Ever since the ludicrous, immensely entertaining Fast Five, each new Fast & Furious instalment has been an exercise in preposterous escalation – from skydiving cars in Furious 7, to The Rock launching a torpedo with his bare hands in The Fate Of The Furious, and everything in-between. Far from the simpler times of the series being a Point Break homage about beautiful street racers boosting DVD players, each increasingly Fast & Furious movie amps up the absurd, testosterone-tinged action as it casts aside those boring laws of physics.
Hobbs & Shaw falls at the point in the series’ trajectory towards ‘Fast & Furious…In Space’ (as screenwriter Chris Morgan has suggested), where two special agents face off against a cult that believes that humanity’s future lies in cyber-augmentation. It’s a different flavour of Fast & Furious movie; while there’s still plenty of vehicular carnage, the film focuses in on spycraft, fist fights and wacky buddy comedy. Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson and Jason Statham work wonders, but Vanessa Kirby steals the show with wry wit and casual lethality. As the film’s attention mostly falls on this lead trio, Idris Elba relishes the squeezed time he has on screen, bringing entertaining swagger to an otherwise one-note character.
Statham and Johnson hold even the faltering moments up through sheer charm.
David Leitch’s direction brings familiar shades of John Wick and Atomic Blonde to the action. Intricately choreographed fights are splashed with neon, innocuous objects become deadly weapons (at one point, Statham wields a toaster), and Leitch gives each fight flair and clarity, playing to the different physicality of each performer. The camera quickly moves along with Statham’s nimble, precise movements, slows down to clearly show Kirby’s brutal dexterity and grace, and stays at a distance for Johnson’s sequences to capture the actor’s sheer intimidating size and strength. When it comes to the cars, Hobbs & Shaw is just as creative as its franchise forebears, one standout sequence involving a daisy chain of cars helping Hobbs lasso a helicopter.
In keeping with Fast & Furious tradition, this action is balanced with earnest, genuinely sweet talk about the importance of family. This time, however, it’s about connecting with one’s roots and maintaining that contact, rather than finding family in those who come into your orbit. The strongest of these moments come from Hobbs’ interaction with his Samoan relatives (Johnson himself being Samoan). This journey home brings both further warmth to a character known mostly for absurd displays of strength and even sillier one-liners, as well as a fun twist to a third-act showdown. Guns are traded for traditional war weapons, the usual pre-battle smack talk replaced with the Siva Tau (the Samoan Haka), a delightful and unique sight in a Hollywood action franchise.
Hobbs & Shaw lies on shakier ground when it comes to its comedy, with a broader, more self-aware tone than the franchise’s usual straight-faced sincerity. The vulgar insults come thick and fast (especially during some bizarre cameos), but don’t always land. Still, Statham and Johnson hold even the faltering moments up through sheer charm, their chemistry never better than when the film lets them lean into the slapstick of two macho doofuses having to work together.