The wordily-titled Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw is a movie that loves movies and boasts a passionate familiarity with the overtly macho action flicks of the 1980’s and 1990’s. I imagine it as a wide-eyed youngster skipping out of the theater after seeing Tango & Cash for the first time with a big smile on its face, excitedly exclaiming “That’s what I wanna be when I grow up!” Now that it’s all grown up, it towers over all its idols at parties (much like its Samoan star).
That isn’t to say Hobbs & Shaw is better than all those other films, it’s just more of them. It lovingly embraces the tropes of its genre while unabashedly doubling down— nay quadrupling down— on the action. Director David Leitch (Atomic Blonde, Deadpool 2) stuffs his film with one ludicrously over-the-top set piece after another. The result is exactly the movie you think it’s going to be and then some. If you’re not already burned out on what Hobbs & Shaw offers and can suspend gobs of disbelief, chances are you’ll enjoy the wild ride of this film. If not, it’s likely going to be a long and bumpy road.
Even the main story line is ripped straight out of Mission: Impossible II. Two of the baddest (and baldest) dudes on the planet must set aside their bickering and learn to work together if they hope to prevent the outbreak of a virus that threatens to wipe out humanity. Enter super-cop Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), who we first met in 2011’s Fast Five, and former elite British operative Deckard Shaw (Jason Stratham), who was actually the villain who faced off against Vin Diesel’s Dominic Toretto and family in 2015’s Furious 7. After teaming up in last year’s Fate of the Furious, the two hate each other’s guts and spend most of the film’s overly long two-plus-hours slinging mostly funny insults back and forth.
In 2019 Johnson and Statham are still a strong pairing. They share a natural on-screen chemistry and their polarizing physiques lend themselves to contrasting fighting styles. Dwayne is a hulking behemoth who’s first instinct is to simply smash everyone and everything in his way. Statham is slender, quicker and cuts through cannon fodder more tactfully. It’s a visual detail that’ve helped make the loads of fight sequences in the Fast & Furious films a bit more interesting and one Leitch exploits in Hobbs & Shaw to benefit a couple of well-edited intercutting fight scenes.
All the ass-kicking is to keep Shaw’s sister Hattie (Vanessa Kirby) away from Idris Elba’s Brixton, a cybernetically enhanced terrorist who’s after the world-ending virus currently housed in Haittie’s blood. Needless to say that’s easier said than done because Brixton’s enhancements allow him to stop bullets with his hands and lift cars. He’s so seemingly indestructible that he refers to himself as “Black Superman” and at one point Hobbs compares him to the Terminator; Brixton’s upgraded vision even feeds him analytics about the things he’s seeing, similar to the T-800. He’d undoubtedly fit right in as the big bad of any other sci-fi action flick, the way he spouts the obligatory “we must destroy humanity to save it” spiel at our heroes while they’re chained up instead of actually killing them. Elba smartly leans into the hamminess of it all and as a performer exudes so much natural magnetism that I legitimately bought it the cheese he was selling instead of rolling my eyes. In the hands of a lesser actor, Brixton could easily have been a buzzkill.
Continuity junkies will have a tough time with Hobbs & Shaw. Although it’s an extension of the Fast & Furious universe, it doesn’t concern itself much with the events of those films. The most obvious and perplexing inconsistency here is the relationship status between the titular characters, who went from being family at the end of the previous film to hating each other’s guts and refusing to work together at the start of Hobbs & Shaw; and they directly reference the events of the last film, so it’s not like this is a prequel. Effectively, this film spends two hours arbitrarily recycling a conflict that was put to rest last year.
After a certain point the mileage starts to show. The action keeps revving up and the stingers keep flying. I was ready and satisfied at 90 minutes. To my horror the movie kept going for another half-hour. Imagine going out to eat and after a delicious and filling meal, the waiter kept bringing out more food. Too much of a good thing can be a bad thing.
⭐️⭐️⭐️ (out of five)
Have you had a chance yet to check out Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw? If so, what did you think? Sound off in the comments below and let me know your thoughts!