Before we get into the bulge and muscle of the Fast & Furious franchise’s first, honest-to-gosh, spinoff; a quick side bar…
In an interview with the filmmakers roughly a year before the film was released one quote stood out to me above the rest. I can’t remember exactly how the quote went (and I’m far too lazy to look it up) but it stated that the Dwayne Johnson/Jason Statham off-shoot would be a far more grittier and realistic movie than it’s full blown F&F cousins. Truth be told, that was fairly easy to believe considering the last film ended with Dominic Toretto and co. fighting a submarine but it becomes pretty apparent from Hobbs & Shaw’s opening moment, where Idris Elba’s enhanced supergoon blocks bullets with his palm that the quote I just fed you was 110% laughable bollocks.
Laughable bollocks is actually a perfect phrase to describe one of the biggest movie series in cinema history, especially when you take into account that I actually mean it positively and this new slice of Stath-Rock (It’s mine! I’m trademarking that!) continues in that giddy adolescent vein while capitalising on the charismatic double act in part 8 that birthed itself the moment Hobbs ridiculously bicep-curled a concrete prison bench in order to show off to an indifferent Shaw.
Deckard Shaw’s sister, Hattie runs foul of Elba’s robustly named Brixton Lore when her team of special forces-type people are rendered extinct while trying to recover a super virus codenamed Snowflake, so she injects herself and goes on the run. This isn’t as foolproof as it seems as Brixton works for Eteon, a technological cult that believes mankind can only survive by enhancing itself with bleeding edge implants and tech. Kitted out with a Terminator spine, a heads up display in his eyeballs and a funky motorbike that by all accounts appears to be made out of Transformium, Brixton seems to have Hattie and the virus in his sights.
Enter Hobbs and Shaw.
Both enlisted by the CIA to retrieve Hattie (who’s also been framed to top things off) the two smackdown laying slapheads lock their sizable egos over their differing styles while going to war with the shadowy cult while continuing to outdo each other in both manly banter (penis size is routinely covered, obviously) and outrageous action set pieces where Hobbs’ brawn is repeatedly challenged by Shaw’s style and vice versa.
Can the two put their differences aside to stop the virus or – wait a mo. Am I actually asking this question?
With two such giant landmasses of charisma colliding the outcome of the movie is never in doubt, but thankfully it’s an immensely fun ride while we get there. While not besting the franchise’s crown jewel of Fast 5 or the emotional farewells of 7, Hobbs & Shaw is still far fetched, riotous fun with Deadpool 2 and Atomic Blonde director David Leitch landing his considerable action talents to come up with some appropriately bombastic slug fests and chases while turning in some of the series best fight scenes, mixing up the style of each of the brawls to meet the combatant.
You’d would think such a powerful double act surely would negate any other cast member and while Idris pumps maximum Elba into the rather one-note character of Brixton (he even raps over the end credits), it’s Vanessa Kirby as Shaw’s sibling who really stands out, building on her appearance in Mission: Impossible – Fallout to pull off some decidedly impressive action chops and easily stands toe to toe with her gargantuan co-stars.
The film is quite self indulgent, what with a late in the day trip to Samoa so Hobbs can reconnect with his family and a couple of surprising (if distracting) cameos that go on for ages, the film is so long that by the point you get to the finale the you’d swear the movie has been unfolding in real time but despite it’s length, the film regularly isn’t boring. What it IS, of course, is really fucking silly – in a film where Idris Elba flips a truck with his bare hands and Johnson can hold a helicopter in place with nothing but a chain and his quivering biceps, the truly strongest entity in this film seems to be Kirby’s mascara – so anyone who demands a shred of realism in their movie will be appalled at the crimes against physics here, but that’s missing the point. Hobbs & Shaw is a slam bang action extravaganza that shows there’s still life in the franchise yet and as the main movies will apparently end at episode 10(!), it’s clear this double act could maybe go the ridiculous distance.