“Fast and Furious: Hobbs & Shaw”: An action film of the highest order, especially towards its end

Even more so than the last few Fast & Furious movies, Hobbs & Shaw is a superhero cartoon. It features two larger-than-life protagonists, a larger-than-life bad guy and lessons about family so heavy-handed and sledgehammer-y that your youngest kids will understand.

Directed by David Leitch and penned by Chris Morgan and Drew Pearce. The film reeks of rewrites or tinkering during or after production, with major threads or consequential subplots dropped or ignored on a dime. The action is far less “believe your eyes” than it should be for this series. But it works thanks to the sheer movie star charisma on display, both from its lead actors and periodic cameos.

Those cameos, the cartoonish-ness on display and the episodic pacing make Hobbs & Shaw occasionally play like the world’s most expensive sketch comedy. It takes 30 minutes to find its groove, and it overcomplicates what should be a cut-and-dry “bad guy wants virus and plans to save the world by killing much of it” plot.

Part of this narrative jumble is an apparent intent to create its own stand-alone mythology outside of the Fast & Furious films. That said, since we already know our heroes from the last few Fast & Furious movies. It doesn’t fall into the “feature-length prologue for the sequel” trap.

We get at least one cryptic Spectre or KAOS-type organization pulling strings

Whose unseen leader may or may not be a famous actor to be determined later. But our prime face of villainy is Idris Elba as a standard “special agent who got disillusioned and went rogue,” terrorist, albeit with superpowers.

He is introduced attempting to steal a virus only to be stopped, barely, by MI6 agent Hattie Shaw (Vanessa Kirby) who pulls a Mission: Impossible II and injects herself with the toxin to prevent its acquisition. Alas, she’s toast if an antidote isn’t found within 72 hours.

She’s also been framed as a traitor and is now on the run from friends and foes. But things look up when Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) is enlisted to track her down, unaware that DSS Agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) is on the case as well.

Can these two former enemies put aside their differences to help Deckard’s sister save her own life. That stop the bad guy and save the world? Well, slight spoiler, but this is one big summer movie which does not end with half of the planet being wiped out. Oh, and both alpha males learn important lessons about family in the process.

Directed by Leitch (John Wick, Atomic Blonde, Deadpool 2)

The film only works because Jason Statham is playing a very different version of Deckard Shaw. Shaw is not the remorseless agent of chaos who killed Han Lue, shot up and grenade-ed a hospital and very nearly blew up Brian O’Conner, a pregnant Mia Toretto and their two-year-old son in a fit of vengeful fury.

This Deckard is a mercenary who did some naughty wet work in his career and kept his distance from his family to keep them safe. To be fair, the super villain breaking good, with all trespasses forgiven, is a staple of serialized superhero storytelling.

The Fast and the Furious franchise, which has earned over $5 billion in revenue for its makers, is back for yet another iteration. Hobbs & Shaw is the ninth in the series, and director David Leitch is the fifth director to helm the action adventure drama. Fan favourites Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham return for their fourth film together. And the chemistry between the two antagonists forced to work together is enough to deliver us a winner. But there is much more here to look forward to.

(from left) Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) and Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) in Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw, directed by David Leitch.

Firstly, Hobbs and Shaw

Johnson and Statham — have a truly formidable foe in the form of Brixton (Idris Elba). That a rogue MI6 agent who has become the self-styled ‘Black Superman’. Hobbs and Shaw team up with the latter’s sister Hattie (Kirby) to take down Brixton.

Leitch has attempted to go against the typical Fast and the Furious grain, by making a spy thriller here. While the action sequences are as breath-taking as they have always been. There is enough witty banter between our eponymous heroes to keep us entertained even otherwise. But make no mistake: This is an action film of the highest order, especially towards the end when you will find yourself clutching on to the edge of your seat.

While Johnson and Statham pull their weight, bringing in Elba is a nice touch. Here is a powerful performer who is also a convincing opponent. While the cast’s motives, the action set-pieces and the romantic angles thrown in may seem a bit forced, logic isn’t what one expects from this franchise.

Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw is exactly what its title promises.

The movie is big and dumb without insulting its audience. It’s cartoonishly silly while still taking its character arcs seriously. That is both at home in the Fast & Furious series and its own thing. It trips up, especially in the first act, trying to justify itself as a stand-alone franchise.

Fortunately, it eventually remembers that folks watched The X-Files for Mulder and Scully, not for the overreaching conspiracy. Everyone is having fun, the character chemistry works, Elba makes an enjoyable baddie and Kirby shows potential as an action hero/spin-off character. Hobbs & Shaw is fast and furious fun.

INFO:

Rating: PG-13 (for prolonged sequences of action and violence, suggestive material and some strong language)
Genre: Action & Adventure, Mystery & Suspense
Directed By: David Leitch
Stars: Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Idris Elba
Written By: Chris Morgan
In Theaters: Aug 2, 2019 Wide
On Disc/Streaming: Oct 15, 2019
Studio: Universal Pictures

Amy Nicholson
Mostly, the movie just putters along on two jokes: The Rock is very, very big, and Jason Statham compared to him (and not anybody else) is small.

Charlotte O’Sullivan
Whether grimly injecting herself with the virus, bantering with Hobbs or hanging onto a truck like a thrilled kid on a roundabout, Hattie is dynamite. I took a 10-year-old boy to the screening and she was his favourite character.

Jake Coyle
Usually, it’s pleasingly aware of its own silliness. But there are blind spots.

Matthew Rozsa
It’s a thoroughly fun action comedy that delivers exactly what it promises – and if the screening I attended is any indication, kids will love it.

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