'Hobbs & Shaw'
Hobbs & Shaw spends its very extended 135 minutes revisiting the same beats, over and over. Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) is big and strong. Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) is small(er) and British. They’re frenemies who can barely stop bickering long enough to save the world.
This dynamic has worked well in previous tiny doses, but the longer version has the potential to be a mess. And don’t get me wrong; there are scenes in this Fast & Furious spinoff that will make you groan. But it’s a testament to the charms of Johnson and Statham that it’s also quite watchable; even as you slog through its very drawn-out conclusion, there’s enough action and excitement to justify the price of admission.
Your titular hunks are brought together yet again when mechanically enhanced criminal Brixton Lore (Idris Elba) attempts to steal a virus that’ll wipe out a huge chunk of the world’s population. He’s thwarted by Hattie Shaw (Vanessa Kirby), Deckard’s sister and an MI6 field agent. To stop Brixton and save the world, Hobbs and Shaw and Hattie must join forces and drive lots of cars and trucks and what appear to be modified dune buggies through increasingly dangerous terrain.
If you’re a fan of the Fast & Furious movies, you know the drill: cool vehicles, neat stunts, a lot of absurd fighting. And also a lot of Johnson being very strong and either holding heavy things together or leaping through the air with uncanny agility. Though they call Brixton “Black Superman” at one point, director David Leitch and screenwriters Chris Morgan and Drew Pearce make it very clear that Hobbs is the true Man of Steel.
One of the movie’s bigger issues is the editing, during action scenes and otherwise. Often, as Johnson drops a one-liner or embarks on an epic speech, Leitch and editor Christopher Rouse will almost instantly cut away to something else, causing various bits of dialogue to stop dead in their tracks. And the fight scenes are far too frenetic; movies like the John Wick series – oddly enough, Leitch co-directed the first one – have reinforced the value in sticking on a showdown and presenting it without jarring, jerky edits. Not here; for whatever reason, Leitch and Rouse have decided to bounce us around like we’re on a funhouse ride.
That said, we all came for Johnson and Statham, and they mostly don’t disappoint. They’re joined by a very game Elba – who does the best he can with a scowling, constantly thwarted bad guy – and Kirby, who thankfully isn’t totally bulldozed by her hyper-masculine costars. She’s very much in their shadow, both as sister and love interest, but holds her own enough to feel like a real character. Plus, there are more than a few cameos, most of which induce mild chuckles instead of guffaws but are ultimately fine. The quips may already feel dated – Game of Thrones references, come on – but again, if you’ve seen the Fast & Furious movies, you know the dialogue isn’t the draw.
The draw is a fun enough adventure and the chemistry between the two leads, which is there even if the writing doesn’t hold up. You wish there was more to their back-and-forth insults than “you’re large and dumb; you’re little and have a funny accent,” but they make it work this time around. I doubt Hobbs & Shaw 2 will be able to coast on a similar wave of goodwill, but for an action spinoff to a franchise that is inexplicably entertaining, this ends up being exactly what you’d expect.