Bloated & Crazier: "Hobbs and Shaw" dumb fun, until it feels like too much of a good thing
Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs and Shaw (2019)
Release Date: August 2, 2019 (Wide)
During “Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs and Shaw”—that is the official on-screen title, so we’re sticking to it—it’s easy to forget at times that this spin-off pairing supporting characters Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) supposedly still exists in the same grounded universe that all modestly started with underground street racing and car hijacking. What does remain consistent with the more recent installments in the series, though, is a bloated running time, plenty of globe-trotting, and absurdly over-the-top stunts and set-pieces that no longer deal in the laws of physics or reality. “Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs and Shaw” is what it is and does what it needs to do, until it isn’t and it doesn’t. It is decidedly dumb but actually not dumb enough.
Since the plot barely matters here, not much time needs to be wasted in explaining it. A deadly supervirus called “Snowflake” is developed by a terrorist organization and threatens to wipe out the world. MI6 agent Hattie (Vanessa Kirby) and her team attempt to retrieve the bio-threat, but cyber-genetically enhanced soldier Brixton Lore (Idris Elba) swoops in to kill Hattie’s team, save for her, and steal Snowflake. From there, federal agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and assassin-turned-mercenary Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), Hattie’s brother, are assigned to work together and track down the threat.
For a long time, director David Leitch (2018’s “Deadpool 2”) and screenwriters Chris Morgan, who’s been holding on to this franchise for six previous movies, and Drew Pearce (2018’s “Hotel Artemis”) know how not to take any of this souped-up, live-action cartoon seriously or to worry about trivial things (i.e. logic). It plays like a sillier “Mission: Impossible” movie where Hobbs and Shaw are more like superheroes sans masks or capes, until the film keeps not ending and suddenly decides to get a little bit serious since these movies have to be family affairs. Leitch, the ex-stunt double who co-directed the first “John Wick” and helmed “Atomic Blonde,” knows his way around an action sequence, expertly blocking and shooting most of them with clarity and enthusiasm. Things get blown up real well, and it can be fun, but there is never the high-wire tension of, say, “Furious Seven” (arguably still the best in the series). The action set-pieces that hold together the allegedly high-stakes plot and the ham-fisted relationship dramas are the only reason the film remains diverting for as long as it does. There’s a gloriously nutty sequence where Hobbs bare-hands it down a wire on the side of a skyscraper, and another in Samoa where Hobbs, on the back of a semi-truck driving around a seemingly endless and narrow cliffside road, attaches a chain to the bad guy's helicopter and pulls down on it.
Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham share an insult-heavy banter out of a buddy comedy that’s occasionally cheeky and fun, but sometimes, the jokes go on a few beats too long for one person’s patience to handle all the competing macho posturing and dick measuring. Even though Vin Diesel’s Dom gave Deckard Shaw a seat at his family table at the end of “The Fate of the Furious,” it’s still a head-scratcher that Shaw gets a free pass for murdering the beloved Han. A superstar in the making, Vanessa Kirby (2018's "Mission: Impossible - Fallout") is a much more captivating force to be reckoned with as Hattie, even if her character is mostly a pawn along for the ride but at least capable of taking care of herself. And then there’s Idris Elba, relishing in playing the T-1000-type Brixton, a self-proclaimed “Bad Guy” and “black Superman.” There are also two star cameos, one in a diner and another on a plane, that both start out amusing and then quickly wear out their welcome.
At 135 minutes, “Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs and Shaw” feels its length, as the pacing flags and the film never met a false ending it didn’t like. For a while, though, the film never tries being more than it is, until the third act. When the film finally gets to Hobbs' home base in Samoa, things get almost too grounded and touchy-feely for a little bit, carrying over the message of family ties, and become more self-serious and faux-substantive than the film has a right to be. What would seem like an end-of-the-summer action event ends up being rather forgettable and too much of a good thing.
Grade: C +