“Hobbs & Shaw” is the first spin-off film from the “Fast & Furious” franchise to finally come along. It’s the ninth film in the series, and the first to focus purely on only a few of the characters, Luke Hobbs (played by Dwayne Johnson) and Deckard Shaw (played by Jason Statham). It’s more of a traditional spy caper in the flavor of “James Bond” or “Jason Bourne” than the heist or high-stakes keep away normally found in the regular films.
The film still holds to the nearly-farcical levels of unrealistic action and stunts that have become the trademark set pieces of the “Fast & Furious” films, but it’s made enjoyable by the innate chemistry of the two Best Frenemies and the fun they seem to be having in making this kind of over the top chase. The two are brought together after MI-6 agent gone rogue and presumed dead, Brixton Lore (played by Idris Elba) starts to chase after Hattie Shaw (Deckard’s sister and played by Vanessa Kirby) when she injects herself with a population-killing virus. Luke and Deckard then have to catch up to Hattie and defeat Lore.
It had actually been Deckard himself that had shot Lore in the head (and why Lore had been presumed dead). Enter secret evil corporation, Eteon, which healed Lore and also integrated into him superhuman high-tech bionics and AI making him as is commented in the film, “Black Superman”. It’s Lore with his electric superbike which would not look out of play on the game grid in Tron that has some of the best stunt scenes in the film.
Where “Hobbs & Shaw” fails is that it is so far removed from the storylines of the regular Fast & Furious films, and emulating spy heists, it begs not to be compared with the films in its own franchise, but those of its adoptive genre. Its storyline closely parallels “Mission: Impossible II,” and in the last decade and with more those films have leaned into intense pseudo-realistic stunts, where Hobbs and Shaw are something more closely akin to “Moonraker.”
In the same vein, with films like “John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum” running around, the final battle in Hobbs & Shaw feels more like something from an almost quaint bygone era. Granted, there’s still the charm of Johnson’s eyebrow and Statham’s own not-inconsiderable smoky gaze, and the two of them are clearly having a ball of a time playing around in this goofball sandbox. The final act takes the bad guys to Hobbs’ home on Samoa where he intends to make his last stand alongside his extended family. Looking almost like a live-action version of Moana, they pull out the family heirlooms (native Maori weapons / clubs and spears), and the fight goes native.
The film is fun, especially for those who enjoy the “Fast & Furious” style of high-camp action. This one might go a bit too far towards the silly, especially when it seems intent on trying to match up with other films’ action sequences. While it delivers what it promised, it lets down on where it could have lifted it to a new level.
“Hobbs & Shaw” is rated PG-13 and now playing in theaters everywhere.
Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5