Movies & TV

Review: 'Hobbs & Shaw' is an Agonizingly Predictable Chrome-Polished Movie

But the 136-minute film is still loaded with the slickest action sequences and car chases.
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The Fast & Furious franchise has come a long way from illegal racing on the streets of LA. One might actually say it’s kind of lost its way after having come so far. The latest film set in the Fast universe is a spin-off from the main franchise that always employed the words Fast, Furious, or both in its titles. Officially titled Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw, Hobbs & Shaw features the characters popularized by Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham, respectively, in a high stakes buddy cop adventure against a cybernetically supercharged and super sexy Idris Elba who’s always dressed in skintight, bulletproof leather. 

Photo by IMDB.
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Elba is Brixton Lore, a self-described black Superman who’s hunting down rogue MI6 agent Hattie Shaw, played by The Crown’s Vanessa Kirby, and the civilization-ending designer virus she managed to steal from his criminal organization. If it sounds nothing like a Fast & Furious movie, which for the most part has kept fast cars as an integral part of the story, it’s because it isn’t. Hobbs & Shaw takes everything that was ever good and fresh about the franchise and regurgitates it into a chrome-polished Hollywood product that is so agonizingly predictable it seems like director David Leitch was ticking boxes from a studio-mandated checklist. 

Photo by IMDB.
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Photo by IMDB.

It’s a shame because Leitch is a remarkably talented director, having been the uncredited half of the sleeper hit John Wick as well as the man who helmed the rowdy and riotous Deadpool 2. His keen eye is actually evident in every frame of the film, delightfully using split screens and jump cuts to narratively contrast the warm and fulsome Luke Hobbs against the cool and sophisticated Deckard Shaw. From introductory scenes in the warmly color graded Los Angeles and drearily desaturated blues and grays of London, Leitch makes the most of this study in contrasts. Unfortunately, despite its grandeur, the plot is so dreadfully pedestrian that everything becomes uninteresting midway through, if not sooner. 

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On paper, contrasting Hobbs and Shaw, breakout characters initially introduced as obstacles and antagonists for Dominic Toretto and his band of misfits, seems like a good idea. Johnson plays another iteration of his affably warm single dad role, complete with what seems to be contractually mandated eyebrow raises, while Statham plays yet another iteration of his cool and collected debonair badass, who’s an olive and a full head of hair short of James Bond. But both men are so toxically masculine that the initial amusement of their roast battle wears out its welcome very quickly. 

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It’s such an alpha male pissing contest throughout the film that you wonder if it wouldn’t be more interesting to have them kiss each other instead of going down the predictable route of pairing the head-scratchingly single nice guy Hobbs with the admittedly amazing Hattie Shaw. Kirby, who was an absolute delight as the White Widow in Mission Impossible: Fallout, is utilized to the fullest here, and is one of the highlights of an otherwise resoundingly dull debacle of a movie. Kirby’s Hattie Shaw holds her own in a testosterone-saturated field that even includes a pair of very surprising cameos that expand the Fast universe even further, adding more quirky characters and opening up more possibilities for the franchise. Although after seeing Hobbs & Shaw, that no longer sounds as exciting as it might have been. 

The film has an epic 136-minute runtime that’s loaded with the slickest action sequences and car chases, Brixton with his magical, self-balancing motorcycle and Shaw with his drifting McLaren 720S. The fight choreography is perfect, almost balletic, and the scenes are so over-the-top they should be leaving audiences jaws on the floor. Instead, audiences’ jaws will be on the floor in a massive yawn. The film basically fulfills every requirement of an action blockbuster but moves at such breakneck speed it forgets to pause for even the briefest moment of genuine reflection and drama that makes all other Fast & Furious movies emotionally resonant. Despite all the macho posturing, there’s nothing deeply personal for the players unlike in past Fast films. The stakes are also so unbelievably high and yet there is absolutely no moment in the film where you feel that things could go horribly wrong, thereby sucking all the gravitas from whatever is left of the plot. 

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Photo by IMDB.

Hobbs & Shaw has its moments, but Leitch’s clinical perfection works against the film because it feels like everyone is simply going through the motions. Everyone nails their parts, but there’s just no heart. Even the third act in Hobbs’ homeland of Samoa, intended to give the film its heart, feels so contrived it’s almost embarrassing. The fact that Hobbs’ family is into customizing cars, a clear attempt to connect with the franchise’s roots, feels shoehorned into the plot. The film gets bonus points for the diversity cameo casting, notably Maori Cliff Curtis as Hobbs’ estranged brother, as well as other notable Polynesian actors. 

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Family is still a central theme and one reason why Hobbs & Shaw isn’t all just sound and fury. More than fast cars, it at least remembers that Fast is all about this and has been since the very beginning. The expansion of the Shaw family, including a cameo by the family matriarch Magdalene (Helen Mirren), who first appeared in Fate of the Furious, and the inclusion of Hobbs’ Samoan relatives, is a reminder of how good the franchise can be.

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The Fast story reached an emotional crescendo with the passing of Paul Walker and the retirement of his character Brian O’Conner in Furious 7, and officially entered into superheroics and spycraft with F8 and cyberterrorist super baddie Cipher (Charlize Theron). Universal’s cash cow continues to add building blocks to its ever-expanding world, and while Hobbs & Shaw might seem like a minor—if very loud and flashy—hiccup, there appears to be no limit to what can be done with the franchise.

There is a funny mid-credit scene with one of the new characters and a post-credit scene that true fans of the series might find worth waiting for. There’s the cringeworthy promise of more Hobbs & Shaw in the future, but also a nice reminder that there’s Fast & Furious 9 to look forward to.

'Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw' opens today.

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Hugo Zacarias Yonzon IV
Zach Yonzon is a cake artist and co-owner of Bunny Baker
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