Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw (2019) Review
Hobbs & Shaw delivers plenty of laughs and spectacle with our two leads on sparkling form and a great villain in Idris Elba. It’s every bit as silly as you’re expecting so if you hate the other Fast & Furious movies then this likely won’t win you over. I’d go see it though for some awesome cameos and the imaginative set-pieces.
Plot: Ever since hulking lawman Hobbs (Johnson), a loyal agent of America’s Diplomatic Security Service, and lawless outcast Shaw (Statham), a former British military elite operative, first faced off in 2015’s Furious 7, the duo have swapped smack talk and body blows as they’ve tried to take each other down. But when cyber-genetically enhanced anarchist Brixton (Idris Elba) gains control of an insidious bio-threat that could alter humanity forever — and bests a brilliant and fearless rogue MI6 agent (The Crown’s Vanessa Kirby), who just happens to be Shaw’s sister — these two sworn enemies will have to partner up to bring down the only guy who might be badder than themselves.
Review: I have to admit I don’t love this series; as one of my friends said a while back the Fast & Furious movies are essentially Saturday morning cartoons filled with ridiculous set-pieces and nonsensical stories. There are so many of these movies now that I can’t tell them apart and I forget what has happened in each entry.
Hobbs & Shaw is the first spin-off for the series with Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham trading one-liners as they try to take down Idris Elba’s “Black Superman” Brixton. What made me want to see this movie was director David Leitch who worked on John Wick and also directed Atomic Blonde and Deadpool 2. As his background is in stunts he knows how to shoot action and even from the trailers you could see Hobbs & Shaw had a nice sense of style. In terms of set-pieces this movie doesn’t disappoint as it’s every bit as crazy and over the top as the other Fast & Furious films.
I would have liked it to be more grounded but I knew going in that wasn’t going to be the case. The first half is the superior part of the movie as the action is more close quarters with fight scenes and an impressive car chase through my hometown of Glasgow (which doubles for London). Keep your eyes open for one Daniel Bernhardt who gets to have a brief fist fight with Jason Statham which was one of my favourite scenes but we also have a quick flash of rising star Jean-Paul Ly in a blink or you’ll miss him role. There are several surprising cameos I knew nothing about going in so I won’t say anything as I want you to be as surprised as I was but it felt like they are building a whole new cast of characters seeing as Statham and Johnson aren’t really going to be part of the main series anymore… for now.
Our two leads have great chemistry on screen together and they clearly enjoy every moment making these movies and there are various points where you can see they are trying not to laugh. Vanessa Kirby is a welcome addition too as Shaw’s sister who can kick plenty of ass in her own way while also having time to flirt with Johnson.
Idris Elba brings his A game as the villain Brixton who is a far more interesting character than I expected as he is the type of bad guy who believes in what he was doing and had a genuine cause. It’s too bad the cause was completely batshit and would result in millions of people dead but hey, it’s important to believe in something…
The one elephant in the room fans of the series keep asking is why is Statham’s Deckard Shaw all of a sudden a good guy after he killed Han (Sung Kang)? It’s a good point but the writer of Hobbs & Shaw Chris Morgan has actually mentioned it stating that at one stage in this movie Shaw says “There’s things I’ve done that I have to make amends for” which relates to his murder of Han. He is apparently tortured by it and this movie is him starting to try and find redemption.
In an interview with /film Morgan said “Shaw is going to have one of the greatest arcs of the Fast franchise. It is something that we’ve been talking so long and so much about that we want to be able to devote enough time to it to make it really land. But his is an arc of redemption, of regret. You should just know, in terms of Justice for Han, nobody feels the need for that more than us. Especially Sung Kang as a friend, and we altered the entire timeline of the Fast universe to preserve for three additional movies. Believe me, we are the biggest fans, and I want to make sure that his stuff is resolved really well.” So it is going to get some kind of closure… some day. It’s a shame it isn’t explored more as it could have added a little more depth to the character and movie in general which has its moments of heart but is generally still an empty blockbuster.
Like most modern big budget movies Hobbs & Shaw tends to go on for far too long and they could have trimmed maybe 15 minutes from it although I’d be lying if I said I was bored for even one second.
Leitch is clearly a fan of old-school action as there are several nods to classic movies and during one scene in Samoa you can see posters for Cobra, 48 Hrs. and Lethal Weapon 3 in the background which made me nearly jump out of my seat. Despite the massive budget and action scenes this is at its core an old fashioned buddy movie with some genuinely amusing dialogue and at times if feels like it came straight out of the 80’s but with a few modern flourishes. It’s every bit as loud and brash as you’d expect and as much as I wanted to hate it for being so dumb I just enjoyed it for what it was – harmless fun. It almost feels like a Roger Moore era Bond movie and Brixton is certainly more like a Bond villain or henchmen with all his ridiculous technology.
Overall, I’ve waffled on a bit here but Hobbs & Shaw may be the best Fast & Furious movie to date; admittedly that is faint praise but Statham and Johnson are magnetic and there are some hilariously entertaining moments as well as impressive action scenes. If you’re looking for more realistic action then this isn’t for you but if you know what you’re in for going in then you may just have a blast.