible stunts. With that type of action taking more of a backseat here, the fist and gun fights don’t feel as silly or exciting as the series usually is. You of course still get Johnson flexing his gigantic muscles and Statham pulling off stunts, but it all felt a bit restrained. I love a great fight scene or shootout, but the choreography didn’t seem all that special. 

It’s especially disappointing considering this is directed by David Leitch, who helmed Atomic BlondeDeadpool 2, as well as co-directing John Wick. He knows how to stage and block action scenes, always giving us a clear view of the carnage. We can see everything here, but it’s nowhere as creative as those other films. Perhaps it’s because he was restrained by the PG-13 rating, limiting how violent he was able to get. The gunshots are bloodless and any killing blow is out of frame. We certainly never got anything on the level of the fight scenes from Fast Five or Furious 7. It just didn’t get as silly as I was expecting, except for the terrific last half-hour. They really pulled out all of the stops in the cheese department, but I was 100% fine with it. Cheese is what these films are all about. While I was mostly enjoying it, whenever there wasn’t action, it felt like a bit of a slog. With his last two features, Leitch has shown that while he’s competent at action, he seems to have an issue with pacing.The plot is absolutely boilerplate and the stakes are nonexistent, so a lot of the dialogue scenes are just filled with exposition and some light attempts at characterization. Series screenwriter Chris Morgan surprisingly worked in the whole “family” angle in here too, which really made it feel like it was part of The Fast of the Furious universe. This film respects everything about the franchise and wants to give the fans what they want. 

Thanks to its stars, we mostly have a pretty fun action film on our hands. Johnson and Statham both have their own distinct personalities and brand which work perfectly with each other. Their banter is always hilarious to watch, especially with Statham’s ace delivery and timing. Spy showed that the guy could be hilarious and he sells all of the comedy here. Johnson is Johnson. He’s charismatic and does the eyebrow thing. Nothing really that special, but he’s always fun to watch and works great with Statham. Elba, who totally deserves to be in better movies, clearly reveled in his bad guy role. He knew exactly what kind of movie he was in and hammed it up accordingly. Since the antagonists in this series are usually so lame, it was nice to see someone with a bit more personality and seeming like an actual threat. I was pleasantly surprised with Vanessa Kirby’s role, who plays a more than capable MI6 agent. She’s never a damsel in distress, but even better, the film never calls attention to her being a strong woman. She just is. She knows the score, does her job, does it well, and is a more well-rounded character because of it. 

At this point, The Fast and the Furious franchise is all about absurd, over the top action and while it was a bit restrained, Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw gives fans pretty much everything they could want. You get Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham bickering with each other, all while punching people, driving cars through buildings, jumping out of windows, and more. When this spin-off was first announced, everybody balked at the idea, but there’s clearly far more gas in this franchise than anybody ever thought before. I just hope Hobbs and Shaw are present in Fast 9, because without them, it’s back to Vin Diesel’s emotionless grumbling about Corona and family. No, thank you. 

7/10

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