For the most part, David Leitch‘s “Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw” delivers exactly what its absurd title promises. After all, why are audiences there in the first place? Because they desire some interaction between Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham? Check. Do they want them to smack each other about a bit? Check. Maybe a few physics-defying car chases? Check and double-check. Only when the battle choreography becomes a bit too incomprehensible in the last third do you realize you don’t care what’s going on but begin to wish Hobbs and Shaw had been handed a tale with a little more meat on its bones. But by then, you’ll probably be unconcerned.
David Leitch has shown to be effective at spotlighting the skill sets of action heroes with his work on “John Wick,” “Atomic Blonde,” and “Deadpool 2.” He was instrumental in bringing out the silent assassin in Keanu Reeves, the killing machine in Charlize Theron, and the wisecracking superhero in Ryan Reynolds. As a result, giving him this spin-off of the “Fast & Furious” mega-franchise makes perfect sense. Leitch, working from a script by Chris Morgan and Drew Pearce, wastes no time capitalizing on the qualities of both Johnson and Statham, starting the movie with a pair of intercut action scenes that highlight what their fans adore about them. To have Johnson beat up a man with a tattoo needle and Statham finish the job with a champagne bottle is remarkably straightforward, but there’s a certain beauty in that simplicity. These guys, these guys, these guys, these guys, these guys, these guys, these guys, These are people I’m familiar with. These guys appeal to me. Let’s get this party started.
For the most part, “Hobbs and Shaw” fulfills those basic expectations. Surprisingly, considering how bloated some of the previous films in the franchise have become, Leitch and the team kept the character and plot compact. Idris Elba and Vanessa Kirby play the only two significant new characters (besides a few cameos from recognizable people) in the film. As Brixton, an agent of an underground military-tech outfit called Eteon, the star of “The Wire” oozes physical menace as a self-described “Black Superman.” He’s attempting to obtain a virus that has the potential to kill off the entire planet in a matter of days, but Kirby’s character, MI6 agent Hattie Shaw (yes, it’s his sister), gets to it first and injects it into her own body. This means she’s a world-annihilating contagions ticking clock that will go off in 72 hours. Together, Hobbs and Shaw are the ideal men to prevent this from occurring.
The opening hour of “Hobbs and Shaw” has an almost metronomic attitude to it that is admirable in its no-nonsense execution. Fight, verbal sparring, pursuit scenario, fight, exposition, more insults, and so on. There’s a rhythm to it, as there is to most great action movies, and the speed is fine-tuned by the actors involved. Years ago, Johnson and Statham established themselves as the most fun aspects of the franchise, and they know how to precisely lean into their on-screen characters. In some ways, it’s a throwback to the 1980s buddy comedy, but with contemporary technology and sensibilities. However, Leitch and his team recognize that the pattern of two powerhouses would become old after two hours, so they bring in Elba and Kirby to mix things up. Elba manages to match the charm of the two starring men—a difficult task—and then Kirby nearly steals the film. It’s an interesting written part about Hobbs and Shaw’s constantly turning to women in this film to save them—including Eiza Gonzalez’s Madame, a cameo from Helen Mirren as Shaw’s mother, and a key character in the final act that I won’t reveal. However, I respected how Leitch and Kirby refused to make Hattie into the damsel in distress character that she could have easily become.
Apparently, the real question is whether things will go boom in a fun way. That is, until the last act, when some of the battle choreography—particularly in two moments with a large number of extras—becomes a little sloppy. Leitch has a penchant of getting hyperactive with his unsteady camerawork and editing when he’s not slowing down to highlight a fist connecting with a jaw. The fluidity of the choreography in the “John Wick” movies is well-known, and I wished for some of that here, particularly towards the climax. The final act of “Hobbs and Shaw” also pushes almost hysterically into the series’ “family” motif, which is in unwarranted melodrama because of overplay and overdevelopment. Frankly speaking, the final third of this film has no genuine emotional stakes, and I found myself checking out more than I did in the finest of the series (“Fast Five,” “Furious 7”).
I understand your words: “Emotional stakes?!?”. It’s amusing that they refer to Brixton as Black Superman and The Terminator, demonstrating how far the series has strayed into fantasy and science fiction. However, even the most ostensibly escapist pleasure must build to something, and the drab backdrop and sloppy execution of the film’s final huge sequences reminded me more of earlier “Fast & Furious” films.
The majority of individuals are unconcerned. Heck, I might not care if I rewatch it again at home. The truth is that when it comes to mindless fun, the Summer of 2019 has been rather sparse. And there’s something to be said for simply bouncing four charismatic movie stars off each other for a little over two hours. It’s a movie to watch while eating popcorn and leaving your problems at the door, as critics have stated before about comparable efforts. While Hollywood has a reputation for manufacturing things rather than movies, “Hobbs and Shaw” is considered one of the season’s most entertaining sparkling new products.