Director: David Leitch
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Idris Elba, Vanessa Kirby, Helen Mirren
Runtime: 2 hrs 16 mins
Rating: PG13 (Some Violence and Coarse Language)
Released By: UIP
Opening Day: 1 August 2019
Synopsis: Ever since hulking lawman Hobbs (Johnson), a loyal agent of America's Diplomatic Security Service, and lawless outcast Shaw (Statham), aformerBritish military elite operative, first faced off in 2015’s Fast & Furious 7, the duo have swapped smack talk and body blows as they’ve tried to take each other down. But when cyber-genetically enhanced anarchist Brixton (Idris Elba) gains control of an insidious bio-threat that could alter humanity forever—and bests a brilliant and fearless rogue MI6 agent (The Crown’s Vanessa Kirby), who just happens to be Shaw’s sister —these two sworn enemies will have to partner up to bring down the only guy who might be badder than themselves. Hobbs & Shaw blasts open a new door in the Fast universe as it hurtles action across the globe, from Los Angeles to London and from the toxic wasteland of Chernobyl to the lush beauty of Samoa.
Vin Diesel may be the undisputed icon of the ‘Fast and Furious’ franchise, but the friendantagonist pairing of Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham is undeniably the highlight of the last two ‘Fast and Furious’ movies. More than the contrary nature of their titular characters – one’s a quintessential lawman and the other’s a career criminal – it was the way Johnson and Statham traded barbs at each other that truly lit up the screen.
That same combative dynamic is very much alive and present in this spinoff, which is pretty much built on their sheer chemistry. Indeed, almost every scene with Hobbs (Johnson) and Shaw (Statham) plays on the tension between them, be it arguing over how to save the world or chasing the villain down 40 or so floors of a London skyscraper. Most of it is wittily scripted by ‘Fast and Furious’ veteran Chris Morgan, together with co-writer Drew Pearce, but there are also moments where you can clearly tell that Johnson and Statham are having a ball of a time improvising with the material.
If two hours of that sounds like overkill, we’re here to reassure you that it isn’t; on the contrary, their banter lends the proceedings some much-needed levity, especially when everything else is so clearly and often mind-numbingly over-the-top. Like ‘The Fate of the Furious’, ‘Hobbs and Shaw’ forces both of them to work together, this time to stop the cyber-genetically enhanced mercenary Brixton Lore (Idris Elba) from getting his hands on some super-virus nicknamed ‘Snowflake’, which could spell the very end of the world.
Never mind that the CIA has apparently left such an earth-shattering mission to just two men; ultimately, the plot is no more than a device to have Hobbs and Shaw engage in some ‘Fast and Furious’-style jaw-dropping vehicular mayhem while badgering and bickering with each other. That the rogue MI6 agent, whom Hobbs and Shaw are first recruited by the CIA to hunt down, so happens to be Shaw’s sister Hattie (Vanessa Kirby) is yet another half-baked detail you need overlook, by keeping the larger objective of high-octane action comedy in mind.
And in that respect, Leitch surely doesn’t disappoint. There are plenty of fights throughout the movie, with those featuring Johnson specifically tailored to emphasise his hulking mass, and those with Statham to take advantage of his lithe physique. Even as Kirby gets to do a fair share of fighting (and does so pretty impressively), the focus is undoubtedly on Johnson and Statham, and some of the more memorable fisticuffs sees both of them ribbing each other while beating up the bad guys (if you’ve seen the trailer, you’ll know what we mean). It is not hard to guess that the climactic scene has them fighting together against Brixton, a three-way fight filmed in slo-mo in the rain, and as contrived as that may be, the sight of Johnson and Statham complementing each other’s kicks and punches is undeniably rousing.
Between these intimate one-against-few fights, Leitch lives up his movie to its parent franchise’s template with three elaborate sequences that defy the very laws of physics. There is a thrilling chase down the streets of London with Statham driving a MacLaren and Brixton on a self-driving motorcycle that bends and folds around tight turns; there is a daring raid on Brixton’s lab at an industrial facility in Ukraine, which sees our titular duo outrace crumbling smokestacks on a military-grade truck; and last but not least, there is the final showdown at Hobbs’ Samoan homeland, that has four custom hefty hot rods forming a chain to hold down a jumbo helicopter while racing down the coasts of Samoa, with the inclusion of a ‘Tokyo Drift’ off one of its cliffs for good measure.
Criticise them for being outrageous for all you want, but that is the very appeal of the ‘Fast and Furious’ movies, and Leitch knows better than to deviate from formula; in fact, he milks each of these set-pieces for maximum outrageous thrills and fun, and has two absolutely game players in Johnson and Statham. Oh yes, ‘Hobbs and Shaw’ is intended as no less than outsized summer popcorn entertainment, with Johnson even calling in Ryan Reynolds (as a former colleague who may have been a little too close to Hobbs when they were partners) and Kevin Hart (as an air marshal who wants in on the action) to dip in the fun in a couple of glorified (but uncredited) cameos.
As long as you know what you’re getting into, ‘Hobbs and Shaw’ is one heck of a rollercoaster ride. The action is wild, even spinning off the rails every now and then, and the atmosphere is never less than exuberant, thanks to the magnetism of Johnson and Statham. There is the usual pathos about family thrown in, as both Hobbs and Shaw find themselves making amends with the people whom they care about deeply. Even though it runs a little too indulgent at two-and-a-quarter hours, you probably won’t mind the company of Johnson and Statham for longer – after all, few buddy pairings are as enjoyable, infectious and endearing.
(Every bit as silly, outrageous and fun as the 'Fast and Furious' movies, this spinoff coasts on the chemistry of Johnson and Statham, and its director David Leitch's flair for sheer adrenalised thrills)