The ‘family’ sure has come a long way since the days of Dominic Toretto and Brian O’Conner. If you have not followed the Fast & Furious franchise, where anything can be put into the past after a session of barbecue a few bottles of Corona’s, then worry not. Hobbs & Shaw might be a Fast & Furious spin-off, but it works surprisingly well as a stand-alone flick. Just take into account that Deckard Shaw, the titular character in the film, was once the villain in Furious 7 (2015), who then had a change of heart and joined the Fast crew in their mission in Fate of the Furious (2017). That said, nobody saw it coming that the burly cop that once body-slammed Toretto and the killer of Han would now work hand-in-hand to save the world. In their own feature film, nonetheless.
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s own studio, Seven Bucks Productions, co-produced and signed-up David Leitch (John Wick, Deadpool 2) to direct the film. Together with fellow producer Jason Statham, The Rock stars as the titular character Luke Hobbs, and Statham reprising his role as Deckard Shaw in this spin-off. Helen Mirren returned as Magdalene Shaw, Deckard’s mother, and is joined by new faces Vanessa Kirby and Idris Elba as Deckard’s sister Hattie Shaw and terrorist Brixton Lore respectively.
For a franchise that boasts eight films under their belt which revolves around cars and racing, I’m hugely amazed at how affixed writer Chris Morgan is able to find something fresh to offer to the audience. Having ticked the boxes anywhere from the drift culture to war-associated machines like tanks and even submarines, I was pretty sure that the franchise has no gap left to fill. That was until Hobbs & Shaw fires away their latest addition; cyberpunk bikes and hot-rods.
If you have seen the trailer, you knew it. The bikes belong to the villain. What? Bike riding villain going against Hobbs and Shaw in a McLaren? That’s pretty stupid. Except, that there’s some twist in the plot that completes this seemingly impossible piece of the puzzle.
The film is constantly referring to Brixton as the black Superman, and it doesn’t seem like an overstatement at all. Elba is truly a towering villain, enough to stand against Statham stacked on top of the almost two meters tall Dwayne Johnson. Suited up in a stealthy, high-tech, black suit that blends absolutely well with Elba’s skin complexion, Brixton looks deadly even while standing still. Coupled with his superhuman capabilities, the plot regularly plants him in a cat-and-mouse situation with the titular duo. And, as you may have guessed it, for once, the Fast crew is now the mouse.
Nobody wants to see a Tom & Jerry situation for two hours, so naturally, Hobbs & Shaw has to do something different with the screenplay. Which, I’m glad they did. For a genre like Fast & Furious, two hours might seem like an eternity, but Chris Morgan cleverly bisects the plot into smaller, equal parts, and fill up each of them in perfect ratios of action, pursuit and story progression. Plus, a couple of surprise cameos do really brighten up the day.
Even when as a whole, the world-threatening virus might sound like a exhausting cliche, the subplots appear to be much more meticulously thought over. They feel light to the eyes, and doesn’t drain the audience with overextended scenes, perhaps appearing as a nod to their ‘mistake’ in the world’s longest airport runway featured in Fast & Furious 6 (2013).
Brixton Lore and airport runways aside, the champion of the show which has been stealing all the limelight goes to the unending feeling of despise which Hobbs and Shaw shared for each other. Man, I can tell you, those scenes and lines are outright savage, stupid and at the same time, genius.
Leitch and Morgan knew that this is the element that is going to propel this spin-off forward; how they bark and bite at each other while hilariously trying to outdo each other like two primitive, territorial animals. The audience are not there to see Hobbs and Shaw patting each other’s back. They wanna see them fight. They wanna see them poking fun at each other. And this is exactly what they will get, perhaps in a magnitude which is way out of their expectations.
Not convinced? Hobbs calls him Frodo. Shaw references him as Chewbacca and himself as Han Solo. Their smack-talks toward each other were truly getting out of hand in a couple of scenes, and sometimes, the close camera shots that emphasized on their stupid faces made it that much easier for me to burst into laughter. I predicted accurately what kind of hilarious moments that the film has in store for me, but how it borders on being a comedy film outrageously surprised me.
Ultimately, Hobbs & Shaw delivered everything that it has promised, and perhaps a mile more, or maybe two. Whenever it comes into action or car chase scenes, you can instantly feel the movie switching into business mode. The camera work, cuts, accompanying soundtrack and effects are all top notch, just as what you would expect from a Fast & Furious flick. Still, how they harnessed the effects of water droplets and slow-mo in the final showdown is undeniably cool and worth mentioning.
At the very last, after preaching the world ‘family’ for years, the Fast franchise finally has a proper film to showcase the meaning of that very word. Which, was a little odd to me at first, as how we are so used to ridicule the franchise with family, barbecues and Corona’s. But this time, it works.
Though not in an intricate or intelligent way, the Hobbs family drama and history exposed a sensitive side of the film, where it demands the audience to be more emotionally invested with Luke Hobbs. Neither forceful or awkward, the scenes flow that much of extra depth into the character, as he graduates from being just an American cop with an addiction to gym and weights. Similar treatment has been given to Deckard Shaw, and the tug-of-war between him, his family and his past with Brixton anchors him so much deeper into the central position of the story.
While it may be The Rock’s acting, vision, and his studio, Seven Bucks Productions who have carved Hobbs & Shaw into an action-film showpiece, it was also The Rock’s one, usual, executive decision which injected a controversial scene into the movie. Yes, Dwayne Johnson strikes again, and similar to the bridge-tugging scene in Skyscraper (2018), he puts himself into a physics-defying, chopper-wrangling scene, matched only by the likes of Captain America. I’m pretty sure his wish is fulfilled yet again, but that scene feels more at home in a superhero flick, or in the “deleted scenes folder”, rather than Hobbs & Shaw.
Addict Verdict, AV:
With just the right amount of absurdity, Hobbs & Shaw delivers big fun to the audience with both of them constantly descending into the ring and wrestling hard (and hilariously) with each other’s ego, while being mired within waves of blazing, Fast & Furious action and Terminator-style pursuits. The spin-off can certainly propel itself without Vin Diesel or a fleet of muscle cars, which is both good and bad news for the franchise. While the film certainly shows fresh potential within the somewhat staling franchise, it will be interesting to see how the producers are going to write-off Shaw in the future films, when ‘Justice for Han’ arrives. Just how well will it sit with his newfound uso, Luke Hobbs?—The Film Addict