If you were to tell me back in 2001 that The Fast and the Furious would be working on its ninth movie and that it would also be in the midst of a spinoff franchise starring The Rock, I would have called you crazy and a liar. But here we are, with the release of the first Fast spinoff film, Hobbs and Shaw, which stars Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham, the appetizer of sorts before Fast 9 hits the big screen. So, how does this action spinoff fair and should you pay money for it?
Hobbs and Shaw reunites Luke Hobbs, the DSS agent who was initially tasked with hunting Toretto, Brian and the rest of the crew during the events of Fast Five and Deckard Shaw, the “Winter Soldier” like villain introduced in the after credit scene of Fast and Furious 6. Personally, I still find it a little hard to root for Shaw as he was personally responsible for the death of Han and I don’t recall there being any form of guilt or apology on his part for that act, which can make it hard to care for Shaw. The film doesn’t make it any easier as Shaw is still an entertaining character and Statham’s chemistry with Johnson, which is 90% trading insults at each other, makes up most of the humour in this buddy cop movie that would be perfectly at home in the 90s.
The plot is, well, insane. Idris Elda plays the villainous Brixton, a man with a literal super-suit and an augmented spine to make him an enhanced being. He’s basically a supervillain in a Saturday morning cartoon. Most actors would probably make Brixton come off as flat, boring or uninspired but the talented Idris Elda is certainly having fun with the material and it shows. He likely knows this isn’t the stuff of gold but he’s still bringing his A-game to the cartoony zaniness. Brixton does get some cool action set pieces, however, and a shot of him on a motorcycle coming face to face with some semi-trucks is pretty impressive-even if it’s CGI. Brixton is after a virus that can destroy the world and he seeks to unleash it to launch a new world order for his ominous master, a person hidden behind layers of modulation but seriously, isn’t that hard to figure out.
Another surprise to the movie is Vanessa Kirby (The Crown, Mission: Impossible Fallout) as Hattie Shaw, sister to Deckard and Owen from Fast and Furious 6’s Owen. Owen’s presence is entirely absent from this movie so the family dynamics between the Shaws as they talk about their past feels unusual when we know there’s a third sibling out there. That being said, Kirby plays the role with a certain level of class and finesse that makes her one of the best parts of the movie. She keeps the two meatheads in check while also being able to hold her own in the action department.
Directed by David Leitch, who co-directed the first John Wick film as well as Atomic Blonde and Deadpool 2, Hobbs and Shaw has serviceable action but is somethings marred by some shaky-cam or quick edits. Some poor green screen backgrounds are also distracting from time to time. Furthermore, the movie is perhaps ten to fifteen minutes too long, with the final two big action set pieces starting to drag (pun intended-you’ll understand once you see it). The movie is great at doing hand to hand combat and an earlier car chase is great fun, but the bombastic action at the end of acts two and three were a bit too over the top and definitely too long. Also, there were way too many phallic jokes in this movie about two testosteroned filled dudes. One or two, sure. But we’re talking at least twelve here.
Objectively, I can’t criticize the movie for having a dumb plot because the movie knows it has a dumb plot and is having fun with it. You can’t take this stuff seriously, otherwise, how can you enjoy it? That being said, the movie is pretty fun once you shut your brain off. It lands on the more cartoony side of the Furious franchise, a side that has started to show more and more since the sixth entry. This one is about as crazy Furious 7, but not quite as out there as the zombie car sequence in the eight entry. That being said, I did prefer this entry more than the last two Furious films, but not as much as Five and Six, Five being the pinnacle of this franchise.
Hobbs and Shaw rides on the chemistry and humour of its primary cast. Johnson, Statham are Kirby make a great trio, one that I wouldn’t mind seeing reunited for a sequel. On that note, stay behind for the after credit scenes-there are three! There are inventive and humour action bits in the movie and being able to see a buddy cop movie this wild makes the child in me happy. Is it perfect? Goodness no. It has problems well beyond the obvious problems, but for a dumb, fun time at the movies, you likely won’t find better at the cinemas this year.
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