Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw (2019) Review
A FUN “GUILTY PLEASURE”
The Fast & Furious movie franchise has certainly been a long and enduring one. Beginning back in 2001, this cinematic franchise has evolved into something more than just simply showcasing the underworld of street racing and the daring nuances of bad guys versus cops (and other morally conflicted individuals in-between). While the first four movies certainly provided that point and built a franchise tag around it, the franchise underwent a somewhat “reimaging” reboot with 2011’s Fast Five; changing up the formula and focusing a heavier emphasis on large scale action scenes and team-centric character roster with unique skills / abilities (something akin to an Ocean’s Eleven type feel). The ultimate change seemed to work, which offered more of a blockbuster feel to the series, and proceeded to use that for the next three entries (all of which have been lucrative box office success with each release). Now, Universal Pictures and director David Leitch presents the first spin-off movie in the Fast & Furious franchise with film Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw. Does this spin-off project find its action nuances and cinematic throttle within the franchise’s expectations or is it a poor extension to established Fast & Furious timeline?
While on a tactical mission to takedown Brixton Lore (Idris Elba), MI6 Agent Hattie Shaw (Vanessa Kirby) puts herself in harm’s way, injecting a deadly virus (titled the “Snowflake Virus) in her body; hoping to thwart Brixton’s efforts to claim the poison for the “greater good” of the shadowy organization known as Eteon. Gifted with mechanically enhanced bodywork and technologically, Brixton is turned into a superweapon and he won’t stop until he finds Hattie, ripping Snowflake out of her system. Sent in to clean up the mess is Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), with the latter especially sensitive to the mission, as Hattie is his younger sister. As the pair immediately buttheads from their past experiences with each other, Hobbs and Shaw have a common goal in taking down Brixton, but must first find Hattie before him and find a way to extract the Snowflake virus out of her; preventing a global epidemic in the process.
THE GOOD / THE BAD
As I’ve mentioned before (in my review for Furious 7 and The Fate of the Furious), I do love the Fast and Furious franchise. While the franchise has definitely changed since it first began in the early 2000s, I think they have changed for the better. Yes, I agree…. that the movies have become more increasingly blockbuster features, with more “over the top” scenarios and ridiculous action scenes for Toretto and his team to save the world from, but it actually works in a fun and mindless entertainment viewing experience that I personally do enjoy sometimes.
Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw is the first attempt at the movie franchise at a spin-off endeavor; branching away from the already established timeline of the previous films. When it was first announced, I was quite curious. As stated, I do like the latter half of the Fast and Furious movies (again, for pure blockbuster entertainment) and the premise of this spin-off movie seemed to be right “in-line” with the franchise identity, with large scale action sequences that over-the-top dialogue / scenarios. The film’s movie trailers definitely showcased that….in spades; promising more ridiculous side adventure, with Johnson and Statham returning to their respective F&F characters (i.e. Luke Hobbs and Deckard Shaw). Thus, I was excited to see this movie; hoping that it would capture the “spirt” of the franchise and just be a fun summer blockbuster motion picture. What did I think of it? Well, I actually liked it. While it does have its problem, Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw definitely doubles down the larger than life / ridiculous action nuances from the franchise, a fun star-studded main cast, and delivers on what was promised. It doesn’t outshine the Fast & Furious movies, but (as spin-off endeavors go) it’s a worthy addition that works…. more so than what many were expecting it to be.
Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw is directed by David Leitch, whose previous directorial works includes movies like John Wick, Deadpool 2, and Atomic Blonde. Given his background knowledge of filmmaking (those movie particular films I listed), Leitch seems like a perfect choice in helming this first Fast & Furious spin-off project; following along the lines of Justin Lin, James Wan, and F. Gary Gary in bringing a big action blockbuster to the proceedings. Those looking to be entertained like some of the recent Fast & Furious movies will be happy to note as Leitch makes the aspects / nuances very much alive throughout Hobbs & Shaw, with the movie having plenty of well-choregraphed fights, elaborate chase sequences, and cheesy one-liners. Additionally, much like his work on Deadpool 2 and Atomic Blonde, Leitch is good at close quarter combat directorial execution, which is definitely staged well in the movie and elevate these scenes within its over ridiculous concepts and cinematic staging. Leitch also does find the underlining theme of the franchise in Hobbs & Shaw, utilizing the “family” theme in both characters of Luke and Deckard in the film. It’s not as super strong as it was in the previous movies, but it’s presence in the story is a welcome notion to the film’s story as well as to the identity of the Fast & Furious series. Plus, the third act does have different approach than what I was expecting. Not so much in his execution and / or setup, but rather in a bit unexpected location, which is nice “change up”.
However, what sets Hobbs & Shaw apart from the rest of the F&F franchise is its overall tone. While some of the more recent ones are heavily focused on the action and the blockbuster style drama, Hobbs & Shaw is very much an action comedy endeavor, with plenty of comedic humor scattered throughout the film in its entirety. Of course, there’s plenty of daring / harrowing escapades of saving the world from bad guys as well as stoic (again, larger than life) heroism like the rest of the franchise, but the tone is more lighthearted than the previous films and has more of mindless fun approach. Jokes are cracked, action ensues, and everything is laden with a cheesy fun to it all, which makes the feature entertaining in its own right.
The overall presentation of Hobbs & Shaw is very much akin to both a summer blockbuster endeavors as well as a Fast & Furious installment; finding Leitch going “go big or go home” type of idealism within the visual aesthetics. Thus, large set-pieces and well-executed chase sequences are in order and are presented heavily throughout the feature, which do look pleasing to the eye from its various locales (to London to Samoa). So, the efforts made by the many “behind the scenes” people, including David Scheunemann (production design), Sarah Evelyn (costume designs), and Lisa Chugg, Jeffery Kushon, and Shane Vieau (set decoration) do some solid work in Hobbs & Shaw’s variety of background settings and choregraphed sequences. Also, given its visual style and fast-paced action, cinematographer Jonathan Sela and film editor Christopher Rouse do some great work in the film; providing the film to have some very cinematic appealing camera shots and quick edits of scenes throughout. Additionally, the film’s score, which was done by composer Tyler Bates, is also pretty good (for an action summer blockbuster) as well as the several musical song selections that are scattered throughout the feature.
There are a few criticisms that do have with Hobbs & Shaw, which do prevent the movie from reaching the same exact cinematic caliber as the more recent Fast and Furious movies have to offer. Like what? Well, much I mentioned earlier in this review, the movie is the probably the farthest away from the how the original 2001 film and even slightly distance itself (in some areas) from the more recent feature films of the F&F property. Some might say that’s a good thing, while others won’t as the main franchise has found a somewhat “commercial winning” formula of success and removing it from Hobbs & Shaw’s presentation hinders the spin-off movie from reaching that same potential. And what’s that formula? Well, it’s Diesel’s character Toretto and his ragtag team of individuals that surely have made up the roster (with some being added and other removed) that really has captured the cheesy “larger than life” spirt of the Fast and Furious franchise…well…at least the latter movies have. Hobbs & Shaw seems to lack the magnetic spirt and, while intended a fun mindless blockbuster, doesn’t quite measure to what’s come before in this franchise. I mean, there’s one throwaway line that references the last Fast and Furious installment, but that’s basically it. Again, there’s plenty of blockbuster cheesy fun to the movie, but it’s not quite as entertaining as watching one of the F&F entries.
Additionally, the film’s story / plot is a bit mundane and goes by the simple narrative trend of a so-called “deadly virus” routine. It’s never fully explained the implication of the virus or rather never really shown what the potential it could do (if so released or fell into the wrong hands), but rather hinted at in some “hand wavy” dialogue lines here and there that doesn’t really seem to click the right way. Plus, the whole “virus” scenario has been played out many times before that the narrative itself becomes a bit formulaic. Thus, the main “McGuffin” of the movie never really has a palpable stake in Hobbs & Shaw and seems more like a flimsy plot device. Perhaps that’s my really gripe with the film…. it’s script. Penned by Chris Morgan and Drew Pearce, Hobbs & Shaw’s story isn’t quite the most compelling piece of blockbuster cinematic narratives. It gets the job done (and then some), but the story / plot of the movie (Brixton and Eteon’s plans) seems a bit more sci-fi far fetch hokum. Yes, I do understand that the Fast and Furious franchise has started to become more “fantastical” within its “larger than life” elements / nuances, but Hobbs & Shaw is probably the most “out there”. Plus, like a lot of expansive cinematic universe projects, the script / story tries to plan a lot of “setup” for future installments rather than trying focus on the main movie. This is especially noticeable with Eteon’s agenda, a shadowy organization that had nefarious plans for humanity, and the character of Brixton (more on that below). This results in the movie’s narration progression to be a bit “wavy” and formulaic; almost like a story / plot from a video game (if you know what I mean). Again, it’s not a deal breaker, but it’s probably the weakest part of the movie.
Much like the previous Fast and Furious movies, Hobbs & Shaw boasts recognizable faces for its main lead characters and (just like the rest of the franchise) bring a sense of acting “star power” to the film’s proceedings…. of which it does. Of course, actors Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Jason Statham headline the feature as their Fast and Furious characters DSS agent Luke Hobbs and former British Secret Forces / mercenary Deckard Shaw respectfully. Like a lot of his past projects, Johnson, known for his roles in Central Intelligence, Skyscraper, and Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, has plenty cinematic charisma whenever he’s on-screen and certainly knows how to plays the character of Luke Hobbs (his fourth time playing him). Thus, it comes as no surprise that Johnson’s screen presence is magnetic and demonstrates his bravado throughout the movie. The character of Luke Hobbs is definitely expanded upon and demonstrates the core franchise value of family within the movie, especially towards the third act. To me, given his track record of starring the lead role in box office flops of late (i.e. Rampage, Skyscraper, and Baywatch), Johnson’s Luke Hobbs in Hobbs & Shaw is probably the best movie performance he’s done in the past year.
Similarly, Statham, known for his roles in The Transporter, Crank, and Spy, has always demonstrated being a lead action star and letting his physical performance take centerstage. Like Johnson, he too has screen presence and certainly shows that in Hobbs & Shaw. Since his first appearance in the Fast & Furious franchise (with Furious 7), Statham’s Deckard Shaw has gone through a transformation…. from villain antagonist to roguish good guy and, while some might argue over that build, it definitely works and for the better. It’s fun to see Statham in his elements (action scenes) as well as chewing threw his dialogue with glee and landing a few comedic zingers along the way. Like Johnson, I think Statham is a perfect fit for Deckard and it’s obvious that he’s having fun in the role. Plus, like Johnson, I think this is one of Statham better works of late (see…The Meg and Mechanic: Resurrection). Together, much like what was showcases in The Fate in the Furious, Johnson and Statham have great on-screen chemistry with each other and is definitely one of the feature’s big highlights / selling points; finding their comedic witty “back and forth” banter to be fun and amusing throughout their difference scenes and scenarios that come at them.
Behind those two leads is actor Idris Elba, who plays the movie’s antagonist character of Brixton Lore, a cyber-genetically enhanced terrorist working for Eteon and former MI6 field agent who has a history with Deckard. Like Johnson and Statham, Elba, known for his roles in Molly’s Game, The Losers, and Star Trek Beyond, certainly has a strong screen-presence and talented acting ability from his past work. Thus, his good as bad guy and his theatrical talents showcase that. Unfortunately, the character of Brixton is rather generic and uninteresting. Personally, I would think of him like a Marvel villain…. despite being played talented actor / actress, the character is rather weak and bland character build. Much like the problem with Eteon’s agenda, the character of Brixton has an interesting backstory, but it’s never fully developed, which makes his character motives and narrative progression the movie rather formulaic and second rate (again, like a bad guy in a video game). Thus, Elba is great as Brixton, but the character isn’t a good / memorable one…. even by Fast and the Furious standards.
Looking beyond the “big names stars” of the movie’s heroes and villain, the real surprise role would have to be from actress Vanessa Kirby, who play’s Shaw’s MI6 sister, Hattie Shaw. Of course, the character acts a sort of “catalyst” for the main story to move forward throughout the feature (bringing Luke and Deckard together with Brixton trying to find her), but the film’s script doesn’t a lot of new material for the character of Hattie beyond the commonplace feisty / badass female supporting role. Of course, Kirby, known for her roles in About Time, The Crown, and Mission Impossible: Fallout, does really elevate the character’s thinly written substance with a solid / physical portrayal of Hattie. She’s definitely strikingly beautiful (something quite good in a film that bolsters a lot of alpha male actors) and really does carry herself (and her character) well enough in the movie to make her quite an interesting character. She proves that she’s a badass character in Hattie and demonstrates that quite well throughout Hobbs & Shaw, which a lot of the past F&F female characters. All in all, while her character isn’t really fleshed out, Kirby’s Hattie Shaw is a welcomed addition to the main roster and to the overall female characters in the franchise.
With the movie mainly focusing on those four leads, the rest of the cast are, more or less, delegated to minor supporting character roles throughout the movie. This includes actress Eiza Gonzalez (Alita: Battle Angel and Baby Driver) as Shaw’s professional robber / friend Madame M, actress Eliana Sua (Simmer) as Luke’s daughter Sam Hobbs (replacing actress Eden Estrella from the two previous films), actor Cliff Curtis (Whale Rider and The Meg) as Luke’s brother Jonah Hobbs, actress Lori Pelenise Tuisano (My Uncle and Fun Size) as Luke’s mother Sefina Hobbs, and actress Helen Mirren (The Queen and Gosford Park) as Deckard and Hattie’s mom Magdalene “Queenie” Shaw. These characters, though not much really growth and dynamic nuances beyond their initial setup / appearance, are still fun caricatures of sorts that do make up the framing of several character builds of the main leads. Lastly, there are a couple of additional small character cameo-like roles that are presented in the movie, with some being actors that had parts in Leitch’s past movie projects. I won’t spoil them for you, but these characters have some fun / amusing moments in the feature, which definitely aid in the film’s action comedy aspect of nuances / storytelling.
As a final note, be sure to still around for the film’s end credits scene or a special “Easter Egg” scene at the mid-credit mark; hinting at what could possibly be a setup plot point for a possible sequel installment.
Luke Hobbs and Deckard Shaw reunite together to save Shaw’s sister and stop an evil plan from a bionic madman in the movie Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw. Director David Leitch’s film takes the established characters from the Fast and Furious franchise and delves into a spin-off feature; dancing, punching, and racing to the beat of its own blockbuster drum. While the movie’s narrative is a way formulaic (in both story and characters builds) and the movie can’t quite measure the same bombastic full-throttle entertainment fanfare from the recent Fast and the Furious movies, Hobbs & Shaw still retains a mindlessly fun spirt within its presentation, providing plenty of bombastic action, ridiculous “over the top” sequences, and sporting a fun cast that, while not dramatically wholesome, still is very much theatrically bold within their “larger than life” personas. Personally, I liked the movie. It was slightly different from what I was expecting (and wanted to see from this movie), but the end result was something that I found to be quite enjoyable and I definitely got my cinematic mileage entertainment from Hobbs & Shaw. Thus, my recommendation for this movie would be a solid “recommend” stamp of approval as it offers plenty of visual blockbuster flair that one would expect from a Fast and Furious endeavor or those who are just simply looking to “switch off their brains” for two hours with a summer popcorn action / comedy flick. With Fast and the Furious 9 being set to release in 2020, which will be interesting to see how that entry ultimately shapes up to be, it will be even more interesting to see where this spin-off franchise of Hobbs & Shaw will go in the future installments (and I’m sure that it will have another sequel or two already lined up). Regardless, Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw boast plenty of cheesy / mindless fun to be an instant cinematic “guilty pleasure” that will delight the F&F fanbase.
3.9 Out of 5 (Recommended)
Released Date: August 2nd, 2019
Reviewed On: August 11th, 2019
Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw 137 minutes long and is rated PG-13 for prolonged sequences of action and violence, suggestive material and strong language