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Hobbs & Shaw Review

August 2, 2019 | Posted by Jeffrey Harris
Fast and Furious Presents Hobbs & Shaw Image Credit: Universal Pictures
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Hobbs & Shaw Review  

Directed By: David Leitch
Written By: Chris Morgan and Drew Pearce
Runtime: 135 minutes
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for prolonged sequences of action and violence, suggestive material, and some strong language

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson – Luke Hobbs
Jason Statham – Deckard Shaw
Idris Elba – Brixton Lore
Vanessa Kirby – Hattie Shaw
Helen Mirren – Queenie Shaw
Eiza Gonz├ílez – Madame M
Eddie Marsan – Professor Andreiko
Eliana Sua – Sam Hobbs
Cliff Curtis – Jonah Hobbs
Lori Pelenise Tuisano – Sefina Hobbs
Rob Delaney – Agent Loeb
Roman Reigns – Mateo

The Fast & Furious film franchise expands with its first official spinoff film, Hobbs & Shaw. That’s unless fans are specifically counting the worst installment of the franchise, The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, which was technically a sequel on paper. Hobbs & Shaw transplants DSS agent Luke Hobbs (Johnson) and former heavy-turned-rogue mercenary Deckard Shaw (Statham) into their own dual-adventure. Shaw and Hobbs are thrust into a conflict where the fate of the world hangs in the balance. They are the only ones up for the task if they can finally stop their petty squabbling.

Despite murdering Han Lue in cold blood and various unsavory terrorist activities, it seems Shaw’s actions in The Fate of the Furious were enough to get him off any pesky watch lists. Now, he appears to offer his special set of skills as a freelancer to intelligence agencies. However, Shaw and his old rival, Luke Hobbs, are soon unwittingly put on the case to track down a deadly, potentially world-ending virus. At the center of the theft is none other than Shaw’s estranged sister, MI6 agent Hattie Shaw (Kirby). Her team’s op to recover the deadly virus went fubar due to the intervention of one Brixton Lore (Elba). Brixton is a genetically enhanced super-soldier operating for a clandestine techno-terrorist organization named Eteon, who wants the virus for nefarious purposes.

Brixton has received special cyber implants and upgrades from Eteon, making him more than a match for both Hobbs and Shaw. Not to mention, his organization has incredibly deep pockets, unlimited resources, and more control over the world’s media than Disney, News Corp, Twitter, Google, and the Illuminati combined. Hattie was forced to inject herself with the virus to keep it out of Eteon’s hands. With the clock ticking until the virus goes critical and their reputations disgraced, Hobbs and Shaw have to band together to save Hattie and protect the free world, if they can just learn to get along that is.

Watching the last two installments of Fast & Furious franchise, the vibe was already there that these films were less about street-racing outlaws and heists and more about uber-machismo action heroics, bordering on live-action cinematic versions of G.I. Joe. Heck, The Fate of the Furious had the Shaw brothers infiltrating a high-tech enemy aircraft using jetpack suits that do not exist in the real world and a chase sequence with a submarine armed with nuclear missiles and toyetic vehicles. The fact is that the franchise was already moving further into a comic book, 1980s action cartoon type of style. In many ways, The Fate of the Furious felt like the real G.I. Joe movie fans should’ve gotten 10 years ago. Hobbs & Shaw pushes that envelope about 20 steps even further. There’s even more of that comic book superhero, 1980s action cartoon-style insanity to be had here. In that sense, Hobbs & Shaw is a fun action romp.

Take Eteon for example. Eteon is basically two steps away from being Cobra in G.I. Joe or Talon in Overwatch, mixed in with some Elon Musk flair. Not to mention, Eteon pushes the franchise further into sci-fi territory, which is fine because the Fast & Furious movies were already gradually going in this direction. Elba always plays a good villain, and he’s clearly having fun here. Few actors can deliver the type of cheesy, cartoony dialogue Brixton Lore has, such as “bad guy,” with a straight face and still come off as charmingly charismatic as Idris Elba. The reason these types of bad guys work is because in a movie where the likes of Hobbs and Shaw are the action heroes, the bad guys need to be more than random, chop-shopping car thieves if they want to be viable threats. Hobbs and Shaw are larger-than-life characters. As a result, their antagonists need to be equally larger than life, if not more so.

As Hobbs and Shaw, Statham and Johnson push an antagonizing, buddy comedy relationship. The movie follows the action buddy comedy tropes playbook 101 to a T. Of course, they can’t get along and can’t stand each other at first, especially when Shaw recognizes a growing attraction between Hobbs and his sister. And of course, they have to put their differences aside and begrudgingly learn to work together. For the most part, Statham and Johnson play well off of each other. In terms of their action, they both utilize their own unique fighting styles. Johnson’s Hobbs is more of a tank, brute force type. Statham’s Shaw shows a bit more finesse with his hands and feet. Director David Leitch showcases their action talents well. Plus, the addition of Vanessa Kirby’s Shaw sibling to the mix brings a lot more fun to the story with her very blunt attitude.

Thematically, the film heavily focuses on the bonds of estranged family members and taking the steps to mend and reconnect those bonds. It’s seen through Deckard and Hattie’s relationship, and later in the film when the heroes are cornered with nowhere else to go, and Johnson seeks out his Samoan relatives, whom he hasn’t seen for 25 years. Aside from all the insane action sequences, from a thematic standpoint, there’s a nice sincerity in the family members finding the strength to find forgiveness for each other.

Where Hobbs & Shaw is less effective in those sincere moments is some clunky execution. One scene has Statham’s attempt at a somber, dramatic moment. When he’s supposed to be expressing remorse over the misdeeds in his life towards Hattie, he comes off as less than sincere. Truth be told, the franchise has never properly dealt with or addressed Shaw’s murder of Han. Considering his brother was alive and well in the last movie, his acts of vengeance depicted against the “family” in the previous Fast & Furious movies were in no way justified. Since Han was an ally to Hobbs at one time, the fact that Hobbs never brings the subject up himself is disappointing.

The film does push a sort of romance between Hattie and Hobbs. These days, it seems taboo to even have any type of romance, especially in superhero films. So, at least it does go somewhere. Unfortunately, Johnson and Kirby just seem to lack any burning chemistry to light up the screen.

Eiza Gonz├ílez is stunning and had some potential as a former flame for Shaw, Madame M. Her screen time is sadly very marginal, and she doesn’t have much to do other than a chance to have an extended spit-swapping session.

Elsewhere, writers Chris Morgan and Drew Pearce try a bit too hard to copy the Marvel Cinematic Universe formula. Considering that Drew Pearce co-wrote the highly flawed Iron Man 3, it’s no surprise some similar mistakes are repeated. There’s a lot of annoying sequel-baiting and setup in Hobbs & Shaw with very little payoff. This can work in the Marvel Cinematic Universe because the producers usually know how to deliver it in a satisfying way. And at the very least, they’ve earned the right to do it. This film sets up way too much with the hopes that there will be later films down the line. There is too much teasing and not enough delivery. The message is simple. If filmmakers are going to sequel-bait an audience that hard and tease an audience as hard as this movie does, there has to be a bit more to chew on for a certain subplot than what’s given.

While Johnson and Statham make for a good dynamic duo, there are a few comedic scenes that get dragged on a bit too long and don’t work very well. There’s one juvenile bit of comedic wordplay that worked well in one scene. It’s repeated later with significantly less impact and less originality than a tired Simpsons gag. Additionally, there are some uncredited cameos, which I won’t spoil here. Most audiences will probably appreciate these cameos. Considering how watching the trailers for Hobbs & Shaw almost feels like watching the entire movie in two minutes, it’s nice that these cameos were not not spoiled by the trailers. For clarification, this is not about WWE Superstar Roman Reigns, who is barely even in the film.

Back on point, one of the cameos is played a bit too much past the point of being funny and loses its novelty. It comes off like the filmmakers are performing some advance focus testing for future installments. If this is a hint at future spinoffs starring Hobbs and Shaw, hopefully, the filmmakers in charge come a little stronger next time. The film is stuffed with MCU-style credit cookies. Once again, if producers want to copy the MCU playbook, it can’t be half-baked. Otherwise, the product ends up like Universal’s previous failed attempt with the Dark Universe. If a movie is going to have credit cookies and gags, they need to be better and more humorous than what was given. The ratio here was off. Fast Five and Fast & Furious 6 understood how to execute this idea in a far superior fashion.

There is a sense with Hobbs & Shaw that Universal is desperate to have an MCU of its own after the one-and-done failure of getting the Dark Universe off the ground. There’s even a throwaway line of dialogue that quite possibly canonizes Fast and Furious with another action heist movie that was produced by another studio and featured Jason Statham. Maybe Universal Pictures should ask for Paramount’s permission to say Collateral is part of this cinematic universe as well.

As over-the-top and outrageous as some of the action scenes were, they are very entertaining, anchored by the unquestionable charisma of Johnson and Statham, not to mention Elba. Some of Leitch’s direction toward the end leaned a bit too much in that kind of slow-motion Matrix style. It could’ve used a bit more of that hard-hitting, gritty style similar to the stairwell fight scene from his previous effort, Atomic Blonde. Granted, this is a different type of movie, but rapid-fire editing in any action sequence is not always preferable. Case in point, Star Trek Beyond, where that type of editing style hindered a lot of the action scenes rather than benefit them.

Overall, Hobbs & Shaw is an entertaining, action-comedy romp. For fans of that genre, it more than delivers, even if it could’ve used a bit tighter plotting and editing. There is nothing wrong with suggesting some tighter plotting and editing for an action flick, even one as big as this.

The final score: review Good
The 411
Hobbs & Shaw is an overall fun action movie. It delivers on most of the high points, with some amusing banter and interplay between The Rock and Statham, and some crazy, over-the-top action sequences. Writers Morgan and Pearce try a bit too hard to emulate the MCU formula to the film's detriment. David Leitch is a solid director, but his editing and direction could've used a bit more restraint at times. The credit gags aren't even worth wading through the rather long credit rolls.