Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw (Universal Pictures, PG-13)

The Fast and Furious franchise has amassed a cool $5 billion  since its first release in 2001. In that time a whopping nine titles have made their way to the big screen. Hobbs and Shaw is the first film not to feature Dominc Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his crew. There’s no Tyrese Gibson, no Ludacris, no Michelle Rodriguez. For just the second time in the franchise, Hobbs and Shaw is spinning off, and Hobbs and Shaw feels confident it can remain separate.

First introduced in Fast Five and Fast & Furious 6, Hobbs and Shaw (respectively) found their way into the Furiverse (coining that right now) as add-on characters and have since solidified their roles as good additions to the high-octane formula. Dwayne Johnson (Jumanji, Moana) brings his infectious charisma and glistening traps, Jason Statham (Transporter, Spy) brings his trademark machismo and grizzled British accent. Much like this film’s two beefy stars, Hobbs & Shaw’s comedy, action, and drama is charmingly hamfisted. In fact, it is the film’s awareness of this that allows it to pull it off. I caught myself chuckling at jokes, not always because they were funny, but sometimes just because I could tell that Hobbs & Shaw knows exactly what it is: A popcorn action flick, with explosions to spare.

Director David Leitch, of Deadpool 2 and John Wick fame, knows how to shoot action. The stunt coordinator turned director knows how to get a lot out of a scene, and this movie’s actions sequences are stuffed to the brim with movement, impact, and flair. There are times where the number of quick cuts can cause confusion, but Leitch’s editorial and directorial prowess come in handy. On or off the battlefield, Johnson and Statham are self-written characters. Like Ryan Reynolds (who appears in this film), who very much is Wade Wilson/Deadpool in real life, Hobbs and Shaw are very much Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham. For this reason, for me, Hobbs & Shaw works as a film.

The plot is pretty standard, super-spy, Fast and Furious fare. A biological super weapon capable of wiping out EVERYONE has gone missing, the world’s governments want to find it and put it somewhere safe, the bad guys want to take it and use it. It’s a bit unoriginal at first glance, but add to it a mechanically augmented Social Darwinist villain with a vendetta against one of our heroes and at times it feels pretty downright lazy. Here’s the thing. I didn’t care.

Idris Elba (Dark Tower, Thor: Ragnarok) slides into the role of villain comfortably in this film. More frequently seen as the dashing but reserved protagonist, his Brixton is an augmented war machine in a handsome devil’s body. Elba knows how to command the camera, and his smooth diction and chill as ice composition give him numerous advantages. Similarly crafty in front of the lens, Vanessa Kirby (The Crown, Mission Impossible: Fallout) brings a strong performance to Shaw’s sister, Hattie. Without failure, when Johnson and Statham feel a bit flat, Elba and Kirby stride up and deliver.

The best thing Hobbs & Shaw has going for it is an audience primed for goofy, cheesy, action-packed fun. And it knows it. This is a film for fans of the Fast and Furious series. Every scene that felt corny, also felt like it knew it was. Every joke that felt forced felt like it was meant to feel that way. This is the privilege a movie built around franchise-established character actors is afforded, and because of this, any real genuine moments of drama, emotion, or comedy are more likely to catch you off guard.

Embedded in all of this flash and bang is a pretty touching story about family, forgiveness, and making right the mistakes of one’s past. It is a touching tale of feuding siblings, distant relatives, and absent families. Is that tale often buried beneath a thousand tons of rubble and explosions? Yes, but it is there. When it is given a chance to breathe, it delivers some truly heartfelt moments—short as they may be.

Sometimes its ok to turn your brain off and watch something. Hobbs & Shaw isn’t going to pull the wool over your eyes. Instead it’s a can of whoop-ass with a side of facepalm humor and a sprinkle of emotion. Grab your can opener. | Caleb Sawyer

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