“Hobbs & Shaw” is listed as a Fast & Furious production but other than the characters Luke Hobbs and Deckard Shaw, and a few references to events from the series, it’s really not Fast & Furious anything.
The movie is a buddy action flick that — like the series — has action that is fast and furious and fun. While often flawed, “Hobbs & Shaw” is also funny. The why and how comes from writers Chris Morgan — who’s written six of the eight F&F movies — and Drew Pearce (“Hotel Artemis”), and director David Leitch who don’t come close to taking their film seriously.
Not that many of us have taken any of the soon to be nine F&F films all that seriously, either.
Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham reprise their roles as Hobbs and Shaw. As you remember, Hobbs is a straighter than straight shooter federal agent and Shaw used to be British Special Forces. They tangled in the last two movies of the series. This time they’re reluctantly thrown together to track down a super virus being sought by a super villain.
Only he doesn’t have the virus.
The only reason the bad guy doesn’t have the bug is because Shaw’s sister Hattie — who is MI6 — stopped him and injected the capsules containing it into her body. That puts her under a death sentence. The first is from the capsules that will explode soon and kill her and the rest of us.
The second is from the villains.
The bad guys also found a way to get her blamed for the theft. In reality, the heist was engineered by Idris Elba’s near super human Brixton Lore. He is human, has a negative history with Shaw and has been — for lack of a better description — re-engineered by a never-seen villain whose goal is to use the virus to kill off humanity and redo the place.
Or some such thing.
Stories of super villains wanting to destroy the world in this manner or that are almost as old as movies. This one, and the Fast & Furious series, has more in common with James Bond than the series beginnings of souped-up hotrods and street racers. Though you absolutely have to suspend disbelief, other than a couple of the films, they’ve mostly been quite a bit of fun.
This is no exception.
Leitch (“John Wick,” “Deadpool 2”) packs the movie with fist fights in which Hobbs and the two Shaws battle baddies in groups with nary a scratch, gunfights where bullets are sprayed everywhere and hit everyone in sight except the heroes, car chases and crashes, explosions galore and the usual effects laden edits that accompany such movies.
There’s nothing special about any of them but suspend disbelief and they do what they’re supposed to do and that’s entertain.
The dialogue and plot are terrible. It is the acting that manages to sell the premise. Johnson, Statham and Vanessa Kirby — who plays Hattie — have excellent chemistry. They toss off zingers by the bunch while globe-trotting and dodging bullets, bombs and bad guys. No doubt they’re having fun, and there are lots of comic moments.
Fun, yes, but the lines they deliver are sometimes really, really bad.
Most of you won’t notice or care because neither Johnson nor Statham are world class actors anyway. It’s always been hard to take either guy all that seriously. Here Johnson puts on a sappy-happy face and while delivering his lines — even the serious ones — makes you think he’s going to bust a gut at any minute and end up planted face-first on the floor laughing.
Statham does serious much more believably than Johnson. He gets all of his mileage from scowling. That’s not necessarily a positive. Scowling is his thing. He more or less plays the same guy in every movie and scowls all the way through them.
In “Hobbs & Shaw” I wondered if he was scowling about the bad, often unrealistic lines, or if he was ticked about having so few of them. Whatever, bad dialogue and the really dumb plot aside, the two actors manage to make it work.
They get lots of help from Kirby (TV’s “The Crown,” “Mission: Impossible – Fallout”). She is electric and — in addition to some outstanding dramatic skills — has excellent comedy chops.
Adding to the fun, are cameos — and some funny ad-libbed lines — by Ryan Reynolds, Kevin Hart and Helen Mirren. There are also some semi-funny, extra post and in-credit scenes at the film’s end that also add to the laughs.
In the bad dialogue department Elba (“Molly’s Game,” “Beasts of No Nation”) gets the worst of the short end of the action movie stick. The two writers and Leitch stick him in a state-of-the-art suit and give him a futuristic motorcycle and Terminator-like determination, super strength and speed. Though he makes a pretty good villain, it has to be frustrating to end up as the straight man for the constant comedy. With little to do other than utter predictable end-of-the-world-bad-guy rants, he often looks bored.
Fortunately, you won’t be.
Rated PG-13 for prolonged sequences of action and violence, suggestive material and some strong language. It’s playing at the Fairchild Cinemas Pasco and Kennewick 12s, at the AMC Classic Kennewick 12 and at Walla Walla Grand Cinemas.
Rating: 4 out of 5