Released: August 2019
Director: David Leitch
Distributor: Universal Pictures
Budget: $200 million
Stars: Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Idris Elba, and Vanessa Kirby
Spinning out of the Fast and the Furious (Various, 2001 to present) franchise, DSS agent Luke Hobbs (Johnson) is forced to team up with mercenary Deckard Shaw (Statham) when rogue MI6 agent-turned-cyborg Brixton Lore (Elba) leads a terrorist organisation in trying to acquire a potentially world-ending virus.
The Fast and the Furious franchise is a funny beast; what started as a vague remake of Point Break (Bigelow, 1991), but with cars rather than surfboards, became an over-the-top heist franchise and, finally, a pseudo-superhero series where its invincible characters can pretty much solve any problem with a bunch of cool cars, the concept of family, and being big, unapologetic alpha males. Seriously, this franchise taught me that the best way to solve any issue is to change gear or hit the nitrous and I am constantly amused at how the franchise has turned the traditional action genre on its head. Like, normally in action moves, you’ll get quick cuts or shots of guys reloaded or throwing punches but, in the Fast and the Furious movies, these are replaced with sudden and dramatic gear changes. Anyway, ever since the franchise returned to prominence with Fast & Furious (Lin, 2009), the films have done nothing but make money…shit-loads of money! With Dwayne Johnson joining the franchise in Fast & Furious 5 (ibid, 2011), the producers have finally decided to capitalise on his charisma, box office appeal, popularity, and money-making ability by throwing him together with Jason Statham as two guys who can’t stand each other and are forced to work together in a big, over-the-top, car-centric, superpowered version of Tango & Cash (Konchalovsky, 1989).
Right off the bat, Hobbs & Shaw introduces us to Brixton, a man who unapologetically describes himself as the “bad guy”; Brixton is decked out in a bulletproof uniform, has cybernetic implants, and is, for all intents and purposes, “Black Superman”. His goal is to acquire a “programmable virus” that will wipe out the weakest of the human race so that only the strongest and the fittest can survive but, when MI6 agent Hattie Shaw (Kirby) injects herself with the virus and evades him, Brixton uses the vast resources of his shady organisation, Eteon, to frame Hattie, forcing the CIA to draft in Hobbs and Shaw to track her down, acquire the virus, and stop Brixton.
Hobbs and Shaw are presented as being polar opposites; Hobbs is a massive mountain of a man who uses his brute strength to get results while Shaw is more about finesse and subtlety. Not only that, their personalities clash in the wildest of ways; despite working together and seemingly burying the hatchet in Fast & Furious 8 (Gray, 2017), Hobbs and Shaw still cannot stand one another and are always a razor’s edge from getting into a fist fight, making for some truly amusing verbal exchanges and insults shared between the two. Hobbs & Shaw is a non-stop thrill ride of a movie; when there aren’t big fight sequences, there’s an over-the-top car chase; when those two things aren’t on screen, there might be a fire fight or, when all else fails, the movie falls back on the chemistry and the banter between Hobbs and Shaw, which could honestly carry the entire movie without the action sequences. I went into this fully expecting a comically over-the-top action movie and I wasn’t disappointed; I swear one day this franchise will end up in space, so “Black Superman” isn’t too much of a stretch and it’s best to just sit back and enjoy the ride once Hobbs and Shaw get behind the wheels of their cars and start pulling off crazy stunts, jumps, and actions that would obviously never work in the “real world” but the real world sucks and is boring so why would you want to see that anyway?
Not much to spoil here, really; there’s fights, cars, and guns. Hattie, as you may have guessed from her name, is Shaw’s estranged sister and a big part of the movie is dedicated to revealing that Shaw was setup by Brixton back when they worked together in MI6, which helps to give his previously malevolent character some humanity. It’s never really revealed exactly what Eteon did to improve Brixton; he ahs a mechanical spine and some cybernetic implants in his eyes but there’s no real specifics behind his superhuman status. Eteon is headed up by an unseen, disembodied, digitally-altered voice, however, who hints to a past with Hobbs and is clearly being setup for future movies, which may detail more about what Eteon is about.
Hobbs also gets a character arc where he is forced to return to his home in Samoa and his estranged family when Hobbs and Shaw are framed by Eteon, leading to the deepest exploration of Johnson’s family heritage than we’ve ever seen on film before. His real-life cousin, Roman Reigns, even pops up as Hobbs’ brother; however, despite this role being promoted as Reigns’ big break into Hollywood, he doesn’t have a single line, doesn’t really do anything except hit a Spear and fight alongside Hobbs and his brothers, and the role is little more than a cameo as Hobbs is primarily focused on repairing his relationship with his brother, Jonah (Cliff Curtis). Speaking of cameos, Helen Mirren, Ryan Reynolds, and Kevin Hart all pop up, to varying degrees of success. Mirren, as Shaw’s mother, is classically understated and never wears out here welcome but Reynolds appears to have been drafted in as Kurt Russell wasn’t available to reprise his role as Mr. Nobody and Hart is clearly there as he’s the Rock’s buddy. Both guys are onscreen, seemingly ad-libbing, for a long time, with Hart’s cameo especially being a glaring addition that left me itching fort he scene to move on and get back to the action.
Fast & Furious: Hobbs & Shaw is a great time; sometimes, it’s good to just go to the movies, switch your brain off, and enjoy an alpha male odd-couple begrudgingly learning to tolerate each other and work together towards a greater good. The film has some fantastic dialogue between the two, some big action sequences, and walks the line between the ridiculous and the fantastic with such unapologetic glee that it can’t help but be a really enjoyable experience.