When MI6 agent Hattie Shaw (Vanessa Kirby) is wrongfully implicated in the theft of a dangerous programmable bio-weapon that could result in a global catastrophe, bitter rivals Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and Hattie’s brother Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) are forced to work together so that they can recover Hattie and the bio-weapon and prevent the shadowy organisation Eteon, headed up by the cybernetically enhanced Brixton Lore (Idris Elba), from using the weapon themselves.
There was a time, not too long ago actually, when I had never seen a Fast & Furious film – it was just one of those franchises that I seriously doubted that I would become a fan of and was more than happy to just leave it alone, but then Netflix made most of the franchise available to watch (excluding #7, which I rented) so I started from the beginning and have since watched all of the entries in the popular series. And on the whole, I have found it to actually be a decent and entertaining film franchise, ranging from the brilliant (The Fate of the Furious, Fast Five, The Fast and the Furious) to the forgettable (Fast & Furious, 2 Fast 2 Furious) and then waaaay down to the bottom of the barrel with Tokyo Drift – one of the worst, most hilariously awful films that I’ve ever seen in my life.
But what about this latest “spin-off” film? The first Fast and Furious film that I’ve ever seen in the cinema? Well, it’s pretty good – a cut above the aforementioned forgettable entries but not doing enough to compete with the “heavyweights” of the franchise. In a nutshell, the story’s completely disposable and there are some issues with some of the fight scenes but the setpieces entertain, the central actors make it work, and the rivalry between Hobbs and Shaw continues to be a source of solid entertainment and laughs.
Getting the negatives out of the way first, Hobbs & Shaw‘s biggest weakness is its story, which is quite weak, often nonsensical, and ultimately disposable; at this point in the Fast and Furious franchise, we’ve come to expect crazier stunts, action setpieces and generally bats**t crazy stuff and with more of a focus on all of this, the stories have become less and less important over time, most of the time revolving around the central crew teaming up to stop a bad guy/dangerous organisation from obtaining a McGuffin device and taking over the world and this film is no different – giving us a story that revolves around a virus that both sides are fighting over and a mysterious organisation who have their own agenda. In this case, the bad guys are Eteon and they want the bio-weapon because they believe that they can use it to actually help the world or something. I’m not quite sure – it didn’t make much sense and I wasn’t paying much attention! Basically, they’re eerily similar to Charles Dance’s outfit in this year’s Godzilla: King of the Monsters – they want to annihilate the world’s population in a misguided attempt to actually help out. So audiences shouldn’t go in expecting a smart and fresh plot (it’s a Fast and Furious film – why would they?) and with Hobbs & Shaw, the story is particularly throwaway. The writing doesn’t always work either because the one-liners and putdowns don’t always hit their mark and scenes involving certain celebrity cameos go on for a bit too long and only serve to slow the film down.
Despite being helmed by David Leitch, who has proven himself adept with filming fight sequences with films like John Wick, Atomic Blonde and Deadpool 2, certain fight scenes at the beginning and end of the film are far too frantic and hastily put together, using shakycam a bit too often and including dark colours so it’s sometimes hard to see just what’s going on and who’s fighting who onscreen. And finally, I’m of the opinion that the action scenes and high octane sequences don’t excite and thrill in the same way that other F&F films have (excluding a sequence at the very end of the film) and although Hobbs & Shaw provides enough entertainment for audiences, the action isn’t as memorable as it could have been. Which is something I’ve said about all those other David Leitch projects – they’re directed well and they often look good but other than that, they don’t personally grip and thrill me as much as they should have.
But negatives aside, Hobbs & Shaw still provides a perfectly entertaining cinema experience and above all else, it succeeds through the participation of its central players. The tumultuous relationship/rivalry between powerful agent Luke Hobbs and former assassin Deckard Shaw was a much appreciated aspect of Furious 7 and The Fate of the Furious so it makes sense that the powers-that-be would capitalize on this by giving the popular characters their own spin-off and here, the continuation of their “frenemy” relationship is again a joyous thing to witness and it seems as though around 80% of this film simply involves the two characters bickering and constantly launching insults at each other! And in the titular roles, The Rock and The Stath really look like they’re having fun and they give the film a lot of life and laughs, diving into the action like the seasoned pros that they are and really sinking their teeth into the material, continuing to show the wonderful chemistry and charisma that they demonstrated in previous films.
We also have the impossibly good looking
Black Superman Idris Elba who plays the main antagonist and in this film, he’s his usual charismatic self and has fun chewing the scenery, participating in the insane action sequences, and making lines of dialogue that would’ve sounded ridiculous in the hands of a lesser actor perfectly pleasing to the ear; his character is pretty standard for a film like this but Elba is always a joy to watch on screen and he’s definitely more memorable than some of the other F&F villains. In fact, come to think of it, besides Charlize Theron and Jason Statham, has there ever been a truly remarkable F&F antagonist? In supporting roles, Eddie Marsan is actually miscast as an important scientist, Baby Driver‘s Eiza Gonzalez isn’t on screen for nearly enough time, striking though she is, and Helen Mirren works wonders by reprising her role (thankfully toned down this time, though) as Deckard and Hattie’s criminal mum.
This film also has a few big name cameos but honestly, as mentioned before, their scenes don’t really work because they’re just TOO recognisable and the unfunny parts of the film that they’re in simply stop the film in its tracks and don’t add anything. Besides screaming “BIG NAME CAMEO HERE!”
But let’s talk about the MVP of the film: Vanessa Kirby. Despite never having seen any films that she’s appeared in before, she truly impressed me here because as Hattie, she’s tough, confident, funny, sexy, and she genuinely proves herself equal to both Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham, her character calling both of them out when they squabble all of the time and constantly showing how remarkable of a fighter she is. Kirby really is the whole package as her acting is absolutely spot on, she has excellent chemistry with both Johnson and Statham (especially with Johnson as their flirtatious back-and-forth exchanges and sexual chemistry is a massive asset), she utterly convinces in the fight sequences and overall, Hattie Shaw is probably the best female character to ever have graced a Fast and Furious film.
Elsewhere, despite having an irrelevant story, Hobbs & Shaw still manages to entertain and provide cinemagoing pleasure through its adrenaline fuelled action sequences and in particular, an early scene involving a street chase and the final fist fight provide a lot of the thrills but above all, a scene that involves a helicopter, a line of cars and Dwayne Johnson channelling Captain America is the highlight of the film as, though it’s completely ridiculous and impossible, it’s incredibly exciting and it’s in scenes like this, where it all goes balls-to-the-wall insane, where the franchise lifts off into the stratosphere as it gives the audience something they haven’t seen before.