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Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw Movie Review

Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw (2019) movie poster Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw

Theatrical Release: August 2, 2019 / Running Time: 133 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Director: David Leitch / Writers: Chris Morgan (story & screenplay); Drew Pearce (screenplay)

Cast: Dwayne Johnson (Luke Hobbs), Jason Statham (Deckard Shaw), Idris Elba (Brixton Lore), Vanessa Kirby (Hattie Shaw), Cliff Curtis (Jonah), Helen Mirren (Queenie), Eiza Gonzalez (Madame M), Eddie Marsan (Professor Andreiko), Eliana Su'a (Sam), Rob Delaney (Agent Loeb), Ryan Reynolds (Agent Locke - uncredited), Kevin Hart (Air Marshal Dinkley - uncredited)

 

Fast and the Furious is one of Universal's few dependable franchises, but two of its biggest and strongest stars reportedly don't get along very well.
That seems like the best explanation for why one of them gets spun off in Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw.

Luke Hobbs, a character played by franchise revitalizer Dwayne Johnson since 2011's Fast Five, gets his own tangential line here. The Shaw of the title is Deckard Shaw, a character Jason Statham has played since cameoing in Fast & Furious 6 (2013). But though Statham has historically resisted playing second fiddle, that is absolutely what he's doing here. They may technically be co-leads, but make no mistake, this is a vehicle for Johnson, who has clashed with Vin Diesel on past Fast movies to the point where they shot their few shared scenes separately on The Fate of the Furious.

Universal could have chosen between Johnson, one of the most beloved and bankable movie stars in the world right now, and Diesel, who along with the late Paul Walker has been the face of the franchise since its start in 2001. But that's a lose-lose scenario, so instead the studio has opted to have its cake and eat it too. Diesel will continue starring and producing the official series, while Johnson and Statham can presumably star and produce these as long as they want to and moviegoers want them to. Universal has turned one perennial franchise with disgruntled talent into a connected universe with minimum effort and creativity. As long as people show up to this spin-off, it's a genius move.

Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) are spun out of the Fast & Furious family into their own franchise in "Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw."

That might be the only genius thing about Hobbs & Shaw, a serviceable action-comedy in the vein of the original series, which has reinvented itself from street racing to more general action of heists and spies.

Hobbs and Shaw do not get along, having clashed on past adventures. But Hobbs, a U.S. DSS agent, and Shaw, a UK Special Forces agent turned mercenary, are tapped to collaborate on the case of an apparent rogue MI6 agent wielding a super dangerous virus called Snowflake. Making the case of special interest to Shaw is that the MI6 agent in question is Hattie (Vanessa Kirby), his younger sister.

Thinking on her feet, Hattie has injected herself with the deadly virus, which mercifully does not activate for days for reasons that can only be plot-motivated. She is targeted by a variety of authorities, but more pressingly by a techno-terrorist group called Etheon, which is led by Brixton Lore (Idris Elba), a man whose body has been given a number of mechanical upgrades that make him practically invulnerable. Hobbs calls him "The Terminator" and he's not far off.

After objecting vehemently to their shared assignment and exchanging personal barbs, Hobbs and Shaw put their talents together and align with Hattie. The three race to extract the virus from her before it activates, while its presence inside her may be the only thing keeping Brixton and Etheon from killing her.

The Fast & Furious franchise hasn't completely forgotten its automotive origins, as evidenced by a truck dangling from a helicopter in the Samoa-set climax of "Hobbs & Shaw."

Directed by David Leitch (Atomic Blonde, Deadpool 2), Hobbs & Shaw is clearly a polished studio action flick. While it's a buddy comedy at heart, it's no throwback and it takes the action seriously,
which is good because it's not terribly funny. It's also not as witty or exhilarating as Leitch's past two movies. But it doesn't have to be really. Fast & Furious has never been an intellectual or cutting edge enterprise. It's been a source of broadly appealing antics aimed at adrenaline junkies. And while the series has grown more sophisticated and agreeable with the likes of Justin Lin, James Wan, and F. Gary Gray at the helm, it's still never been something to chew on, debate, or dissect.

Leitch seems directly responsible for getting Ryan Reynolds to play an amusing unexpected role in a couple of scenes. Johnson, meanwhile, probably got repeat co-star Kevin Hart to perform two funny scenes in another unadvertised, uncredited extended cameo. Those turns are among the biggest and brightest surprises that Hobbs & Shaw has to offer. For a film with a $200 million budget, that's moderately concerning. But Hobbs & Shaw remains watchable and gently likable as a big budget, 2019 action flick with big screen cred.

It's not like Johnson has been making anything better than that lately (or ever) with pricey B-movies like Rampage and Skyscraper keeping him occupied in between Jumanji sequels. I've said it before and I'll say it again. People don't like Johnson for his acting or even his movies. They like him as a charismatic, entertaining, good-looking leading man. I can think of no other actor who's succeeded so much with such forgettable movies unworthy of anything but faint praise. But Johnson knows his brand and sticks to it and his approach has garnered him a net worth estimated at more than a quarter of a billion dollars. Without Johnson, Hobbs & Shaw would be less enjoyable and much less of a big summer tentpole. In fact, it probably wouldn't even exist, as "the Jason Statham vehicle" that once thrived at Lionsgate has seemingly gone extinct without a giant shark-sized high concept attached to it.

Leitch, screenwriter Chris Morgan (a Fast fixture since Tokyo Drift), and new-to-the-francise Drew Pearce (Iron Man 3, Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation, Hotel Artemis) do what they can to inject the proceedings with some imagination and excitement. It's never dull or boring, even as a prolonged climax set in Samoa challenges your bladder and pushes this well past a standard two hours. Johnson and Statham have decent odd couple chemistry, Elba is suitably menacing, and period piece-seasoned Kirby is most watchable in what could be a breakout role for her. As an end-of-summer piece of escapism, this isn't bad.

The only thing left to be seen is whether audiences will gobble up a movie whose title begins with "Fast & Furious Presents." The spin-off designation spares this some of the weight that comes from being a direct sequel, but that $200 million budget doesn't leave a great deal of room for dialed-down expectations.

Related Reviews:
Now in Theaters: Stuber The Lion King Once Upon a Time...in Hollywood
The Fate of the Furious The Fate of the Furious
Dwayne Johnson: Central Intelligence Skyscraper Rampage Pain & Gain Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle
Jason Statham: The Meg The Mechanic
Directed by David Leitch: Deadpool 2 Once Upon a Deadpool Atomic Blonde
Written by Drew Pearce: Iron Man 3 Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation

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Reviewed August 2, 2019.



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