Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw (2019)

Hobbs & Shaw, the first spin-off feature from Vin Diesel’s family-centric Fast & Furious series, feels more like a live-action cartoon than it does a bona fide film. This could be because our heroes, rivals who are forced to work together — Dwayne Johnson’s brutish DSS agent, Luke Hobbs, and Jason Statham’s suave rouge military operative, Deckard Shaw — are more concerned with throwing insults at one another than they are in saving the world from a deadly virus; or maybe it’s because they somehow manage to survive every obstacle that comes hurling their way. Then there’s the villain of the piece, Idris Elba’s genetically engineered Brixton Lore, who introduces himself as the ‘bad guy’ and bangs on about being ‘Black Superman.’

‘This guy’s a real as*hole.’

Either way, the flick knows precisely what it is and delivers when it comes to big, dumb blockbuster fun, even managing to squeeze in some stuff about the value of family. It’s funny to think a franchise that initially started out about street racing has morphed into a superhero-esque series complete with post/ mid-credit scenes and a cybernetic super-soldier — what’s next: Hobbs & Shaw vs. the Martians?

The weakest part of this well-oiled engine is its script, penned by Drew Pearce, Iron Man 3 (2013), and series regular Chris Morgan, The Fate of the Furious (2017), which feels very scattered, the pic sending our bald badasses through the standard buddy-cop motions as they negate a paint-by-numbers story about a super-virus — the plot is almost a copy-and-paste from any of the Mission: Impossible titles. Thankfully, the whole thing’s elevated by robust action, great comic chemistry and amusing quips from our charismatic leads.

Cutting straight to the chase, the film opens when MI6 Agent Hattie (Vanessa Kirby) has a run-in with big, bad Brixton at a warehouse, where she injects herself with a lethal virus (codenamed Snowflake, engineered to target particular genomes) before skedaddling. It turns out that the mechanically enhanced baddie is working for a terrorist organization named Eteon, whose mysterious leader orders the half-man, half-metal monster to retrieve the bug from Hattie before it claims her life.

She’s got it under control.

We’re then introduced to Hobbs (who’s living in LA) and Shaw (residing in London) via a wonderful split-screen montage where viewers get to see the pair’s different morning routines side-by-side (Hobbs drinks raw eggs while Shaw fries them) along with their unique fighting techniques — Hobbs dishes out a ‘can of whoop-ass,’ while Shaw dubs himself as a ‘champagne problem.’ Hobbs and Shaw are eventually tracked down, then asked to pair up to retrieve the missing Snowflake virus despite hating one another’s guts, the latter having little choice in the matter seeing as Hattie is his younger sister, which makes the mission much more personal. Soon enough all three wind up together in a CIA skyscraper where they come face-to-face with their adversary (and scale the building, of course) before being framed, which sets them off on a race against the clock to extract the poison from Hattie’s body before it’s too late — for both her and the world.

If you’ve been following the Fast & Furious saga (which kicked off in 2001), you’d know that as these movies have gotten bigger, they’ve also become increasingly sillier, which doesn’t really matter if you’ve come this far and have enjoyed the ride. Directed by stuntman-turned-filmmaker David Leitch, who helms from a background in action — having directed Atomic Blonde (2017) and co-helmed John Wick (2014) — Hobbs & Shaw is off the chain bonkers; from a wild chase on the streets of London (where Brixton pursues our heroes and performs a number of death-defying feats on his Transformer-type motorbike), to a big-ass set piece in an industrial complex in the Ukraine (where the quarreling duo must travel to find an extraction device to save Hattie’s life), the action is balls-out over-the-top — the madcap finale, set in Johnson’s homeland of Samoa, sees the big fella lasso a helicopter with a metal chain then connect five cars as easily as LEGO blocks, the gang even forced to fight using tribal weaponry after learning that there are no more firearms left in the village.

Dangerous on their own … downright lethal together.

Seeing Johnson and Statham form an unlikely alliance is equally entertaining (it helps that I couldn’t give a flying fu*k about Han, the character that Shaw knocked-off a few movies ago). Fortunately, most of the comedy works (well, I thought it did anyway), from the absurd childish put-downs (Hobbs is referred to as ‘a giant tattooed baby’ while Shaw is likened to a Hobbit), to an amusing airport sketch involving a costumed disguise and an overly obscene cover name — heck, if you’ve always wanted to see The Rock compliment an old lady on her babushka, this is the movie for you!

Just on Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, it’s great to see such a tough alpha male depicted as a dedicated, loving single father to his daughter, played here by Eliana Sua, who replaces Eden Estrella from the previous two outings. And while the movie’s last act trek to Samoa basically comes out of the blue (there’s literally no set up for it at all), it’s this portion that feels the freshest, and really fits into Fast & Furious’ ‘importance of family’ mantra, this exotic stop-over (Johnson paying homage to his Samoan culture) highlighting some of the country’s unique rituals whilst expanding the series’ reach with Polynesian representation — newcomer Lori Pelenise Tuisano, who plays Luke’s take-no-sh*t mother Sefina, is terrific, while Johnson’s real-life cousin, wrestler Joe ‘Roman Reigns’ Anoai, gets a small part as one of Hobbs’ brothers, Mateo.

‘I’ve got gadgets and gizmos aplenty …’

Really, the entire cast is rock solid, everyone clearly having a great time and it shows. Leads Johnson and Statham tap into their most bankable personas and deliver the self-aware banter, male eye candy and bare-knuckle beat-downs the brand is known for. For a series that’s been so macho — watching one of these movies is bound to increase your testosterone levels by at least 20% — it’s awesome to see the ravishing Vanessa Kirby, Mission: Impossible – Fallout (2018), duke it out with the men (she ain’t no damsel in distress), even going toe-to-toe with The Rock, at one point, who’s about three times her size. What’s more, Kirby gets a bunch of funny lines, shares a playful love-interest spark with Johnson, and looks like a real-life person, unlike the dolled-up Eiza González, Baby Driver (2017), who crops up in a brief cameo as an enigmatic billionaire fixer known as Madam M.

Speaking of cameos, there’s a ton of winning appearances here. Johnson’s mate Kevin Hart, Central Intelligence (2016), nails a couple of scenes as a clingy air marshal named Dinkley, who desperately wants to join the Hobbs and Shaw team, while Leitch’s pal Ryan Reynolds, Deadpool 2 (2018), looks to be relishing the role of Locke, the CIA agent who brings the case to Hobbs, and seems to have an oddly uncomfortable infatuation with the guy. Even Rob Delaney who played Peter in Deadpool 2 has a small part here. Additionally, Helen Mirren reprises her role as Queenie, the matriarch of the Shaw family, who was first revealed in 2017’s The Fate of the Furious. Finally, Eddie Marsan, Atomic Blonde (2017), is utterly nuts as Professor Andreiko, the scientist behind the Snowflake virus, while Cliff Curtis, The Meg (2018), makes a nice addition to the Fast family as Luke’s estranged brother, Jonah.

Cowboy up.

If low-blow insults, man-pecs, hot women, bombastic Diesel-less action, and CGI-drenched set pieces are your thing, you’re bound to have a ripper of a time with this crazy, frivolous blockbuster. It’s kinda outrageous to think that the wheels on this series have been spinning for almost twenty years, but I guess if these things keep getting bums on seats the studio will keep churning them out. I don’t know about you but I’m keen for the Hobbs & Shaw sequel teased here; with The Rock’s busy schedule, however, if we want to see another one of these team-ups quick smart, ‘daddy’s gotta go to work.’

3.5 / 5 – Great

Reviewed by Mr. Movie

Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw is released through Universal Pictures Australia