Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw is the first spinoff in the long-running Fast & Furious franchise. In this film, unlikely allies Luke Hobbs (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) and Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) must team up with Deckard’s estranged sister Hattie (Vanessa Kirby) to stop a super soldier named Brixton Lorr (Idris Elba) from unleashing a virus that can kill billions of people. I’ll admit that the only other Fast & Furious movie I’ve seen so far is 2017’s The Fate of the Furious (or F8 as I like to call it) but Hobbs and Shaw were some of the most interesting characters in that numbered entry, so I welcomed the possibility of a spinoff featuring them. Thankfully, Hobbs & Shaw delivers on almost everything I expected it to deliver on.
I’ll get the plot out of the way right now because no one going into this movie is expecting a compelling story. What we get is a typical “save the world” plot that feels too cliched even when it doesn’t take itself seriously. I was hoping that this movie would lean more into self-parody territory, given the Fast & Furious franchise’s evolution from Point Break knock-off to “taking on a cyber-genetically enhanced killing machine controlled by a shadowy organization.” Then again, that premise alone could be considered parody-like.
I do like how Hobbs & Shaw tries to separate itself from the main Fast & Furious entries, mainly because the title character will most likely never appear in another main entry and will have to settle with this spin-off series within the same universe. Thankfully, a theme that carries over into this movie from the core franchise is the idea of family. One subplot in Hobbs & Shaw is how Hobbs needs to make amends with his Samoan family with whom he had a falling out years ago, and I love how The Rock uses this storyline to showcase his own Samoan heritage. It’s another example of how diversity factors into this franchise’s multi-billion-dollar success.
Another reason Hobbs & Shaw mostly succeeds lies in its cast of fun characters, another staple of the Fast & Furious franchise. Johnson and Statham are of course the heart of this film as the two title roles and their chemistry is on-point whenever they’re bickering at each other or working together. Part of me wonders if The Rock wrote or improvised any of his dialogue because his professional wrestling background likely helped with the frequent and hilarious trash talk aimed at Statham. Given the mutual respect both characters developed at the end of F8, however, I find it weird they hate each other at the start of this movie. Maybe it was just an excuse for more back-and-forth between the two leads?
A new addition to this franchise that felt much welcomed is Vanessa Kirby as Deckard’s sister Hattie Shaw. I really liked Kirby in last year’s Mission: Impossible—Fallout and loved her as Princess Margaret in the first two seasons of The Crown, so I was happy that she held her own against the two male leads of Hobbs and Shaw without falling into the damsel in distress trope. Although I wish the movie didn’t force a romance between Hattie and Hobbs that ultimately goes nowhere, I still hope that she appears in future Fast and Furious installments, specifically the all-female spinoff that was announced this January.
One character in Hobbs & Shaw that disappointed me, however, is its villain Brixton Lorr. Charlize Theron’s Cipher brought something innovative to F8 as a Bond villain-type super hacker powerful enough to program a literal wave of cars across New York City. Brixton, while similarly cartoonish, is a typical “kill most of humanity to save it” villain whose presence is elevated by Idris Elba’s likable charm. Eiza González is also underutilized as super gangster Madame M who is dropped out of the movie as quickly as she gets introduced. Fortunately, Hobbs & Shaw features several surprising cameos that I sincerely hope are not regulated to one-offs for this franchise.
Obviously, Fast & Furious fans come to these movies for the over-the-top action sequences and Hobbs & Shaw is no different. The five-minute action scene that sets up the story is okay, but it’s when we meet Hobbs and Shaw that the movie truly begins to captivate. Director David Leitch, who co-directed the first John Wick before working solo on Atomic Blonde and Deadpool 2, doesn’t lay out all of his cards right away and instead builds to the craziness associated with this franchise.
Although none of the sequences in Hobbs & Shaw are quite as gloriously ridiculous as the wave of cars or submarine chase from F8, they’re still just entertaining and creative enough to keep my eyes peeled on the screen. Leitch excels more at the well-shot and well-choreographed hand-to-hand fight scenes, which makes sense given his origins as a stunt performer. Hobbs & Shaw also appropriately demonstrates the title characters’ separate fighting styles: Hobbs is heavier with his combat skills while Shaw proves quicker and more agile. The two-hour and fifteen-minute runtime can slow the movie down, especially during scenes where characters are just talking, but I never actually felt bored.
Verdict: 3.5 out of 5 Stars
Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw is exactly what fans have come to expect and love from this franchise. The charismatic leads, fun set pieces, and surprising amount of heart is what make this movie watchable. Truthfully, I might just prefer to see another movie with these two characters than another main entry with Vin Diesel.