To all my fellow action fans: prepare to salivate because Christmas has come early. The ninth installment – and first spin-off – in the venerable The Fast and the Furious franchise is here, bursting at the seams like Dwayne Johnson’s poor shirt with over-the-top action, fast cars, explosions and muscle-bound fights that should make any action fan giddy with delight. You’ll walk into the cinema a boy and emerge a man as your spirit is invigorated by the age-old premise of two unlikely allies teaming up to save the world from a deadly virus that will destroy the world.
And for you ladies, don’t worry, as you’ll turn into men as the testosterone levels and macho masculinity on display here is forward-thinking enough to accommodate all genders. Who knew that a Fast and Furious film could be so progressive?
Okay, that’s a bit much but you get the point. Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw is a straight up action-comedy that delivers both the action and comedy goodness in spades, continuing the insane vehicular mayhem the franchise is famous for while introducing just a hint of science-fiction into the mix. Though it does run a bit too long, for most of its 2 hours and 17 minutes it’s simply a blast. I don’t know if you can tell, but I really enjoyed it.
Before I continue, I have a confession – I haven’t gotten around to watching the last few Fast and Furious movies so I’ve missed out on some of the overall *cough* plot. But I don’t think this mattered much as I was able to follow along without any trouble, even when there were clear references to past films. But that’s probably by design – and in the interest of even greater box-office glory. Hey, this isn’t exactly the Marvel Cinematic Universe. So even if you’ve lost count of the other films, it’s still possible to enjoy this without any knowledge of The Fast and Furious franchise.
Directed by David Leitch (Atomic Blonde, Deadpool 2), Hobbs & Shaw starts with an MI6 team on a mission to retrieve Snowflake, a programmable virus that can be made to target specific people. In its current, unprogrammed state, however, it could destroy the world if let loose into the population. The mission fails when Brixton Lore (Idris Elba) – a cybernetically enhanced soldier who serves the terrorist organization Eteon – turns up to take the virus. Hattie Shaw (Vanessa Kirby) – the only survivor of the MI6 team – injects Snowflake into herself as a dormant carrier in order to escape. She is quickly framed for the death of her MI6 team and goes on the run.
In order to retrieve Hattie and the virus, Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), a former agent of the Diplomatic Security Service and Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), Hattie’s brother and a former British Special Forces assassin turned mercenary, must team up and work together despite the bad blood between them. They quickly locate Hattie but soon realize their circumstances are much worse when they discover the cybernetically enhanced “Black Superman” Brixton will stop at nothing to retrieve the virus. Brixton has access to resources that control the media and turns our heroes into fugitives when he frames them for crimes they didn’t commit.
With time running out for Hattie as the virus will eventually kill her and Brixton hot on their tails, our heroes will need to learn to work together if they are to stay alive long enough to save the world. That, as they say, is easier said than done.
For an action comedy the acting is on point, but Furious fans probably already knew that. Despite both being relative newcomers to the 18 (!) year-old franchise, Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham make for an irresistibly great onscreen duo of manly men at odds with each other, yet forced to work together to save the world, much like we saw in 2017’s The Fate of the Furious. The bad blood between them makes for many hilarious moments as they constantly butt heads throughout the entire movie.
As usual, Johnson is in fantastic physical form that’s complemented with his great sense of humor and charisma. He’ll never win an Oscar for acting, however he’s blessed with that rare talent to deliver great action one-liners (even poking fun at himself) that a great action film requires. Hey, it’s harder than you might think. He’s the modern Schwarzenegger and brings to screen that classic muscle-bound hero visual that helped redefine the action genre for generations of fans like myself. Because of his ridiculously buff physique, his no-nonsense attitude and an unrivaled intensity with just his eyes, Johnson is able to pull off even the most ridiculous action sequences that allow the audience to suspend disbelief.
Statham is also in great form, though you won’t see him shirtless like when he was killing monster sharks in The Meg. Instead of showing off his still-impressive physique – he leaves that to Johnson – Statham wows the audience with his incredible martial arts prowess, his sharp sophisticated dress sense and British delivery of action one-liners as he clashes with his onscreen counterpart. He’s a true action star in his own right and also delivers intense, hilarious moments that work perfectly with Johnson.
In between these two huge masculine personalities is Vanessa Kirby who plays MI6 agent Hattie. Kirby may not have the physical physique of her co-stars however she is able to show that she too can kick-ass. Relying more on agility and intelligence, Kirby is able to portray a strong female action hero who is not out of place with all the macho happenings around her. She doesn’t overcompensate to compete with Johnson or Statham and instead brings to the table her own level of personal intensity – especially in her eyes. Look into her eyes and you know if you’re not careful this lady will end you in a heartbeat.
Looking at director David Leitch’s body of work as both director and stuntman/stunt coordinator it’s no surprise he’s been able to make Hobbs & Shaw a film that will appease action fans such as myself. His fondness for the classic 80s/90s produced action movie era is evident, and he clearly wants to push the limits of what’s possible – even to the point where he pokes fun at the genre’s silliness. My only criticism is the movie runs too long. I got fidgety during the last 30 minutes and the vibe doesn’t feel right when the story heads to Samoa. But ignore this gripe and you’re still left with an action extravaganza that ticks all the right boxes the genre requires to become (thus far) the best action movie of the year.
Hobbs & Shaw is a visual spectacle that should be enjoyed on the big screen to appreciate its grandois and ludicrously creative action sequences. If you’re looking for depth and something that touches your heart, best move along because you’re looking in the wrong place. Here you’ll find a wake of destroyed vehicles, destroyed buildings and a flimsy storyline all working together to provide the audience with an action-packed experience that showcases Dwayne Johnson’s bulging muscles and Jason Statham’s fighting prowess. Strap yourselves in, check your brain at the door and enjoy this year’s must-see action extravaganza that pays homage to classic 80s and 90s muscle action, only with bigger and crazier action sequences.