Director: David Leitch
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Vanessa Kirby
Jaw-dropping action, cool one-liners and the industrial-strength charisma of Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham. Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw proves that these ingredients are enough to make a reasonably entertaining movie. This is the first standalone vehicle of The Fast and the Furious franchise – the previous 8 films have made more than $5 billion worldwide. For those who came in late, Luke Hobbs is an American special agent. Deckard Shaw is a former British military operative. The two first faced off in Furious 7. Of course they hate each other. And of course now, they must join forces to save the world.
The film is directed by former stuntman David Leitch who has also directed Atomic Blonde and Deadpool 2. It's no surprise then that action is the centerpiece of Hobbs & Shaw. Writers Chris Morgan and Drew Pearce engineer the simplest of storylines – a virus called Snowflake that melts your insides must be prevented from getting into the wrong hands. Morgan and Pearce then proceed to weave stunts and comedic banter into it. Hobbs and Shaw are polar opposites. Leitch establishes this early in the film. We see them in split screen as they go through their day – it's telling that Hobbs drives an SUV and Shaw, a sports car. Or that while Hobbs pumps iron, Shaw, in an elegant suit, has an espresso. Johnson and Statham have such distinct personas and physicalities. They make a great odd couple. In once scene, the two hurl glorious insults at each other – Hobbs says something about Shaw's Harry Potter accent and Shaw tells Hobbs that he sounds like a giant tattooed baby. They're basically deadly assassins behaving like five year olds. It's a lot of fun.
Idris Elba could have pulled off a majestic, Thanos-like bad guy but the writers don't give him enough, either in wit or depth
The action veers from standard issue car chases in London to a staggering set-piece in which several cars and a helicopter are hooked together. Vanessa Kirby plays an MI6 agent. She also gets to execute killer moves including putting Hobbs in a headlock. Her eyeliner and mascara are always in place, even when her head is battered and bleeding. But this is not the sort of film in which you question these things. The weakest link is Idris Elba as Brixton, a biologically enhanced supervillain. In an interview, Elba described his character as 'part human, part robot, all ego.' At one point, Brixton declares: I'm black Superman. But mostly, Brixton is a personality-free henchman, taking orders from a disembodied voice – this is the supervillain who runs a biotech company. He wants to kill weaker human beings and augment others. I'm assuming we'll meet him in a later film. Meanwhile Brixton growls and furiously rides his futuristic motorcycle, which shows up whenever he needs it. This is the closest Brixton gets to a loving partner. Elba could have pulled off a majestic, Thanos-like bad guy but the writers don't give him enough, either in wit or depth.
The script is cheerfully silly and honestly, the lack of logic hardly matters. When you go into a Fast & Furious film, you know exactly what you are signing up for. But at 135 minutes, the last stretch becomes an endurance test. The action is offset by family subplots. The franchise traditionally comes with Karan Johar-style messaging about loving your family. Here it just adds to the length and wears your affection thin. But props to the team for taking the climax to Samoa – I'm assuming it happened because that's where Dwayne Johnson is originally from. At least the backdrop is scenic and the weapons are unique. Hobbs also does some deadly Samoan war cries.
There isn't anything particularly memorable about Hobbs & Shaw but I think the film does an efficient job of being mindless entertainment. It goes well with over-priced caramel popcorn.