Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw seems like one of those spin-offs that was too big of an opportunity to not happen. Once Dwayne Johnson’s hulking DSS agent, Luke Hobbs and Jason Statham’s lethal mercenary, Deckard Shaw were paired together as begrudging, unlikely allies in 2017’s Fate of the Furious, after Hobbs was responsible for bringing down and arresting Shaw during the climax of 2015’s Furious 7, the positively electric recipe for comical animosity with a hint of strained bromance was immediately apparent to all. Thus, with Universal ever desperate to keep one of their biggest and most popular movie franchises going, even as it approaches its planned finale in a few years, Hobbs & Shaw was born, as one of several planned offshoots of the mainline Fast & Furious movies.
Subbing out most of the vehicular stunts for an increased emphasis on hand-to-hand combat and every cheesy buddy cop movie cliche in the book, Hobbs & Shaw stays true to the increasingly daffy tone of the Fast & Furious movies, though also distinctly carves out its own unique niche in the Fast & Furious universe. An over-the-top comic book movie that simply forgot to bring the actual comic book, Hobbs & Shaw wears its ridiculous, yet undeniably cool stylings on its sleeve, giving audiences a hefty jolt of ass-kicking, without any unnecessary story padding in the way. It’s naturally true then that the proudly mediocre storyline doesn’t quite live up to the highly entertaining lead double act, but as far as being a fun Summer blockbuster goes, Hobbs & Shaw certainly succeeds at that, even if it’s obviously not aiming very high, outside of its predictably sublime stunt work.
The title of Hobbs & Shaw really says it all, since practically the entire movie is anchored on the draw of its two lead stars, Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham. Reprising their respective roles as Luke Hobbs and Deckard Shaw from the Fast & Furious movies, Johnson’s Hobbs and Statham’s Shaw end up forcibly paired on a mission by their respective secret agencies, after a deadly virus is stolen by a mystery woman, who it turns out is Shaw’s sister, Hattie, played by Vanessa Kirby. Johnson’s and Statham’s incredible chemistry and rapport, which proved to be one of the best elements of the franchise’s previous offering, 2017’s Fate of the Furious, remains well intact in Hobbs & Shaw, now cranked up to eleven, and overflowing with so much overblown machismo and metaphorical dick-measuring that you can’t help but wonder if they’re just going to jump each other’s bones and have a passionate make-out at any minute!
Surprisingly though, as much as Johnson’s and Statham’s bickering is one of the natural best selling points of Hobbs & Shaw, the real standout in this movie is rising star, Vanessa Kirby, who is perhaps best known for her stint as Princess Margaret on Netflix series, The Crown at this point, but is also recognizable for having a supporting role as the White Widow in last year’s excellent action movie opus, Mission: Impossible – Fallout. It’s very clear that Kirby is passionate about the action movie genre, with Hobbs & Shaw being her biggest action movie role to date, and fortunately, she nails it at every turn! Hattie Shaw may have been originally written as a token female lead in a largely testosterone-driven action movie spin-off, but Kirby really makes the character pop, effortlessly keeping up with the comedic timing and charisma of Johnson and Statham, which is no easy task! Kirby also holds her own very well in the action scenes to boot, making Hattie a bona fide ass-kicker in her own right. I’m really looking forward to the prospect of seeing Kirby in more action movies, let alone more Fast & Furious movies, because her role as Hattie has all of the hallmarks of a big breakout in the genre!
Of course, every cheeky batch of heroes deserve some appropriately preposterous villains, and that handily comes by way of the Eteon organization. Eteon are a futurist terror operation that want to wipe out all of the weak and unfit people in the human population, so they can kick-start a new era of human evolution. Their main enforcer also happens to be a rogue MI6 agent, Brixton Lore, played by Idris Elba, who is outfitted by cybernetic enhancements that essentially make him superhuman. Yes, the antagonists of Hobbs & Shaw are literally a super-villain organization, and lead antagonist, Brixton is literally a cyborg. We have cyborgs in the Fast & Furious universe now, apparently.
Really though, I’m surprised that the franchise didn’t take this pseudo-superhero movie turn sooner, since the Fast & Furious movies clearly gave up on realism and general common sense at least a decade ago. In a way, perhaps Hobbs & Shaw is the hyper-reality push that the Fast & Furious movies always deserved to embrace, once they properly hit their stride with 2009’s Fast & Furious, even if some especially avid Fast & Furious fans are bound to disagree with the franchise’s new sci-fi leanings. On that note, and to his credit, Elba really manages to make his outrageous cyborg villain character work too, even when he’s saddled with such unbelievably ludicrous lines as, “Look at me! I’m Black Superman!” It’s a huge testament to Elba’s talent as an actor that his increasingly nutty dialogue doesn’t constantly leave the audience doubled over in laughter. In fact, the overall personality behind all of the movie’s leads is a huge testament to how well-performed Hobbs & Shaw is in general, since it’s so good at skimming right up to the line of full-blown self-parody, without truly crossing it to its detriment.
Dissecting the storyline of any Fast & Furious movie, particularly the recent ones, is pretty much a fool’s errand. You can imagine that this is doubly true for a spin-off of a franchise that’s already pretty overblown and silly to begin with. Indeed, Hobbs & Shaw almost openly mocks anyone in the audience that’s expecting any degree of depth or substance from this production, being stuffed to the brim with winking, fourth wall-poking humour that quickly removes any doubt that the whole movie’s storyline is one giant joke. Let’s face it; If you’re seeing a Fast & Furious spin-off starring two of the most bankable action stars in Hollywood at this point, you’re not coming for the storyline, you’re coming for the carnage. Hobbs & Shaw certainly keeps its priorities straight in that regard, even at the cost of delivering a boilerplate action romp that’s so ludicrous in its execution that it pretty much borders on pure farce.
But again, what can we honestly expect from a Fast & Furious spin-off, when Fast & Furious itself has already found most of its recent success on being as laughably unrealistic and over-the-top destructive as possible? That being said, the self-aware simplicity of the storyline in Hobbs & Shaw does nonetheless grate at times. After all, it’s hard to get excited about a story where every single plot turn is predictable and telegraphed well in advance, even if the story is seemingly put together that way on purpose. Even the central macguffin of the movie, a programmable bio-weapon that terrorist organzation, Eteon wants to use in order to potentially wipe out most of the human population, so that only the strong survive, feels like a pastiche of action movie cliches, which are none too fussed with being in any way believable or surprising. The nature of the threat in Hobbs & Shaw is in fact so abstractly absurd that it truly feels like it belongs in a comic book movie, before Universal realized that they didn’t have the rights to any good comic books, so they just stuck it in a tongue-in-cheek action vehicle driven by a group of stars who are so charismatic that you almost want to believe what you’re seeing, even when you so obviously can’t.
(NOTE: The spoiler section, when clicked, discusses potential story links and cameos from the other Fast & Furious movies, potential post-credits scenes, and any potential setup for follow-ups in the Hobbs & Shaw or Fast & Furious lines of movies)
The movie does however have three post-credits scenes, even if two of them are simply played for laughs, and one of them teases a likely inevitable direct follow-up for Hobbs & Shaw, with no tie-in to next year’s upcoming ninth Fast & Furious movie being apparent. Both of the humour-based post-credits scenes involve Ryan Reynolds’ handler character, Locke, who is one of the major surprise celebrity cameos in Hobbs & Shaw, alongside Kevin Hart as wide-eyed air marshal, Dinkley. Both Reynolds and Hart were completely left out of the marketing for Hobbs & Shaw, and are not credited in the movie either, likely being introduced here to have potentially bigger roles in Hobbs & Shaw follow-ups, should they be green-lit. The remaining post-credits scene simply ties in with a police prank at Deckard Shaw’s expense, with Shaw promising Hobbs that they will see each other again, seemingly confirming plans by Universal to make more Hobbs & Shaw movies at some point.
Hobbs & Shaw not only brings out the big guns for its lead stars, but also with its director. David Leitch helms the Fast & Furious spin-off, being best known for his work co-directing the first John Wick movie, and solely directing Deadpool 2, so you can imagine that the stunts of Hobbs & Shaw are pretty spectacular, even with the diminished emphasis on vehicles in this case. There is still some vehicular combat in this movie, but it’s made apparent that the titular characters aren’t quite as adept at high-speed chases and destruction as the core Dom Toretto crew of the Fast & Furious movies, hence why Hobbs & Shaw feels a lot more raw and physical than the mainline action movie series that inspired it.
The editing and camera work is predictably frenetic and hyperactive throughout Hobbs & Shaw, not quite having the same degree of smooth finesse as some of Leitch’s other directing work, though this also somewhat feels like an intentional choice. The more in-your-face editing echoes the more unpredictable and chaotic characteristics of Hobbs & Shaw’s titular personalities, who are experts in their craft of kicking ass, but don’t truly care about leaving a mess in the process. That’s not to say that the stunt work isn’t sublime though, and it truly is! It can occasionally be a little difficult to completely keep track of the sheer amount of beatdowns happening during some of the action scenes, but for the most part, Hobbs & Shaw is well-crafted as the over-the-top, humourously self-aware Summer action movie that it is. The smaller scale means that you can probably skip the IMAX cut though. Premium formats like IMAX don’t really add much in this case, so unless you consistently demand all of the bells and whistles possible from your theatrical moviegoing experience, you might as well save the extra dollars and stick to a regular digital showing.
Hobbs & Shaw delivers on what it promises, that being a whole lot of action, all brought to you by two of Hollywood’s finest action movie personalities. There’s even a few extra production sprinkles that nudge the movie above purely aiming for the middle too, namely how energetic and hard-hitting its action scenes are, how surprisingly funny a lot of its highlight jokes are, and how its standout female lead actually manages to effortlessly keep pace with the men in terms of comedic aptitude and ass-kicking appeal. So long as you’re not bothered by the fact that the movie’s storyline is aggressively inconsequential, Hobbs & Shaw makes for a pretty entertaining time at the movies. Besides, this is still ultimately part of the Fast & Furious franchise anyway, so chances are, you should know better than to expect a plot that truly matters by this point.
Now that 2019 has seemingly exhausted its supply of true comic book movies however, not counting the soon-releasing Vertigo graphic novel-inspired crime drama, The Kitchen, or this October’s highly experimental and offbeat character drama, Joker anyway, Hobbs & Shaw works well as a way to scratch that comic book-style blockbuster itch, even without an actual superhero license behind it. It definitely doesn’t have the depth-of-character or sheer scope of most Marvel Studios flicks, or even a lot of more recent DC Films offerings, but Hobbs & Shaw is fun, so it’s tough to knock it too much for being completely absurd. I suppose in that respect especially, Hobbs & Shaw is just as much worth its weight in ass-kicking as most of the recent Fast & Furious movies, giving you that same quick fix of adrenaline, with a surprising amount of charm to go with it, so long as you don’t think about it too hard.
- Statham's and Johnson's rapport is consistently delightful
- Kirby's standout female lead
- Tight, well-directed stunts and action
- Cliched, predictable storyline barely matters, even for a Fast & Furious spin-off
- Some may feel that the sci-fi element is too far removed from Fast & Furious