A film review by Craig J. Koban August 17, 2019



2019, PG-13, 133 mins.


Dwayne Johnson as Luke Hobbs  /  Jason Statham as Deckard Shaw  /  Idris Elba as Brixton  /  Vanessa Kirby as Hattie Shaw  /  Eiza González as Madame M

Directed by David Leitch  /  Written by Chris Morgan and Drew Pearce




To quote its full and somewhat awkwardly assembled titled, FAST & FURIOUS PRESENTS: HOBBS & SHAW is the very first spin-off entry in the seemingly impervious to death franchise that was arguably born out of a reported clashing of two massive action hero egos.  

Dwayne Johnson and Vin Diesel apparently did not like being in each other's presence while on set of the last F&F film, which meant that separating the pair and giving the former his own entry proved inevitable.  HOBBS & SHAW isn't just a solo genre vehicle for The Rock, seeing as he shares the screen with his partner in arms in Jason Statham, another F&F regular, making this newest sidequel an odd couple team-up affair.  HOBBS & SHAW gets considerable mileage out of the easygoing chemistry between these two action film titans, and it's most assuredly just as jam packed with mayhem as the previous F&F entries.  Yet, HOBBS & SHAW is aggressively loud, but not exiting in its bombastic extremes.  It's mind numbingly silly, but not sly in its preposterousness.  And the running time is as unhealthily large as one of Johnson's biceps, which makes the whole enterprise feel more exhausting that giddily thrilling. 

The overall plot here (if you can even call it that) is pure nonsensical hooey, something that feels like the by-product of a couple of kids playing in a sandbox with F&F action figures (that, and aspects of it bare a plagiaristic similarity to the plot of MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE III).  Taking place a few years after the events of THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS (seriously, someone deserves a participation medal for being forced to come up with the names for these films), HOBBS & SHAW reacquaints us with Johnson's Hobbs and Statham's Shaw, who were previously established in the last F&F films as formidable frenemies.  They are predictably recruited by their respective nations to stop a vile terrorist organization from unleashing a virus that liquefies humans from the inside out and threatens all of humanity.  Yuck.   



Shaw's sister in MI6 agent Hattie (Vanessa Kirby, a welcome addition to this series' ongoing sausage fest) is introduced early on attempting to thwart the efforts of the villainous Etone corporation, who have created the mechanically enhanced "Black Superman" / "Bad Guy" (terms actually referenced in the film) Brixton (Idris Elba), for securing the "Snowflake Virus" and unleashing it on the world.  Hattie, being a brave soul, injects the virus into herself, leaving her a dead woman unless she can safely cure herself of it and ensure that it never gets into the wrong hands.  Joining forces with her are, yes, her brother and Hobbs, with both feeling genuine initial disdain for having been paired together, but begrudgingly decide to work as a team with Hattie to take down Brixton, but they also must safely get to Russia to a safe house to get that nasty virus out of Hattie in the process. 

One of the saving graces of the mostly derivative, frequently chaotic, and tonally inconsistent HOBBS & SHAW is the titular characters' dynamic team-up with Hattie, which gives the film - and this franchise - a much needed creative jump start (sorry for the car puns).  Johnson and Statham both look cut from granite and have respective action film credits that dwarfs most others, and they're certainly not playing outside of their comfort zones at all here.  Still, their incessant bickering natures and their willingness to mock their very images as action icons provides some of the film's better laughs.  There's something to be said about how increasingly forced and stilted their put-down banter becomes as the film progresses (yay...more verbal jabs about bald heads and dicks than you can swing a stick at!), but there's no denying that Johnson and Statham are effortlessly cool and likeable here.   

Oh, I forgot about the other third of that trio in Kirby's Hattie, and even though the F&F series has been supremely guilty of using well endowed women as eye candy juxtaposed against many a muscle car, it's refreshing to see the likes of this British actress never being reduced to an obligatory victim or one note damsel in distress.  Like Johnson's infamously reported contract demands of how he's suppose to come off in these movies, Kirby "gives as good she gets" here and provides a refined compliment to the rugged and rampant masculinity on display.  The other welcome newcomer is Elba as the main baddie, who's so ludicrously over-the-the-top as a super soldier that he makes the antagonists in the MCU look authentically grounded.  His bio-enhanced skeleton gives him extraordinary strength and dexterity - which is perhaps required to make him plausibly go head-to-head with Hobbs and Shaw in the film's multiple three-way fistfights, and Elba is clearly having fun playing this menacing evildoer with a detached ruthlessness that could have been rendered as a broad caricature with the wrong actor.   

I was also initially excited going into HOBBS & SHAW with the knowledge that the producers tagged David Leitch to direct, who previously co-directed (albeit uncredited) the first JOHN WICK entry as well as the insanely underrated ATOMIC BLONDE and later DEADPOOL 2.  The stuntman turned director has made a nearly unmatched name for himself for his exquisitely well choreographed and editorially clean action sequences known for good old fashioned production values versus CGI overkill.  Even though he displays some creativity in HOBBS & SHAWS' opening scene - utilizing split screens while showing both lead characters beaten up their prey with tattoo needles and champagne bottles respectively to get the intel they need while being completely segregated across the world - the rest of the chaos disapprovingly presented in frequently sloppy fight choreography with too much hyperactive cutting and spastic camerawork that's the polar opposite aesthetic approach that made Leitch's previous lean and mean action pictures such revelatory delights.  The director's esoteric genre fingerprints are rarely on display here, and more often than not HOBBS & SHAW comes off as a like a series of video game inspired cut scenes than a balls to wall and viscerally potent action flick.  That's a big letdown for me. 

Two other things truly hurt this film, one of which being that it utilizes a kitchen sink tonal approach that hurts the story's sense of cohesion.  More often that not - and if you exclude character names and some nods to previous franchise installments - very little of anything in HOBBS & SHAW comes off like it even occupies the same plane of movie reality as the F&F saga as a whole; they feel cut from completely different material.  That, and HOBBS & SHAW is way, way, way too long and loses much of its delirious nimble footed momentum as it hurtles past the 90 minute mark.  In point of fact, there's a moment in the narrative when it certainly feels like everything is coming to a reasonable end...only then to shift gears to Samoa and a subplot involving Hobbs' estranged family members assisting him and his squad against Brixton that insufferably goes on for another 30-45 minutes.  At nearly two and a half hours, HOBBS & SHAW could have easily benefited from multiple cuts here and there to trim the fat, and speaking of scene fat, the film also contains multiple "surprise" celebrity cameos (one of which is more distracting than funny) that could have easily been excised from the picture to pare down this already self-indulgently bloated enterprise.  By the time I exited the cinema I felt drained by this film, but not energized by it. 

And don't get me started on much of the lazily handled logic and franchise defying faults here, like the completely throw caution to wind/turning a blind eye handling of the Shaw character himself, who was a deplorable cold blooded serial murderer just a few F&F films ago, but is now an agreeable and honor bound quip generating anti-hero (what?).  Then there's laughable flashbacks showing Hattie and her sibling in the past that relays that both are about the same age (Statham is in his fifties, whereas Kirby is in her thirties, but they're inexplicably established as basically twins here).  Maybe I shouldn't be complaining about logic in any F&F movie, where normal laws of science need not apply.  Some moments in HOBBS & SHAW made me chuckle with incredulous reverence, like when Hobbs is strong enough to have a tug of war with a chair lassoed military helicopter (he holds the other end with one arm...yup...sure...uh huh).  But then there's other things that are too bonkers to be handled, like the climax's hysterically distracting lack of time continuity.  Over the course of eight minutes (and thanks to insert shots of digital countdown timers...one of the oldest conventions of the movies) the scene goes from the middle of the night to sun drenched daylight (what!!??). 

Maybe I'm being too hard on this film.  HOBBS & SHAW will be critic proof to die hard F&F fundamentalists, and fans of Johnson and Statham's backlog of action titles will most likely come out of this team-up entry feeling mostly satisfied.  Leitch and company also know what aficionados of this series like and want, and - on those superficial levels - HOBBS & SHAW delivers, I guess.  I only wished that Leitch's proven skills as one of the best action directors working today was better employed and the film as a whole was given a much needed and tighter edit.  In the end, I perhaps didn't mind that HOBBS & SHAW was dumber than a bag of hammers, but it irked me that it was, at times, a brainlessly out of control ride.  

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