We’re nine films in and things are still Fast and Furious, especially between Hobbs and Shaw. Did anyone ask for this film? Does it matter when there’s this much charisma packed into a cast? Are we in for a high-speed drama or a buddy comedy for the ages?
Buckle in, everybody — this is “Hobbs & Shaw.”
In “Hobbs & Shaw,” lawman Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and outcast Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) form an unlikely alliance when a cyber-genetically enhanced villain Brixton Lore, played by Idris Elba, threatens the future of humanity.
“Hobbs & Shaw” marks the ninth installment of the famous “The Fast and the Furious” franchise. As stated above, it centers around characters Luke Hobbs and Deckard Shaw, who were introduced as adversaries in earlier “Fast and Furious” films. The events of “Hobbs & Shaw” take place after what has occurred in “Furious 7” and “The Fate of the Furious,” when Hobbs and Shaw are at their most tense and opposed to one another.
The film is directed by David Leitch and stars the aforementioned cast of action hunks along with Vanessa Kirby, Helen Mirren and Cliff Curtis (as well as some fun little walk-on roles that you’ll just have to check in on for yourselves).
“Hobbs & Shaw” offers everything you could want out of a summer action film! Some fans of the franchise may argue that the film is a departure from the traditional and beloved format but, honestly, it’s working! Statham and Johnson are an absolutely magnetic duo and are as funny as they are beefed up for kicking some ass. It’s great to watch them work together.
The film feels like the intersection of the best of film genres. Elba’s Brixton Lore (a.k.a. Black Superman) is part Bond villain, part Avengers-tier super baddie, part typical action antagonist. Between the cars, the international espionage and the literal fight to save the world, the plot seems to mix all those genres as well. There’s literally something for everyone in “Hobbs and Shaw.”
And it’s funny! Lots of legitimate laughs and all those warm and fuzzy family themes that we’ve come to love as an accompaniment to our fast cars.
The film is comprised of truly great action sequences that play to each of the characters’ strengths and offer excellent showcase moments. The stunts are cool and the lines are quippy; in short, it’s a damn good time. A particular highlight of the film is a traditional Samoan battle scene that takes our normal expectations of action technological warfare and flips it into something much more exciting and well-executed.
Of course, “Hobbs & Shaw” is not without its flaws. In typical action fashion, the story and its elements come off as incredibly far-fetched and a bit goofy. This franchise has somehow gone from fast cars and black-market DVD players to genetically enhanced super-soldiers bent on world genocide. I hope they stretched before that reach.
However, as out of touch and ludicrous as it all is, that’s part of the appeal. To quote a very different movie (1969’s “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie”), “for people who like that sort of thing, that is the sort of thing they like.” To enjoy this film, you have to be willing to sit back and enjoy the ride.
There are a couple of key weak points in the film: the villain and the romance.
Okay. We understand that Brixton is the bad guy and that he’s genetically enhanced. We understand that there is a “cause” and a mission of genocide where the weak are offed and the strong are enhanced. But every other aspect of the villain and his evil plan are kept in the dark and not in a mysterious or alluring way.
If the choice was to treat “Hobbs & Shaw” as an entry point to a greater expanded storyline, then the mark was missed. There simply isn’t enough draw and information to invest us beyond this little blip in a much larger franchise.
Another eye-roll-inducing moment was the semi-forced, half-assed romance between Deckard Shaw’s sister, Hattie, and Luke Hobbs. At first, it was funny. Shaw’s protection of his sister was played up for laughs and The Rock delivers an extremely woke monologue on consent and Hattie’s sexual agency in 2019… basically, an invitation for her to climb The Rock like the mountain of a man that he is, should she wish to do so.
It would have been better just left as a means for Hobbs to drive Shaw crazy. Instead, we get one random moment of sexual tension at the height of an escape scene and a kiss — totally devoid of chemistry — the night before the final battle. It has all the sex appeal of a cold fish and goes absolutely nowhere.
It was so cringe-y that it was almost as if the film, itself, had realized it was unnecessary and tried to take its own forced arc back at the last minute.
So, “Hobbs & Shaw,” what’s my verdict? It’s fine. In fact, it’s fun.
For the action blockbuster that it is, the film delivers 100%. Johnson and Statham are a dream duo and a real joy to watch. There’s a lot of fun stuff going on here, but it lacks any sort of depth, which is a real shame because they have the star power to pull off more than the bare minimum.
“Hobbs & Shaw” is now in theatres!
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Caitlin is a lean, mean writing machine based in Austin, TX. Her love of film began when she was shown “Rosemary’s Baby” way too early in life. She currently serves as the Lead Film Contributor for Shuffle Online; other notable bylines include The Financial Diet and Film Inquiry. Caitlin is a member of the Online Association of Female Film Critics and the Women Film Critics Circle.