Review - 'Hobbs & Shaw'
Hobbs & Shaw is the first spin-off in the immensely popular Fast and Furious franchise which is now nine films in and showing no signs of running out of gas. Did I think I would ever say that sequence of words ten years ago as I sat in the theater watching the underwhelming re-teaming of the original crew in Fast & Furious? No, but life works in mysterious ways.
Hobbs & Shaw follows, can you guess? Hobbs and Shaw (Dwayne Johnson/Jason Statham), as they reluctantly team up to take down Brixton (Idris Elba), an enhanced super soldier who is hell-bent on acquiring and releasing a deadly virus.
For me, spin-offs have to do at least two things to justify their existence alongside their big brothers/sisters. One: the film has to have a different feel and dynamic than the mainline series that spawned it, while also carrying over some of the flavor of its predecessors in its DNA. To that extent, the film succeeds. Two: It has to retroactively feel necessary to the grander story, while also not relying on the other films as a crutch. This is where Hobbs & Shaw falters a bit. I never got the sense that this story needed to be told, and by the end of it all I left the movie feeling exhausted and a bit empty. This leaves me a bit conflicted because if there’s one thing to spin-off from The Fast and the Furious franchise, it’s this, well, this or a Han origin story.
I think the idea of pairing Dwayne Johnson’s Hobbs and Jason Statham’s Shaw is about as solid as they come. Physically, Johnson and Statham are an excellent pairing and compliment each other well in the film’s myriad fight scenes. When they’re fighting, they’re never boring to watch because each has a different approach to taking down the bad guys. Statham is stealthy, efficient and kick-boxy, while Johnson has cannons for arms, and generally only needs a single well-aimed punch to take a guy down, but he’s slow and lumbering. It’s a fun dynamic that is capitalized on throughout most of the film. Then we get to the banter, and boy is there a lot of it. Too bad, because most of it falls pretty flat for me. The jokes that pervade most of the script are lame, below-the-belt jabs akin to the types of gags I would have expected from my juvenile high school buddies. Do you enjoy watching two grown men denigrate each others’ lack of endowment numerous times? Or liken each others’ faces to ball-sacks? If the answer is “Yes!” then you’ll be laughing your pants off throughout the entire run-time, but for me, that doesn’t quite cut it. I know this film isn’t exactly trying to aim too high when it comes to the dialogue, but I was expecting better banter from these two huge personalities. It’s not all bad though, there is one undeniably hilarious moment involving the two leads suiting up in disguises and boarding a plane.
While Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham strike formidable poses and do a passable job of heading the film despite their lacking comedic chops, the real winners here are Vanessa Kirby as Hattie and Idris Elba as Brixton. Kirby solidifies herself as an excellent action heroine and gets the wittiest lines of the bunch. She also believably holds her own against the boys in many of the fight scenes. I was pleasantly surprised that she actually receives just about as much screen-time as both Statham and Johnson. Not to be outdone, Idris Elba is probably the most intimidating villain to come along in the Fast and Furious universe to date, and for once, feels like a true threat for our muscle-bound heroes.
Though the actors try their best, the real star of this film is, of course; the action. David Leitch, stuntman-turned-director of John Wick, Deadpool 2 and Atomic Blonde, is adept at executing high-energy action sequences and knows exactly where to put the camera for full audience immersion. There are some shots here that, whether assisted by CGI or not, are extremely impressive. One car chase involving a Hobbs, Shaw and Hattie speeding down the streets of LA in a McLaren while Brixton gives chase in a shape-shifting motorcycle is particularly heart-stopping and nearly enough to justify the price of admission alone.
Still, great action sequences and charismatic leads do not a good movie make unless you have a compelling story to back it all up. This one doesn’t. There’s a McGuffin that Hobbs and Shaw are forced to team up to go and get, case closed. It’s a very simple, and quite frankly, boring plot that for some reason is stretched to a butt-numbing two-hours-and-twenty-minutes. I know it’s only there to carry us from one action sequence to the next, but it wouldn’t have been hard to make it a little more interesting. There are even teases at a huge reveal throughout the film that gave me some hope that there was a higher purpose to the proceedings, but said reveal never happens! It’s simply a carrot that’s dangled in front of you and then taken away right before you can take a bite. Oh, and if you haven’t watched the end of Game of Thrones, this movie will spoil it for you in a post-credits scene instead of giving you something interesting to chew on between now and the next release.
Hobbs & Shaw is a consistently high-adrenaline thrill ride, but it’s an unnecessarily long film that never exceeded my expectations and isn’t nearly as clever or funny as it thinks it is.