While we eagerly await the ninth installment of the Fast and Furious franchise, we can take some temporary solace in the spinoff film currently sitting pretty in theaters, Fast and Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw. It’s been billed as an action-filled buddy-cop flick. I have five main takeaways to present to you at this time.
As Jalopnik’s resident Fast and Furious scholar, it would have been a crime on my part had I not gone to see this movie during opening weekend. I made myself a few drinks at home before walking to the movies, because nobody should see these movies 100 percent sober if they can help it, and then gave myself over to the cool darkness of the theater.
Warning! Spoilers ahead!
To give you a quick rundown, Hobbs & Shaw is where two secondary characters from previous Fast and Furious movies, Lucas Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), team up to track down the deadly “Snowflake” virus that Shaw’s sister, Hattie (Vanessa Kirby), steals and injects within herself to keep safe from Brixton Lore (Idris Elba).
Lore and the mysterious terrorist organization he works for, Eteon, want to unleash the virus on the human race and rid the planet of things like the horrors of capitalism. Which honestly doesn’t sound too terrible to me!
Ultimately, Hobbs and Shaw are able to defeat Lore with the help of Hobbs’ Samoan family. The battle is won, but it isn’t the end of Eteon. I assume there’s going to be a sequel of the spinoff.
1. The Movie Is Funny
I think the biggest reason this movie happened at all because it has two of Hollywood’s biggest (literally) action heroes kicking ass and talking shit to one another in the interim. It’s not terribly high-brow humor, either. The shit-talking ranges from discussions about dick size and even a “your mother” jab, but it’s done in good fun and I couldn’t get too mad about it.
And it’s also incredibly slapstick, with the punchline simply being “because The Rock is big” over and over again. It should be old by now, but it isn’t. I shouldn’t have laughed when Hobbs keeps an enemy helicopter from escaping by hooking it with a chain and securing it to a moving truck with his bare hands, but I did anyway. The sheer outrageousness of the spectacle is what makes it humorous.
The movie is also funny in its ridiculousness. Talk of the nefarious “dark web” and “hacking” were met with giggles from the audience. Hobbs running down the side of a building is cartoonish and over the top. The overt machismo is corny.
But these choices also signal to me a movie that does not take itself too seriously and that’s refreshing. There is nothing worse than a movie that takes itself too seriously.
2. Explosions And Fire Do Not Disappoint
I don’t know when Fast and Furious transformed into a movie that needed extensive pyrotechnics (I’m pretty sure the only explosion in The Fast and the Furious was when the Mitsubishi Eclipse got blown up), but it’s the reality we live in now. The fire and explosions in Hobbs & Shaw do not disappoint. Both are used gratuitously and with much gusto.
Does it make a whole lot of sense that one tiny explosive can bring down an entire building complex? Not at all, but what matters was that it looks awesome. I feel like working on the special effects team for this movie was especially fun.
3. Idris Elba Is A Total Badass
The film’s primary antagonist is Brixton Lore, a rogue MI6 field agent and terrorist. He’s somehow been medically engineered to be superhuman, with increased speed, agility and strength. He is, as he calls himself, “Black Superman.” He’s not wrong.
Lore is a great villain. He is a near-unstoppable force of ruthless cunning and savage beat-downs waiting to happen. No matter how far the protagonists escape, Lore is able to track them. His gear is great, too. The motorcycle that remains his faithful companion through much of the film matches him in its ability to outmaneuver tight situations and give incredibly impressive chase.
The only inconsistency with Lore is that each time he gets on his bike, he makes it a point to put on his helmet, despite being nearly invincible and with superhuman reflexes. Safety first? More like hide the stuntman, I’m thinking.
4. Action Fatigue Is Very Real
Without a doubt, Hobbs & Shaw sets out to out-explode, out-fight and out-action the previous Fast and Furious movies. It’s just the nature of the franchise. But when you make action your top priority, then you run the risk of tiring out your audience. This is exactly what happened.
Much of Hobbs & Shaw is yelling, fighting, explosions or action sequences. There were only a handful of calm moments and I felt myself yearning for them about halfway through the movie. The run time is only a little over two hours, but it felt a lot longer than that. I was exhausted by the time I walked out of the theater, and it’s because the action was relentless and nonstop.
The film starts with Hobbs and Shaw fighting and it ends with them fighting. The movie offered a bit too much—dare I say it?—action. Action works well when sprinkled along the plot to emphasize the situation. But the entire plot of this movie was built around the action and, as a result, the action got boring fast.
I expected to feel energized by this movie. By the end, I was so, so tired. Drained.
5. This Is Not A Fast And Furious Movie
It may use characters from previous film, and it might contain the words Fast and Furious on the poster, but make no mistake. Hobbs & Shaw is no Fast and Furious movie.
There were not enough cars in it. Not enough heavily modified, brightly colored cars of different makes and models that so define a Fast and Furious movie, no matter how far each new one departs from the ethos of the original. You always caught flashes of a Sparco race seat or a Momo steering wheel, and as a car nerd, you felt like those shots were uniquely there for your benefit.
To anyone else watching the movie, it was just another random shot, but to you, it was a tacit affirmation that your car nerdom had a place in the movie. A visual fist bump, if you will.
The only remotely cool cars appeared in the last quarter of the film during a flyover of Hobbs’ Samoan village, and most of them weren’t even used in the film. They were static props.
The modified trucks used to drag the helicopter out of the sky were by far the most Fast and Furious-y cars in the movie, but they were on screen for a grand total of about five minutes. There were a couple activate-NOS-and-zoom-into-the-engine-to-see-it-work moments, but those felt like someone just throwing us a bone. Then the trucks were gone, having served their purpose.
For a while, people regarded Tokyo Drift as a spinoff too, before the writers decided to write it back into the canon. It, too, lacked the main cast of characters, but it delved so deeply into a subcategory of car culture that it came out unmistakably a Fast and Furious movie.
I didn’t need Dom or the rest of the crew in Hobbs & Shaw. But it would have been nice to see some more cool and unique cars other than many, many closeups of the McLaren logo on Shaw’s 720S.
The bottom line is this. If you took all the Fast and Furious signage off Hobbs & Shaw, then’d it’d be just another silly action movie with zero brand association. Because nothing about it makes it a Fast and Furious movie besides its name and how these two guys just happened to be in a couple of the later films.
Lastly, and most egregiously, are we supposed to just forgive Han’s (Sung Kang) murderer all of a sudden? Let us not forget that Deckard Shaw killed Han in Tokyo Drift. Han was one of the most beloved characters of the franchise and now being told to see Shaw as a hero in this new movie feels… dirty.
“It’s clearly something that needs to be addressed,” Statham told the Los Angeles Times in a recent interview. “And we can build out upon that.”
I’ll be waiting to see where Shaw’s character goes from here, because I’m still pissed about the Han thing. I don’t care what his motivations were or how many people he karate-chopped in the throat in order to save the world in this movie. I do not want him invited to a Toretto family barbecue. It’s too soon.