2.5 out of 5 stars.
There’s at least one thing that can be said about “Hobbs & Shaw”: it knows exactly what it is, and doesn’t try to do anything more than that. At the same time, this spinoff of the “Fast and Furious” franchise proves that there is little left for this series to accomplish, bombarding the viewer with so much mindless, over-the-top action and overlong, out-of-place comedy routines that it becomes, while diverting in the moment, largely bland and forgettable.
Directed by David Leitch, “Hobbs & Shaw” forces—you guessed it—DSS agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and mercenary Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) to try to put aside their longtime rivalry and work a case together. Shaw’s sister Hattie (Vanessa Kirby) is an MI6 agent who has been framed for killing her team and making off with a dangerous virus called Snowflake, which could kill millions of people. In actuality, Hattie injected it into her system to prevent it from getting into the hands of a terrorist group called Eteon and their operative Brixton Lore (Idris Elba), whose cybernetic implants give him superhuman abilities, making him virtually unstoppable. But there is limited time before the virus in Hattie becomes dormant no longer, infecting her and everyone around her, which means one of two things has to happen: either the team needs to get their hands on a machine that can extract it, or she has to die.
The vaguely all-powerful technology that could destroy all of humanity trope has been used in several “Fast and Furious” films now, so it isn’t surprisingly to see something like Snowflake be the basis of the plot here. It’s silly, but at the same time, the filmmaker’s know that isn’t going to be the main draw of the movie; people are going to come for the banter between “Hobbs & Shaw.” And honestly, if there weren’t so many car crashes and fist fights in between, this movie would more closely resemble a buddy comedy, or even a rom-com. Luke Hobbs was first introduced as a supporting player in “Fast Five,” while Deckard Shaw had a cameo at the end of “Fast & Furious 6” and became a major player in “Furious 7.” The characters harbored an immediate animosity toward each other, and their constant flinging of insults back-and-forth quickly made them fan favorites and gave them some of the most fun scenes in the series. With them transitioning from supporting players to main protagonist in this series, that banter is expanded upon so much more—almost too much, in fact, as there are many scenes played strictly for laughs, with a couple involving cameos from other famous faces that drag on for a painfully long time. The dialogue between Hobbs and Shaw is almost always funny, but the forced comedy between them and other actors brought in to lighten up the mood just drags them down. Despite that, the majority of the scenes they have together are still fun to watch, thanks to Johnson and Statham’s performances, and director Leitch does a nice job contrasting them from the get-go. A split-screen sequence at the start of the movie depicts the more laid-back, LA-based Hobbs going about his day, compared to the more refined and elegant London-based Shaw. The story also manages to delve quite a bit into their respective family histories and issues, adding another layer to what is otherwise a straightforward story. Kirby is a great addition to the cast, with a lot more to offer than the typical “Fast and Furious” leading lady, and there’s a lot of solid chemistry between her, Statham, and Johnson, to the point where they really probably could lead an entirely new branch of the franchise on their own. Elba is always good, but his performance here is undermined by the corny dialogue gifted him by the script (he didn’t need to announce to us in his first scene that he is the bad guy, but he does). Eddie Marsan also has a brief but fun role as the scientist who created Snowflake, and a final act that takes place on Hobbs’ native Samoa results in some new locales and new faces for the series.
But of course this is primarily an action movie, and there is plenty of that, from shootouts to hand-to-hand combat to the requisite car chase. There are a couple more innovative sequences here and there—our heroes being forced to fight guns with native Samoan weapons, for instance—and several of the more intimate combat sequences are nicely choreographed, but otherwise the film doesn’t offer up anything we haven’t already seen in some variation before, and the constant bombardment of explosions and people crashing through glass gets tedious after a while. It is a bit disappointing to see such a generic action movie from a director like Leitch, whose credits include “John Wick,” “Atomic Blonde,” and “Deadpool 2.” There are a few scenes that are awkwardly edited as well, and while some of those over-extended action scenes and comedy bits stretch the film to a two hour and fifteen minute runtime, the movie ends incredibly abruptly. It would have been so much tighter and more enjoyable had some of those unnecessary sequences been trimmed down a bit.
Having said all that, as far as spin-offs go, there have certainly been worse, and “Hobbs & Shaw” proves that its characters who were so successful in supporting roles can also handle their own movie. It’s silly, it knows it’s silly, and you really can’t expect more than to buckle up and go along for the ride. It’s the perfect sort of movie to spend a couple hours on a summer afternoon with—just don’t expect its impact to extend any further than that.
Runtime: 135 minutes. Rated PG-13.