Let’s start off this movie review by stating that we walked into a comedy film unexpectedly; the other Fast & Furious films are all dramatic films with action, a little bit suspense, and of course, car racing. In every single film. They somehow manage to fit a car chase scene in every film.
With that being said, after walking out of Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw it looks like the comedy buddy action genre film of the summer is storming back, and with the right cast, we might add. Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham have chemistry on camera not seen since Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan in the Rush Hour franchise films.
Make no mistake, then: As the trailers and all the promotional lead-up implied, Hobbs & Shaw is a quintessential buddy-cop action flick where opposites accordingly attract. That has led to some well-meaning concerns from Fast & Furious diehards, who are worried the spinoff won’t maintain the wholesome and endearingly cheesy theme of family that drives the franchise (primarily through those Diesel monologues).
Perhaps more concerningly, this spinoff is co-led by the guy who quite recently killed franchise favorite and snacking savant Han Seoul-Oh (yes, really).
But while the #JusticeForHan contingent won’t be satisfied with a throwaway line in which Shaw concedes he’s made some mistakes—that’s one way to describe killing someone!—the family ethos is still present via Hattie, Dame Helen Mirren reprising her role as the Shaw matriarch, and the third act when Hobbs reunites with his estranged family in Samoa. Also, get this: The Hobbs clan runs a successful body shop, because everyone in this universe must be tangentially related to cars. We knew they were going to add cars in there somewhere; after all its a Fast & Furious franchise right?
Anyway, Hobbs & Shaw goes from cars to channeling the superhero genre films. Maybe they had Marvel on their mind while making the film. Who knows? When MI6 agent Hattie Shaw (Vanessa Kirby) and her team are attacked by genetically enhanced supersoldier Brixton Lore (Idris Elba), she injects herself with capsules of a deadly (and vaguely explained) supervirus to prevent Lore from getting his hands on it, then flees the scene. The capsules, however, will eventually dissolve, making Hattie a ticking time bomb/pending source of lethal airborne contagion/human MacGuffin. To track her down and prevent a global catastrophe, the American and British governments separately enlist the services of the superhuman Hobbs and Deckard Shaw (Statham, and yes, he and Hattie are siblings), respectively, oblivious to the fact that these two dudes have shared animosity and more than a little chemistry in the past.
Beyond the fact that everyone has assumed their own type of superpowers—Brixton can stop bullets with his hands and anticipate attacks, and appears to have synchronized with his motorcycle like an Eva pilot; in Fate, Hobbs altered the trajectory of a torpedo with his bare hands—Hobbs & Shaw revels in the contrasting styles and life philosophies of its leads. An early split-screen sequence shows their daily routines—Hobbs, after waking up beside his very good dog, inhales raw eggs and coffee grounds; Shaw makes a fancy omelet with a base of butter for him, and, presumably, the anonymous lady who shared his bed. Shaw’s wardrobe seems entirely composed of immaculately tailored suits; Hobbs always looks like he’s one good flex away from tearing through his tank top. When he fights, Hobbs is all brute force; Shaw has the kinetic, agile energy of a spider monkey. You get the idea.
You can quibble over the illogical specificity of the Hobbs family’s car-themed backstory, or the fact that Kirby and Statham are siblings that are, in flashbacks, clearly shown to have grown up together, when they are actually twenty years apart in age. But you don’t watch a Fast & Furious movie for sensible plot developments, the same way you don’t expect any of the action sequences to obey the laws of physics—all that matters is that they DESTROY.
And let me assure you of one thing: Hobbs and Shaw does, in fact, DESTROY. Several action scenes are sooooo hot, you almost want to hit a pause button, and rewind, then you remember you are in the theater.
Along with streamlining the action so it’s easier to follow, Director David Leitch leans on the self-awareness that this franchise has gone deliriously off the rails. There are a TON of things that are physically impossible to do but Luke Hobbs is able to do in this movie, For example: Hobbs pick up an assailant off his motorcycle and ram him into a wall with one hand; he pulls down a helicopter with a biceps curl (Captain America: Winter Soldier style); catch Vanessa Kirby with one hand while driving a huge truck through muddy terrain; repel down a skyscraper and land on a goon’s back, twice.
Oh, but we can’t leave out the abilities of Brixton, who likens himself to a “Black Superman” and whose abilities are gifted to him by Eteon, a tech company with aspirations to “enhance” the human race. We learn very little about Eteon through the course of the film, but you get the impression its employees are huge fans of Soylent and believe Cyberdyne Systems was a well-intentioned company.
Hobbs & Shaw gleefully sets up a sequel, leaving the door open for Eteon and its mysterious leader to terrorize humanity in the future, and seems uninterested in returning to the stakes of the original Fast & Furious.
With its first franchise offshoot—and rumors of more on the way, including a female-led spinoff—perhaps the Fast & Furious can try to appease all types of fans. If Hobbs & Shaw delves into more globetrotting heroics from a British mercenary and a federal agent who can pull down a helicopter with his arm, maybe the ninth Fast & Furious film can lean a bit more into the franchise’s roots. (Well, up to a point: Charlize Theron’s cyberterrorist Cipher is officially coming back for Fast & Furious 9, and after she hacked a nuclear sub in Fate, I doubt she’ll challenge Dom to a quarter-mile street race for the fate of the world.) In any case, given the ongoing hostility between Johnson and Diesel—whose feud seems way more authentic than the one between Hobbs and Shaw—it’s best not to expect a larger Fast & Furious reunion in the future.
he absence of Hobbs was never going to be a big problem for the Fast & Furious franchise, which can boast the rest of the Toretto extended family and a rotating cast of A-listers as fresh new adversaries. But as Hobbs & Shaw has demonstrated, these characters can more than hold their own, and feel most assured when they’re not indebted to their predecessors. When family drifts apart, it’s not always a bad thing.