In Hobbs and Shaw, Big man and British man make big car go boom.
The following review will be spoiler free.
Directed By: David Leitch
Written By: Chris Morgan and Drew Pierce
When Hattie Shaw (Kirby) is a part of an MI6 operation gone awry, she finds herself entangled with the mysterious Brixton (Elba). Brixton is a bio-mechanical powerhouse who quickly gets himself on the CIA’s watchlist. As a result, the CIA decides to call in two of the best operatives in the world to track down Hattie Shaw and Brixton. The only problem is that these two operatives, Luke Hobbs (Johnson) and Deckard Shaw (Statham), despise each other. That, and the fact that Deckard is Hattie’s estranged brother.
A series of explosions and chase sequences follows as the trio tries to unravel the mystery behind Brixton’s powers and the secret virus he is after. Both Hobbs and Shaw find themselves having to confront their hatred for each other and the mistakes they’ve made with their family in the past.
I’m not a Fast and Furious fan. Until a week and a half ago, I’d only seen the final two films in the franchise. I made the terrible mistake of marathoning them all over said week and a half. Having given myself a crash course (get it) in the franchise, I still can’t make sense of 75% of it. That being said, these movies are great fun, dumb action movies. Sometimes I’m too tired for challenging characters and clever arcs, and The Fast and the Furious will always be there to mumble through all of that serious stuff and just make big cars go boom.
Hobbs and Shaw
The Rock is arguably the biggest star in the business right now, and Jason Statham isn’t too far behind in his own right. These two stars have been the highlight of every previous Fast and Furious movie they’ve been in. It was only a matter of time before they got movies of their own. My only fear going into this spinoff is that the two leads would constantly be choking each other out of screentime and leading man status. While Hobbs and Shaw do butt heads in nearly every scene, they share the limelight really well. Both characters, in fact, get a decent arc for a Fast and Furious movie. Still, the franchise can’t seem to think of any other motivations or stakes besides “family”.
Still, this is by far the most charismatic of the Fast franchise. The cheery charisma of The Rock and suave sensibility of Jason Statham makes for a much more entertaining leading pair compared to Vin Diesel and the majority of previous Fast villains. The Rock and Statham feel very aware of the movie they’re in, and that light-heartedness carries this movie so much further than any of its grim predecessors.
Idris Elba is cool in every role, even the ones where he’s supposed to be unlikeable. In Hobbs and Shaw, this coolness is still intact. In fact, there’s a shot where he even manages to make putting a helmet on look cool. He’s still bogged down by far-fetched exposition, as is usual with a Fast villain, but he’s clearly having fun with it. For once the lead protagonists and the lead antagonist are equally entertaining. Hobbs and Shaw has what is probably the most out-there plot of the franchise, but Elba’s Brixton manages to ground the story enough to make it somewhat believable. He’s got a beef with the Shaw family and that keeps the attention off of the insanity of his plan, and the movie benefits greatly from it.
Vanessa Kirby is a lot of fun in this movie. Unfortunately, however, she continues the trend of the franchise as a woman with not much to do. Hattie Shaw is the movie’s biggest MacGuffin. She’s the thing that everyone wants, and she never really gets to be her own character because of it. Hopefully, we’ll see more of her in the future, because Vanessa Kirby still manages to shine with the little she’s given.
Nonsensical, Schlocky Fun
The Fast and the Furious franchise has a problem with taking itself too seriously. In a franchise where cars can drag race with several ton safes or parachute out of an airplane, there shouldn’t be much seriousness put into the plot. Yet, time and again the plot consists of a bunch of government nonsense that takes the same characters through the same arcs movie after movie. Hobbs and Shaw differentiates itself by appearing to understand the nonsense of what’s happening on screen. Guided heavily by director David Leitch, this movie makes sure to revel in its own over-the-top schlocky-ness.
The action sequences are filled with funny slow-motion shots of people making funny faces when they’re hit. The characters themselves laugh when four trucks are held to a helicopter only by the Rock’s bicep. The Rock and Statham are clearly having a great time riffing insults off of each other for at least fifteen minutes of the total runtime. This feels like the first installment of the Fast Franchise to be aware of why its audience is there. Hobbs and Shaw knows you’re just there to see The Rock and Statham exchange insults and fists, and so they don’t waste too much time giving you anything else.
This movie has not one, not two, not three, but four high-profile celebrity cameos. I won’t spoil the two that were not advertised, but I will talk about Helen Mirren. Helen Mirren is very aware of the movie she’s in. Like the Rock and Statham, she’s just here to have fun. Fortunately, the other three cameos are also in on the joke. These bit characters are hilarious and despite slowing down the action, they throw enough humor into the film to further differentiate it from the self-seriousness of the franchise as a whole.
Cars and Butts
In case you were wondering if these two Fast and Furious staples would appear in the franchise. Yes, the signature gratuitous shots of bikini-clad bottoms and expensive cars are still very much a part of the franchise in Hobbs and Shaw.
Spinoffs Done Well
Not once in the entire two hour and fifteen-minute runtime of Hobbs and Shaw are any of the other characters mentioned, outside of Kurt Russell’s Mr. Nobody. Maybe this is just because of Vin Diesel and The Rock’s infamous beef. Whatever the reason, it lets this movie be its own thing. Spinoffs are often too focused on relating to the mainstream franchise. While Hobbs and Shaw does its part in setting up Fast 9, it doesn’t waste time trying to justify itself in the midst of the previous installments in the franchise. Hobbs and Shaw is allowed to be its own movie. It has its own tone, its own characters, and its own stakes.
Some Negative Points
This movie does drag on a little bit. While the humorous bits are funny, they happen too frequently and weigh the story down too much. While Brixton is a fun character in his own right, he also suffers from expositional loss of story momentum. This film is hurt by how long it is and would benefit from being twenty minutes shorter. However, there are still plenty of car chases, fights, and explosions to keep the audience interested in what is going on.
Hobbs and Shaw is the magnum opus of the Fast and Furious Franchise. The bar is set very low for this franchise, but Hobbs and Shaw clears it by a mile. The film is fun, dumb, and entertaining. Once again, The Rock has proven his prowess as a charismatic leading man. In a summer filled with films that are not only bad but boring, this is a well-needed breath of entertainment. Together Luke Hobbs and Deckard Shaw are sending the summer season out with a boom and a laugh.
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