Whatever this is, it’s not a movie — it’s a product more deserving of a road test than a review. Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw is the ninth chapter in the Fast & Furious series (the gross is over $5 billion across the previous eight films) and its first spinoff. Meaning if you’ve never seen a F&F movie, the street-racing franchise with Vin Diesel that dates back to 2001, you won’t be confused — it won’t matter a damn. Meaning Hobbs & Shaw is a well-oiled machine that puts two supporting charmers from the series — Dwayne Johnson’s Luke Hobbs, a DSS agent and single father, and Jason Statham’s Deckard Shaw, a rogue military operative — in the center ring and lets those fan-favorites rip. Meaning, how can you resist?
You won’t. Never mind that Hobbs & Shaw drags on for 134 minutes and has more family subplots than Downton Abbey. Director David Leitch (John Wick, Atomic Blonde, Deadpool 2) keeps the action and the comedy at full velocity. Hobbs and Shaw insult each other like high-school mean girls, mostly about Shaw’s short “Hobbit legs” and Hobbs’ resemblance to “a giant tattooed baby.” Throw in Idris Elba, having a blast as Brixton, the “black Superman,” a former Brit agent who’s been carved up into a cyber-villain and ordered to capture a virus that can terminate half the globe. Then there’s the dazzling Vanessa Kirby (so fine and feisty as Princess Margaret on The Crown) as Shaw’s Mi6 agent sister Hattie — Helen Mirren plays their criminal mastermind mom — who has just stolen said virus by injecting it into her body.
Getting the virus out without killing Hattie or all extant life on earth — that’s the plot cooked up by screenwriters Chris Morgan and Drew Pearce. We all know where this is going — like you didn’t think Hobbs would get flirty with Shaw’s sister? — and cheers to the movie for not even pretending anything in it is remotely new. “This is my fourth time saving the world,” says Hobbs with a sigh we can all share. Oh, there is a climactic visit to Hobbs’ (and Johnson’s) native Samoa, but there will be no more spoilers except to say that “The Rock” does a killer Samoan war dance.
Johnson and Statham invest Hobbs & Shaw with a surreal silliness that’s infectious. Catch Hobbs lasso a chopper and drag it down from the sky with one bulging arm or Shaw’s fight choreography in the sensational corridor scene. This movie definitely has its moments. The problem is it keeps repeating them — stunt, banter, stunt — until they wear out their welcome. Furious 7 managed to mix hot action with genuine heart. It can be done if there’s something more than the box office calling the shots. Hobbs & Shaw thinks it can get by just pretending. It probably can. Mindless fun is good enough in a pinch. But what happens when movies follow Brixton’s example and slowly, inexorably turn into cyborgs? Road-test ready, for sure, but untouched by human hands.