Fast and Furious Presents: Hobbs and Shaw may sound like the name of a burger joint but is, in actuality, the 9th film in the Fast and Furious franchise. Sans Dom mumbling about family incessantly (and apparently Vin Diesel and The Rock did not get along), this spins off two characters into their own buddy cop action romp. It is somewhat different from the proper Fast movies, inasmuch it is less about car chases (although there are multiple ones) and more about fighting (although there is still fighting in the Fast movies anyway). It is fun, breezy, loud and a bit overstuffed with mayhem and random cameos and can get a bit wearying although the leads make a good pairing. Also, they’re basically fighting against a supervillain Terminator with attitude. Actually, pretty much everything here is also served with attitude.
Federal agent Hobbs (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) and super–criminal Shaw (Jason Statham) have been forced to team up and find an extremely dangerous super–virus. It turns out that the super–virus is located inside of a person, Shaw’s sister Hattie (Vanessa Kirby), and they need to extract it or a lot of people will die. Possibly the entire world, as folks keep reiterating that the stakes are apocalyptic. The biggest problem is the tech enhanced deadly super solider, Brixton (Idris Elba) who loves being a bad guy. This is shown in literally his first scene in the movie where he nonchalantly proclaims himself a bad guy. He loves destruction which means Hobbs and Shaw must get even more extreme to stop him.
While the Fast franchise has slowly grown a sprawling ensemble, this pares things way down to just the two. Hobbs and Shaw really wants to be rated–R with foul language flying but that is diffused for a lower and potentially money–making rating, although they do sneak in a solid f–bomb when Hobbs and Shaw first meet. Unlike the family love of the Fast movies, they straight up hate each other. Both Johnson and Statham have good angry chemistry and solid snarking. One of the movie’s best physical gags where Shaw keeps slamming unconscious goons into a door to try to unlock it as Hobbs gets more and more frustrated. The characters are not deep, Hobbs is the ass kicking guy who loves his kid, and Shaw is the ass kicking guy who wants to protect his sister, but they have bite.
Kirby gets in some good action but never really is more than someone for Hobbs to make a pass at. Brixton revels in chaos and is a sci–fi villain, complete with cybernetic enhancements which allow him to predict his opponent moves, and smart tech motorcycle. The Fast series left reality behind a few movies ago so the fact they’ve gone full sci–fi isn’t a huge leap. There’s even a nefarious electronically disguised voice who commands Brixton that is clearly there to set up more movies yet frustratingly there’s no resolution about who is pulling Brixton’s strings.
There are quite a lot of cameos and some click better than others. Helen Mirren pops up as Shaw’s criminal mother and Mirren’s sassiness is a bright spot. Eiza Gonzalez is a person providing information and weaponry but the pointless scene could have been ditched from an already overlong running time. Eddie Marsan livens up the required role of Mad Scientist Doctor with a wacky accent, lots of yelling, and enthusiastically suggesting they burn Shaw’s sister to contain the virus. Kevin Hart’s cameo is possibly there to remind audiences a Jumanji sequel is coming. The best cameo is Ryan Reynolds in what could have been a dull exposition scene but he infuses it with zany, rambling non–sequiturs. He’s so good he randomly shows up again for both a mid–credit and post–credit stinger that, in a shockingly current reference, spoils the Game of Thrones finale.
Hobbs and Shaw is directed by David Leitch who has a solid action resume with co–directing the first John Wick and has cranked out a movie for the last three years with the 2017’s cool Atomic Blonde, 2018’s insanely fun Deadpool 2 (that’s probably where Reynolds came from) and now this. But the lower rating means this doesn’t have as much messy chaos his previous films. Leitch takes the action away from the vehicular and more in one on one combat which he is exceptionally good at. The movie only really feels like an installment of the Fast franchise involving a crazy daisy chain of cars hitting the gas to take down a helicopter.
The movie has a zippy start as the character introductions are supper peppy and the first time they fight Brixton is fantastic as they run down a building to stop him. But sometime after the first confrontation things drag and the action becomes less spectacular. A confrontation with Hobbs Samoan family members against Brixton’s army isn’t quite as cool as the movie thinks it is. This has some solid action beats but the Fast franchise and director Leitch have done better.
Fast and Furious Presents: Hobbs and Shaw aptly provides smashing, explosions and quipping and the actors make things enjoyable. There’re a few times the bloat of the film threatens to drag things down but generally just when it gets a bit too dull someone says something mean and then something blows up real good. V
HOBBS AND SHAW
Director: David Leitch