This review was written for CLTure.org.
After a months-long barrage of trailers, promos and behind the scenes sneak peeks, “Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw” is finally cruising its way into theaters this Friday. If the never ending flood of teasers gave away anything, it’s how absolutely wild this movie would be – and it does not disappoint.
“Hobbs & Shaw” marks the “Fast & Furious” franchise’s first foray into the world of spinoffs, as series regulars Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) reluctantly team up for their own new adventure. If you’re not up to speed with all the latest “Fast & Furious” exploits, or really any of them, don’t worry, you’ll still be able to follow along. The only thing you really need to know is that Hobbs and Shaw definitely do not get along, but even the most oblivious viewers can easily pick that up in the film’s first 20 minutes.
When a sample of a life-threatening virus goes missing, MI6 agent Hattie Shaw (Vanessa Kirby), is framed as a rogue operative. In truth, Hattie chose to inject herself with the virus rather than allow it to fall into the hands of the real culprit, Brixton Lore (Idris Elba), a cyber-genetically enhanced mercenary. Brixton plans to use the virus to enact a mass genocide, cleansing the world of the weak, before exposing the survivors to the same treatment he received in turn creating a superior human race. With only hours until the virus kills her and becomes airborne, Hattie must turn to her estranged brother and his unlikely partner to help save not only herself, but the entire world.
If that sounds ridiculous to you, that’s because it absolutely is – but in all the best ways. If you thought a spinoff might take things down a few notches and explore the world on a smaller scale, you couldn’t have been more wrong. After all, it’s not a true “Fast & Furious” movie unless a rough and tumble group of misfits saves the world from imminent danger! If anything, “Hobbs & Shaw” punches the NOS and cranks it all the way up, never taking itself too seriously.
The chemistry between Johnson and Statham’s Hobbs and Shaw is incredible, fueled by their constant attempts to out badass each other. You’d think that with the fate of the world in their hands, the bickering could take a back seat, but thank god it doesn’t. The juxtaposition of Hobbs’ charisma and friendliness with Shaw’s iciness and impatience leads to nonstop banter and tons of genuine laughs.
Johnson and Statham may be the film’s main draw, but its real star is Vanessa Kirby. In a film dominated by overly macho men, Kirby proves that women can hold their own, and even steal the spotlight, in mega-action blockbusters. Without an inner man-child driving her to constantly compete with Hobbs and Shaw, Kirby’s Hattie often serves as the brains of the operation, scheming up the team’s plans. But don’t let that fool you, she certainly has the brawn, too, as she continually finds herself in the thick of things fighting alongside the hulking men, and wreaking just as much havoc.
While the villainous Brixton may not have the richest character development nor the most unique evil goals, Elba plays him well, bringing a swagger to the character capable of matching Johnson and Statham’s one-two punch. Plus, there’s something wildly entertaining about seeing him pummel The Rock over and over again.
Director David Leitch’s touch can be felt throughout the film, as he pulls elements from two of his most successful films, channeling the witty quips from “Deadpool 2″ alongside the expertly choreographed action of “John Wick.” At two hours and 15 minutes, the film teeters on the brink of running long, but Leitch maintains firm control of the pacing and keeps things from ever dragging.
For a film as grand as “Hobbs & Shaw,” it’s only fitting for its set pieces to be equally massive, both in size and number. Whether it’s a high speed chase through the streets of London, wide-scale destruction at a Ukranian power plant, or the epic showdown on Hobbs’ home island of Samoa, each one is an impressive, gravity-defying spectacle worthy of anchoring an entire film on its own. Instead, they’re just some of the many jaw-dropping sequences crammed into “Hobbs & Shaw.”
With a cast led by some of Hollywood’s biggest names, why not add a few more into the mix? The film features hilarious cameos from two huge stars that are too good to spoil here, but the surprise appearances provide some of the movie’s best laughs.
Underneath all the explosions, punches and one liners, “Hobbs & Shaw” is a film filled with a tremendous amount of heart, and at its core lies the franchise’s perennial theme: family. Whether it’s the Shaw siblings reconnecting, Hobbs returning home to his family, or even the titular sworn enemies finally learning how to work together, the message is unavoidable – even if it does sometimes feel a bit too on the nose.
The most important thing for viewers to keep in mind when dealing with a film like “Hobbs & Shaw” is approaching it with the right attitude. If you head into the theater looking for award-winning performances and an air-tight plot, you’ll probably find yourself disappointed. But that’s not what “Hobbs & Shaw” is trying to be, and that’s completely alright. Not every movie has to be a cinematic masterpiece, but that doesn’t mean it can’t still be two-plus hours of high speed action, nonstop fun and pure entertainment.
Star Rating: 4 out of 5
Zach Goins is a member of the North Carolina Film Critics Association based in Raleigh, N.C. Zach co-founded Inside The Film Room in 2018 and serves as Editor-in-Chief of the website and co-host of the podcast. Zach also serves as a film critic for CLTure.org.