“HOBBS & SHAW” is coming to theaters this weekend. This “Fast and Furious” spin-off centers on Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham’s characters from those films and provides them their own little world saving mission to go on. David Leitch is the director with Vanessa Kirby coming in to play Shaw’s little sister, and Idris Elba stepping in to take on the mantle of the villain. However, he is not just any villain. He’s genetically enhanced, and in pursuit of a potentially world ending virus with only Hobbs, and the Shaw siblings standing in his way.
I admit that I enjoy the “Fast and Furious” films for what they are. Despite the increased levels of absurdity and the soap-opera-like layers that have been added to the mix in the more recent entries. “Fate of the Furious” was filled with loads of fun action-sequences, but a mind numbing story-line as well. So, with Hobbs & Shaw being the two bright spots in that film, I was naturally interested to see what they could do in their own standalone. I was also curious to what a “Fast and Furious” action-comedy would look like, and with the odd couple tropes on display here, it certainly showed me. I had a lot of fun with this film regardless of its flaws. I laughed when they wanted me to. I also laughed when they weren’t trying to make me do so. And while it isn’t Oscar worthy material, it was still a wildly entertaining ride.
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There are certain things to be expected when going into a film from this franchise. The suspension-of-disbelief needs to be like that of going into a film with flying superheroes or singing lions. Despite looking like a real-world setting, with normal human characters, these are far from that. The laws of physics, gravity, and human nature will be skewed to the most extreme level for the sake of creating a cool looking sequence, and this one has a lot of them. One can also expect a nonsensical story-line filled with contrived plot-twists and over-inflated personalities, all of which this one delivers. This movie does not break the franchise mold for better or worse. Which actually did work for me because despite being “Hobbs & Shaw” this still very much felt like a “Fast & Furious” film in terms of spectacle, campiness, masculine bravado, and ridiculousness.
I would say a major positive with this film is the chemistry between Johnson and Statham. They both clearly commit to these characters and to the comedic schtick, which does result in some solid laughs between them. The dialogue was nicely crafted with a charismatic self-awareness and a clever sense-of-humor (at times). It complements the personalities of the characters nicely to enable both Johnson and Statham to land many comical lines throughout the story as they work together, all the while refusing to work together. The action-sequences would be another positive. They were intricately constructed, large-scale in scope, and loaded with all the inflated spectacle needed create an endless supply of over-the-top visuals. The strong suit is without question the chase sequences. I think that any “Fast and Furious” connected movie will need some great chases and this one certainly does. This is where director David Leitch comes in to frame the set-pieces with a great visual eye. The angles are routinely appealing. The scenes pull the viewer into the chaotic scenarios and it’s completely engaging from an entertainment aspect.
This movie is vibrant, stylized at every level, and takes things overboard at every possible chance which is exactly what it sold itself as throughout the run of promo material. This isn’t a “Mission: Impossible” style of action film. This is one that will change the weather on a dime if it will lead to a cool looking shot. One that consistently provides its characters with an arsenal of weapons, tech, and gear for their mission, while still being technically labeled as criminals. It also isn’t a movie that tries to thrive on intelligent story-arcs. It’s a spirited action-comedy with crazy action scenes, and endless amounts of self-awareness. Johnson and Statham are dishing out beatings and one-liners much like an 80’s action movie. And I think seeing that type of film, with the budget of this one, and all the technological abilities of film-making today, are what make this movie such an engaging one to watch on the big-screen. Even when it’s crossing extremely far into the realm of sappy melodrama, which it does more than a few times. It still kind of works because of the unintentional amusement of it all.
I loved what Vanessa Kirby brought to this film and felt her pairing with Johnson and Statham came off naturally. She held her own not only in the action department, but more importantly in terms of personality which led to some humorous moments between the three. Idris Elba was a solid villain and with his commanding performance he gave the character all the inflated gravitas that was needed to make him both an imposing presence for our heroes. But admittedly a mildly likable villain as well. Plus, he was more than capable in the action-sequences to easily hold his own with everyone.
Some of the drawbacks to this film are expected for those familiar with the franchise. The story was not incredibly interesting or inspiring. It was simply a vehicle to create situational humor, grandiose action, and to set-up constant banter between Statham and Johnson. And for those aspects I have to say it works. The conveniences to get the story where it needs to go are endless and picking things apart will not do you any favors because two plus two rarely equals four in this one. I also think that despite some of the backstory for Hobbs and Shaw’s characters serving nice for some comedic effect. The more serious dynamics were not needed and did hinder the pace. Brief backstory is enjoyable at times but giving these established characters recycled foundations took away from the momentum of the story.
Which leads to the biggest drawback to this movie, that being the length. It’s entirely too long much like the other “Fast and Furious” movies. This one being a blend of both comedy and action to me makes it even more imperative to keep things moving. But it does get fatiguing. I think trimming thirty-minutes off this run-time would have cleaned up some of the more clunky and forced dialogue. It would have trimmed out sections of the scattered story, and just kept the comedic energy up overall. Because despite having a good time with this movie, it did start to feel stale in terms of the banter, and when it took itself a little too serious in terms of the character development.
Overall though I think “Hobbs & Shaw” gave me exactly what I was expecting. Some of it works. Some of it definitely doesn’t. But it’s filled with appealing stylized action and two vibrant lead performances to make it worth a watch for fans of the franchise. It just needed to be shorter so the best moments of banter between Johnson and Statham wouldn’t have been slightly muffled by some of the moments that should have been left to the cutting room floor.