This Fast and Furious spinoff delivers an entertaining, guilty pleasure.
It’s November, so time again to pick through the leftovers: movies we wanted to see but missed in the theater. Thanks to streaming services and Redbox, it’s easier than ever to catch up with the big popcorn flicks we sat out or the indie darlings that never came to our neck of the woods. We start this year’s batch with a hearty dose of beefcake and nitrous, courtesy of The Rock, Jason Statham, and Idris Elba.
Hobbs & Shaw (2019)
Duty-bound lawman Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) is forced to team up with his former adversary Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) when a shadowy cabal targets Shaw’s sister, Hattie (Vanessa Kirby). Hattie has stolen a pandemic virus from the cabal, and is on the run from a ruthless, enhanced operative (Idris Elba), who also has ties to Deckard’s past.
Fast and Furious Presents.
This film manages to deliver most of what fans expect from the franchise, while also staking out its own territory. You get all of the slick, CG enhanced car chases, souped up cars, WWE style fight scenes, and adrenaline junky stunt sequences. The big action set-pieces are just as roided up as the main series, and just as physics-bending as you’d expect.
For fans of the series, I think Hobbs & Shaw is going to feel like home cooking. While you’ll miss some of the characters/plot lines of the main series, this outing allows two of the most popular characters of the franchise a chance to hog the limelight. Vanessa Kirby slips right into the franchise mold of badass ladies who can race and fight just as well as the boys. Added characters like Ryan Reynolds‘ CIA handler and Kevin Hart’s over-anxious sky marshal help to bulk up the cast and make Hobbs & Shaw feel like a parallel ensemble to the main franchise.
Tap the Brakes.
Hobbs & Shaw is not without flaws. Some are endemic to the franchise; other’s are unique to this outing. The F&F films all flirt with toxic masculinity and bro culture. It’s not flagrant, but the series reliance on a young, male demographic leads it to swim in the same shark infested end of the pool where regressive tendencies thrive. There’s a cringey scene where Hobbs and Shaw spar over the subject of Hattie being into Hobbs in a way that felt objectifying. The presence of a shadow government and other “red pill” ideas feel like they’ve just been absorbed from the culture the film caters/relies on.
Other common faults, like the stunts that break the laws of physics and characters surviving crazy situations (one review dragged the film for characters repeatedly crashing through plate glass with nary a scratch) are just baked into the experience. They’d be more noticeable if they WEREN’T in a F&F film.
My biggest gripe (and you may have noticed my personal bete noire) is the lazy “ticking time bomb” ploy. We’re given a clear timeline of when the virus will break out of its container (Hattie) and go airborne. We then get a film that seems to willfully disregard that ticking timer unless its being referenced for cheap tension.
The film as a whole has a particularly weak grasp of how time passes. Night sequences suddenly turn to day. Our heroes span the globe several times, of which the flight time alone would add up to longer than the deadline. A virus disables key weapons for what is explicitly stated as six minutes…and we then watch about 30 minutes of action before they come back online. If you can’t read a stopwatch, just leave the time-frame vague. If you show me a timer and then spend twice that much time in film, I call bullshit every time.
Big, Dumb, Fun.
Gripes aside, I found Hobbs & Shaw to be extremely entertaining. Johnson and Statham have a good dynamic between their characters, mostly, and the film does a good job of letting each show off their skills. Statham is snarky and devious, and gets to have well choreographed fight scenes. The Rock is charming and formidable, flexing his muscular chops while playing a thoroughly decent human being.
Idres Elba is a bit under-baked as the villain: he’s going for “Rutger Hauer-in-Bladerunner” kind of pathos, but his motivation is too generic. He does carry off the action sequences excellently, so on par the script mugging him didn’t ruin it for me.
Hobbs & Shaw keeps its foot on the gas, drawing you along. It checks the boxes for the franchise, while getting away from the “Ocean’s Eleven but with cars” formula of the main series. It ends with an obvious stinger for another outing, and as long as they leave the ticking time bomb crap at home, I’d be down for another ride.