Review: 'Hobbs & Shaw' Delivers Big Tag-Team Action By the Truckload
by Adam Frazier
August 1, 2019
After eight movies so far, the Fast and the Furious franchise (which launched in 2001) gets its first spin-off as Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson (most recently in Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle and Skyscraper) and Jason Statham (from the Crank movies and The Meg) reprise their roles (first introduced in Fast & Furious 6) as Luke Hobbs and Deckard Shaw in Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw. Directed by David Leitch (Deadpool 2, Atomic Blonde), from a screenplay by Drew Pearce (Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, Iron Man 3) and longtime Fast & Furious scribe Chris Morgan, the film delivers on the over-the-top action, on-the-nose scripting, and off-the-charts charisma that the series has been known for.
Ever since the tough, trash-talking Hobbs (Johnson), an agent of the Diplomatic Security Service (DSS), and former British Special Forces operative Shaw (Statham) first faced each other in 2015's sequel Furious 7, the two have been sworn enemies. But when cyber-genetically enhanced anarchist Brixton Lorr (Idris Elba of Thor: Ragnarok and The Dark Tower) gains control of a chemical weapon – and frames Hattie (Vanessa Kirby of Mission: Impossible - Fallout and Netflix's The Crown series), an MI6 agent who just happens to be Shaw's sister – the two alpha males have to put aside their differences and partner up in order to bring down the superhuman villain before he unleashes the deadly pathogen upon the world.
While it isn't as exhilarating as this year's other big action sequel John Wick: Chapter 3, Hobbs & Shaw is an entertaining action-comedy and the best entry in the Fast & Furious series since 2011's Fast Five. Hobbs, Shaw, and Hattie traverse the globe – from Los Angeles to London to the ruins of Chernobyl to the islands of Samoa – to stop Elba's cybernetic super-soldier. Brixton is a relentless, motorcycle-riding killing machine hellbent on wiping out humanity – he's a goddamn Terminator. On paper, there isn't much to the character, but Elba brings charm to the role and gives the villain a bit of refined ruthlessness. If you've ever dreamed a dream (in times gone by) of The Rock and Jason Statham opening an ice-cold can of whoop-ass on a Terminator, well, you are in for a real treat with this movie.
Also great is Kirby, whose whip-smart, rough-and-tumble MI6 agent gets almost as much screen time as the two leads. I will be shocked if we don't see Hattie Shaw in future Fast & Furious movies – maybe even her own Atomic Blonde-esque spin-off. The rest of the supporting cast is rounded out by Helen Mirren, who reprises her role as Magdalene Shaw; Cliff Curtis, who plays Hobbs' brother Jonah; Eiza González (of Baby Driver, Alita: Battle Angel) as weapons dealer Madam M; along with a few surprise cameos that will no doubt delight audiences. As for Hobbs & Shaw themselves, Johnson and Statham are so charismatic and versatile – they can pivot from action to comedy to drama effortlessly – and the chemistry between the two is what really makes the movie work.
Look, if you enjoy the Fast & Furious movies, you're going to like this one. It's the last big popcorn movie of this year's summer movie season, and it's one of the most entertaining entries in the series. There are cheesy one-liners, absolutely ludicrous set pieces – the kind of gravity-defying vehicular gymnastics fans have come to expect from this franchise – as well as the theme of family, which has been one of the unifying threads of the series since its inception. It isn't original, but at least Leitch and screenwriters Pearce and Morgan steal from the right places, delivering a crowd-pleasing flick that gives you a bit of everything: the hand-to-hand combat and gunplay of John Wick, the high-tech gadgets and spycraft of Mission: Impossible, and the comedy of Johnson's Central Intelligence.
There are, however, a few things still holding Hobbs & Shaw back from being a truly great action flick. In addition to the tedious, cookie-cutter narrative, the biggest issue is the movie's pacing and its visual style (or lack thereof). Aside from some beautiful locations – like the lush, sun-drenched islands of Samoa – and the movie's beyond-attractive cast, there isn't much to look at. There's an electrifying high-speed chase with Brixton pursuing Shaw and Hattie in a McLaren 720S through the streets of London, but the action is forgettable and often unintelligible otherwise.
It's baffling to think that the director and cinematographer (Jonathan Sela) of Atomic Blonde, with its sophisticated one-takes and super-stylized set pieces, made a movie this bland. The missing ingredient is Elísabet Ronaldsdóttir, who edited Blonde (and all of Leitch's previous movies). Here, it's Christopher Rouse putting the pieces together. Rouse, who won an Academy Award for 2007's The Bourne Ultimatum, is obviously talented, but his frenetic style doesn't jive with Leitch's methodical approach. The result is an uneven, overlong movie that feels like the cinematic equivalent of blunt force trauma. Still, for those who are looking to wring the last bit of escapism out of the summer movie season, Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw has enough star power and spectacle to make you forget about reality for a couple of hours.
Adam's Rating: 3 out of 5
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