Fast & Furious: Hobbs & Shaw review

For inSing

FAST & FURIOUS: HOBBS & SHAW

Director: David Leitch
Cast : Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Vanessa Kirby, Idris Elba, Eiza González, Cliff Curtis, Roman Reigns, John Tui, Josh Magua
Genre : Action/Adventure
Run Time : 2 h 16 mins
Opens : 1 August 2019
Rating : PG13

A common refrain about the Fast and Furious franchise is “remember when these movies were about street racing?” These movies haven’t been primarily about street racing for a long time, and this spin-off pushes things to the limit with more international spy action and a cyborg super-soldier.

Taking place after the events of The Fate of the Furious, DSS agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and former SAS operative-turned-mercenary Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) become reluctant partners in a high-stakes mission to save the world.

Brixton Lore (Idris Elba), a former compatriot of Shaw’s, has become a cybernetically-enhanced terrorist. Working for the shadowy organisation Eteon, Brixton is set on unleashing a deadly virus on humanity. Shaw’s sister Hattie (Vanessa Kirby), an MI6 agent, gets drawn into the fray. Further making this a family affair are Hobbs’ brothers back home in Samoa, when he returns to seek refuge from Brixton. The two men must put their differences aside to prevent Brixton and Eteon from wiping humanity off the face of the earth.

The trailers for this movie indicated it was going to be heaps of fun. Two of the biggest action heroes in modern day cinema teaming up against a superpowered Idris Elba? What’s not to love?

Unfortunately, Hobbs & Shaw seems to find plenty to mess up. A spinoff focusing on Hobbs has been mooted since 2011’s Fast Five, when Johnson first joined the franchise. It was later suggested that Hobbs team up with Shaw. The first big hurdle is that even though Shaw was reformed in The Fate of the Furious, he was the main villain of Fast & Furious 7, murdering the character Han and blowing up Dom’s beloved L.A. house. This makes his complete recasting as a heroic figure a bit hard to swallow.

The spy movie elements to the plot feel lazy: not only have we seen the “super virus threatens the world” story before, but several beats in Hobbs & Shaw seem to follow Mission: Impossible 2 exactly.

Nobody goes to these movies for narrative consistency, but the Fast and Furious franchise has done a good deal of world-building over its eight mainline entries, and fans have become attached to these characters. Hobbs & Shaw seems to take the suspension of disbelief earned over the course of these films for granted. Yes, the movies have gotten more and more spectacularly outlandish, but even then, there’s a line that seems to have been crossed by tossing a Terminator-style villain into the mix. One of the plot points in this film is that a medical device invented by a double Nobel-prize winning scientist is broken. Our heroes go to a car mechanic to get it fixed.

Director David Leitch, one half of the team who made John Wick, knows his way around an action sequence. The hand-to-hand combat scenes in Hobbs & Shaw are generally better than the large-scale vehicular stunts. This movie is not trying to top the scale of the most recent Fast and Furious movies, but several sequences seem like do-overs of the ones we’ve already seen.

Another key shortcoming that prevents Hobbs & Shaw from being the all-out dumb entertaining action romp it should have been is its self-indulgence. Both Johnson and Statham are producers, and the movie is packed with things that seem to personally amuse them but might be a bit of a chore for audiences to sit through. There are two cameos of well-known comedic actors that are initially amusing but quickly wear out their welcome. About half an hour could have easily been cut from the movie’s 136-minute runtime. The two leads may not have much fat to trim, but the movie in which they star does.

While the film does play to both Johnson and Statham’s strengths, the duo’s endless bickering grows tiresome after a while. It is intended to echo the buddy cop movies of yore, but while there is a wink-and-nod feel to the overflowing machismo, it is likely that many viewers will think that this is the paradigm of manliness. The constant jibes Hobbs make towards Shaw and vice versa, many centred around the size of their genitalia, are juvenile and largely unfunny.

Vanessa Kirby is an excellent actress who has been great in TV shows like The Crown and movies like Mission: Impossible – Fallout. She doesn’t quite seem to fit in the world of Fast and Furious, and especially not as Shaw’s tough-as-nails sister. She’s doing her best with the material she’s given and tackles the physical aspects of the role, but it is very hard to believe Kirby taking on Johnson in a fight. The film also tosses in a spectacularly unnecessary romantic subplot.

Idris Elba seems to be enjoying himself playing a cartoon supervillain who seems straight out of GI Joe, and he is a suitably formidable opponent for our heroes. However, the movie seems overconfident that audiences will readily believe a cyborg supersoldier as the main threat in a franchise that has had corrupt businessmen, mercenaries and cyberterrorists as villains before.

The film gets the most interesting when it moves to Samoa and catches up with Hobbs’ brothers, played by Cliff Curtis, Roman Reigns, John Tui and Josh Magua. It’s here that Hobbs & Shaw feels less like a typical action movie, but the ludicrousness doesn’t let up, with a rather silly final battle capping the movie off.

Hobbs & Shaw could easily have been a breezy buddy comedy that functioned as a smaller-scale offshoot of the sometimes-bloated but often-entertaining Fast and Furious series. Unfortunately, its leads fumble the landing. The film’s self-indulgence continues with mid-credits scenes and a post-credit scene that feel like one needlessly long joke. If this movie earns anywhere near what the last several Fast and Furious movies did, then we haven’t seen the last of Hobbs and Shaw yet, and hopefully their next movie is a leaner, tighter one.

RATING: 2.5 out of 5 Stars

Jedd Jong

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