Review by James Lindorf
Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw, better known simply as Hobbs and Shaw, is the ninth entry into a franchise that has already pocketed 5.1 billion dollars for Universal Pictures. While the franchise may have humble origins as a Point Break knockoff, it has evolved into nonstop action with the fate of the world frequently in the balance. This time, when the world is in danger, our survival is in the hands of DSS Agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), and former British military officer turned mercenary Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham). Together with Hattie (Vanessa Kirby), Shaw’s younger sister, they must stop rogue MI6 agent Brixton “Black Superman” Lore (Idris Elba) from acquiring a deadly virus. A dangerous enough task on its own becomes impossible once they learn Eteon, a group of technophiles who want to “save” humanity, is responsible for Brixton’s enhancements. Stepping into direct the blockbuster spinoff is David Leitch. The former stunt man exploded onto the directing scene as the co-director of John Wick before going solo on action films like Atomic Blonde and Deadpool 2. Hobbs and Shaw will open around the country on August 2nd. Make sure you stay for the two scenes during the credits for the full experience.
The two most essential elements to the franchise since its reinvention with Fast Five are cast chemistry and over-the-top action. The relationship between Hobbs and Shaw is quarrelsome, fueled by their constant bickering, but there is a kernel of mutual respect. Statham does a better job of selling the disgust at the blunt way Hobbs goes about his job. However, Dwayne holds his own after having years of WWE smack talk under his belt. The constant back and forth loses a bit of its charm when it is the focus of a movie and not just a side relationship. The team behind the film may have known this and included two additional big-name Hollywood actors as cameos that may grow into future members of this extended family.
The real bright spot of the cast was Vanessa Kirby as Hattie Shaw. She got to be the kind of character Michelle Rodriguez has been campaigning for in the series. Hattie is integral to the plot and recognized as much for her skills as her beauty. She has solo fight scenes and running jokes of her own, making her as valuable as either of the men. Hattie has an innate trust for Shaw, even though their relationship has soured. She may not know Hobbs, but she recognizes and appreciates his abilities and charm. Helen Mirren returned as Magdalene, the matriarch of the Shaw family, and was great as well. She may have only been on set for a day or two, but she appears to have a great time playing the mischievous mom who is capable of everything.
The film’s action scenes can be broken down into two distinct styles: those involving vehicles of all shapes and sizes, and those involving guns or hand-to-hand combat. The movie excelled at the more-involved vehicle scenes, throwing logic, caution, and physics to the wind, for a heart-pounding good time. On the other hand, it left me wanting more from the hand-to-hand scenes. Leitch and the editing crew filmed up close with a bit of a shaky cam and quick editing instead of pulling back and letting the experts show how good they are. In the climactic fight, they also included a lot of speed-ramped footage, slowing down and speeding up that action for impact and comedic effect. While this is not surprising given the state of Hollywood action movies, it is disappointing for a film to go this way when there is a former stuntman at the helm, great athletes as leads, and hordes of faceless stuntmen to rely on.
Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw is a turn in the right direction for the franchise after a subpar 8th entry. However, a 135-minute runtime that is overstuffed with quips, penis jokes, and one too many climaxes will prevent this fun ride from becoming a classic.
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