Directed by David Leitch
Written by Chris Morgan and Drew Pearce
One of the strengths of the Fast & Furious series is the ensemble. Over the years, the franchise has brought together a great set of actors, doing incredible things to grow and expand their chemistry as a “crew”, and that chemistry and camaraderie has gone a long way in making it the beloved series it is today, especially given the central themes of family and loyalty. So it only makes sense that after all this time, growing the cast, that there would be enough content there to create a spinoff with some of the more edge characters like Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and Shaw (Jason Statham). They’ve both been central to a few of the previous movies, but not only are they more incidental member’s of Dom’s crew, but their MO is also slightly different than what the main series has come to be known for. Also, Dwayne Johnson and Vin Diesel apparently hate each other, so it makes total sense for them to go separate ways and build off their beloved characters in seperate vehicles.
After the heist of a virus goes awry, a special agent Hattie (Vanessa Kirby) must inject herself with the virus to protect it from supervillain Brixton (Idris Elba), who appears to be genetically enhanced. Suspected of stealing it herself and betraying her team, Hattie is now on the run, looking to play keep away while also finding a way to get the virus out of her system before it’s too late. Enter Hobbs (Johnson) and Shaw (Statham), who are called on to help acquire the virus and save the world once more. The only twist for the two super agents who hate each other: they don’t know the other was contacted for the job, and now they must find a way to work together.
I don’t exactly know what I was expecting out of a Hobbs and Shaw spin-off movie, but this feels like pretty close to exactly what it should have been. It’s very much a spin-off movie, as it feels very much like a straight-forward action spy movie, and doesn’t share a lot of the same sensibilities with the main franchise in terms of the growth of the characters over the years, and especially the involvement of cool, fast cars. By focusing on what makes Hobbs and Shaw, Hobbs and Shaw the film really benefits from the specific abilities of Johnson and Statham as action stars and the butting heads we’ve come to love from the main series of these two characters. Really when you get to the bottom of it, these two are very similar, which is also why they seem to clash and hate each other, as opposed to becoming the best buds we know they’re destined to be.
By leaning on the strengths of its performers, Hobbs & Shaw is a character success. The action and the plotting seems to play second fiddle to just spending time watching these characters interact, Elba and Kirby included. The action and plot, as mentioned, is fairly straight-forward. The charm of these characters, and a few of the curveballs that get thrown in, like the involvement of both Ryan Reynolds and Kevin Hart, really lift an otherwise mediocre presentation into something that is immensely enjoyable. The chemistry between the two charismatic leads is electric, and makes the film is really funny one at times too, which helps cut through the seriousness of the plotting and action scenes. The filmmakers, once again led by writer Chris Morgan, know how to embed the comedy, including references to both The Italian Job and Johnson’s famed time as a professional wrestler.
But in addition to the comedy and charisma of the cast, the film leans heavily again on the themes of the franchise as a way to tie it in to the main series more tightly than it appears on the surface. Themes of family and loyalty abound, with more than a few well thought out twists which work quite well. It’s enjoyable to see the origins of Luke Hobbs, and see the motivations of Deckard Shaw revealed. It’s truly remarkable to add such performers as Idris Elba and Vanessa Kirby to the cast of this film and enhance that experience even more, even if Elba’s Brixton is a little generic as far as villains go. Hobbs & Shaw is ultimately a fairly standard action movie, but the elements I’ve mentioned which elevate its experience really show the strength of the cast and draw of the franchise to all the fans who hold it so dear. I would strongly recommend this to fans of Fast & Furious.