Expectations can be everything when it comes to viewing a film. For example, if somebody walked into Blade Runner 2049 expecting a non-stop action thrill ride, then they would be bitterly disappointed. A similar mentality applies to the newest entry in the Fast & Furious franchise: Hobbs & Shaw. To walk into this theater expecting anything else but a crazy testosterone-filled romp with explosions and banter aplenty would be a mistake, for this is a film that will satisfy any viewer looking for just that. No one pumped for this movie is looking for Citizen Kane 2, and with that kept in mind Hobbs & Shaw is a good time at the movie theater.
The movie’s plot is by far the most preposterous and out-there of the franchise, which is saying quite a bit. In the first scene the audience is introduced to Idris Elba’s villain, a genetically enhanced human who wants to wipe out the weak in humanity so the strong like him can thrive. In order to succeed in this, he must steal a deadly virus from Vanessa Kirby’s character (Shaw’s sister) and unleash it on humanity. Hobbs (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) and Shaw (Jason Statham) must prevent this virus from getting into wrong hands while saving their own skins as well.
The Fast & Furious franchise is known for its insane action and high production value, and while that is an essential part of these films, it isn’t what makes Hobbs & Shaw so damn entertaining. The Rock and Statham’s chemistry as the two warriors who hate each other but must get along for the sake of the mission was the highlight of F. Gary Gray’s The Fate of the Furious, and it remains that way here. Every time the two are onscreen together, viewers will either be roaring with laughter or having fun watching them tear through the countless goons thrown at them. While this may seem like a big-budget superhero-type film, at its core it’s just a buddy-cop movie with tons of CGI, and the film is at its best when it embraces the comedy and wittiness of its two protagonists. The scenes I will remember from Hobbs & Shaw aren’t the action set-pieces, but the conversations in between where Statham and The Rock spit insult after insult at each other.
All the performances here, especially the two leads, are more than enough to carry the audience through the film. Idris Elba cherishes every second he has on screen, gleefully delivering the simultaneously funny and menacing one-liners that make his character the perfect villain for this type of story. My personal favorite performance in the movie, however, is a celebrity cameo (watch it to find out) who steals every scene he is a part of without even trying. This is one of two major cameo appearances in Hobbs & Shaw, and while the other doesn’t work half as well, it still solidifies the comedic tone that the film is shooting for.
The odd part about Hobbs & Shaw is the action that takes up so much of the film. While I don’t mind any of the set pieces or the crazy events that happen during these sequences, they aren’t filmed in a way which makes them pop off the screen. I have come to expect more from this franchise and especially from director David Leitch, who proved with both John Wick and Atomic Blonde that action is his forte. Most of the hand-to-hand combat scenes are shot with shaky cam and quick cut techniques that make these prolonged and high-energy sequences feel quite overlong and monotonous. Since the action takes up a good chunk of the two hour and 17 minute runtime, the movie starts to suffer near the third act, which feels like an afterthought compared to the rest of the movie. By the time The Rock returns to his Samoan homeland, I had already started to check out and the final dynamic action set piece didn’t hit me quite as hard as the filmmakers most likely intended it to.
Of course, a Fast & Furious film can’t go without an overarching message involving family, and the last act delivers on that front. The pacing just needed to be more fine-tuned in order for the theme to hit viewers harder in the final scenes and when walking out of the theater. However, those who don’t care about the message anyways and who just paid the price of admission to see things explode probably don’t care about the message and were just happy to see The Rock lasso a helicopter while riding a car behind it at a high speed.
Few franchises crank out mindless blockbuster films with such efficiency and quality like the Fast & Furious franchise, and Hobbs & Shaw is another great time to kick back and eat some popcorn with friends. Could more be asked of this franchise? Of course there could, but there’s something charming about the dumb events of this movie combined with the lead actors’ charisma throughout. Hobbs & Shaw embraces its own absurdity and knows it is nothing more than a badass action film, which may be why it even succeeds at all. It doesn’t quite match up to other entries in the franchise, such as Furious 7 and Fast Five, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a bombastic and insane experience on its own.
I give Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw a B-.