‘Hobbs and Shaw’ Gives the ‘Fast and Furious’ Franchise a Fresh Coat of Paint
It appears that Dwayne Johnson and Vin Diesel’s alleged divorce is official with the two stars taking split custody over the “Fast and Furious” franchise. Eager to prove that he can carry the torch on his own, Johnson has exploded out of the gate with the elaborately titled “Fast and Furious Presents: Hobbs and Shaw.” In expanding the series’ surprisingly robust continuity, the film adamantly distances itself from its predecessors. It leans on the infectious rough and tumble chemistry Johnson shared with Jason Statham in “The Fate of the Furious.” However, Johnson has no interest in telling a small scale story fit for a spin-off. Bringing in up-and-coming action maestro David Leitch to direct, “Hobbs and Shaw” aspires to be the most outlandish “Fast and Furious” movie yet.
The movie opens with MI6 operative Hattie Shaw (Vanessa Kirby) stealing a cataclysmic chemical weapon called the Snowflake. She narrowly escapes the clutches of cybernetically altered mercenary, Brixton (Idris Elba), injecting the deadly formula in her arm to delay his plot to mass produce the weapon and cause, as he puts it, “genocide, schmenocide.” Now on the run, Hattie is forced to work alongside agent Luke Hobbs (Johnson) and her estranged brother Deckard Shaw (Statham) who hold a comically cruel grudge against each other.
Brixton learns of this alliance and immediately attacks, framing the duo for his crimes and barricading himself inside a heavily armed fortress. Hobbs and Shaw find themselves with no time to waste, as Hattie gets closer to death with every second the Snowflake remains inside her. To clear their names and save Hattie’s life, they must put their schoolyard feud aside and work together, which is easier said than done.
All of the best moments in “Hobbs and Shaw” stem from the electrically aggressive dynamic between its leads. These characters have become shamelessly exaggerated manifestations of Johnson and Statham’s seasoned celebrity personas. Hobbs speaks almost exclusively in cocky punchlines that could’ve been pulled straight from Johnson’s Instagram posts. Shaw allows Statham to continue along the more comedically self-aware path he began to forge in “Spy.” It could have quickly become infuriating to watch these two hurl absurd third-grade insults at each other but it miraculously never does.
However, the real break-out here is Kirby. Expanding upon her similar role in “Mission: Impossible: Fallout,” she slides into the mantle of action hero with ease. She also acts as the perfect straight woman to counterbalance our two lovable lugs. Her budding romantic chemistry with Johnson sizzles and her embattled relationship with her brother leads to some solid character work between the action scenes. Unfortunately, Idris Elba finds himself short-changed in a standard villain role. He has to chew through the scenery to infuse his route dialogue with personality. Eiza González also finds herself underutilized and over-sexualized in a thankless role as an arms dealer.
Fresh off of “Deadpool 2,” Leitch fearlessly leaps into the superhero style combat. He is at his most dynamic during the large scale set pieces. All of the vehicular anarchy is soaked in with enough over the top money shots to make Evel Knievel blush. He gets particularly creative with Brixton’s enhanced agility. There are some jaw-dropping moments as the super-soldier uses his magnetic motorcycle to duck and weave through the car chases. However, Leitch struggles with fitting his signature bone-crunching hand to hand brawls into a PG-13 mold. These scuffles are well-choreographed, especially when they make use of Statham’s penchant for environmental kills. However, the editing is often choppy to avoid showing too much carnage which lessens the impact of several moments that are presented as show-stoppers.
“Hobbs and Shaw” comes just as advertised. It is a two hundred million dollar sitcom with Johnson and Statham spewing out corny jokes with Schwarzenegger-level conviction. Leitch makes sure that it doesn’t skimp on the action and delivers a rock-solid buddy flick. Even at a somewhat exhausting two hours and fifteen minutes, “Hobbs and Shaw” proves that silly blockbusters can still speed to the finish line in a summer where most have crashed and burned.
“Fast and Furious Presents: Hobbs and Shaw” opens Aug. 2 in theaters nationwide.