Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw (2019)
Written by Drew Pearce
Directed by David Leitch
You might be asking, “PopCult, it’s not July now, it’s August,” and to you, I say it’s always July when I’m reviewing Fast & Furious content. This is the ninth official installment in the Fast & Furious film franchise, the Rogue One to The Fate & The Furious’ Force Awakens. This first spin-off features the famous characters of Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), but you can almost imagine other spin-offs starring Roman Pearce, Tej, or maybe a prison film about Magdelene Shaw. Yes, Dame Helen Mirren reprises her role as the matriarch of the Shaw family for one all too brief scene. That is Academy Award winner Helen Mirren…in a Fast & Furious spin-off movie.
The plot is all about Snowflake, a programmable virus created by the Russians that can be tweaked to kill millions in a matter of hours. MI6 agents in London are moving in to retrieve the virus from criminal types but are interrupted by Brixton Lore, a cyborg terrorist working for Eteon, sort of like Cobra but with fewer snakes. Hattie Shaw, the only MI6 agent to survive the attack, escapes but has injected the dormant Snowflake virus into herself to keep it out of Lore’s hands. Lore uses the resources of Eteon to frame Hattie as a traitor. The CIA gets involved and brings Hobbs and Shaw back together, while the two are not shy about expressing their dislike for each other. They don’t have much time to bicker and are forced to finally work together to save Hattie and the world while stopping Lore and Eteon.
On the surface, there is nothing wrong or offensive about the premise of this movie. As action movies go it’s pretty generic, all the pieces of the formula are there down to the McGuffin. What feels off the whole picture is the awkward shifts in tone. This movie wants to be two things: super-serious badass and totally not taking this serious and cracking jokes. I would love to see a film that leans into the latter much more than this one does.
Early on, we have brief moments where it feels like the movie could really have some fun, mainly when Ryan Reynolds shows up. There’s a cameo from Kevin Hart that does a lot to poke fun at the picture. But someone like Jason Statham is just not funny, he has no comedic sensibilities and when the script gives him jokes they fall flat, not that they were written well, to begin with. Dwayne Johnson is his typically charismatic self, but after having seen Jumanji so recently, the writing does not capitalize on his talents as an action star.
I wouldn’t even say the action sequences as worth going to see this because they are the sort of bloated, needlessly complicated type you see way too much of in contemporary movies. They also rely on way too much CGI to pull off. During a scene where Johnson descends down the side of a skyscraper in pursuit of the baddies, I couldn’t help but remember Tom Cruise doing a similar and much more impressive stunt in Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. When you can tell the environment around an actor isn’t real then the thrill of the feat is pretty much gone.
The movie is way too long, clocking in at just over two hours. There’s nothing in this story that needs that much time because there is so little character development. Around the ninety-minute mark, there is an extended action sequence in an abandoned nuclear power plant that should have been the finale. Instead, there is another act of the film that sends the Hobbs and the Shaw siblings to Samoa where a family reunion takes place.
I would have preferred that be saved for a sequel where the majority of the story could be about Luke Hobbs’ family conflict. There’s the eldest brother who is the leading voice when the characters arrive, and he was not very interesting. Better casting would have been to make it an older sister and put Rachel House (Moana, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Thor: Ragnarok) in the role. She can give off an imposing presence when she wants and has fantastic comedic timing. I can see her playing off of Johnson splendidly.
If you were going to make a Fast & Furious spin-off movie, then Hobbs would definitely be the character you’d want as the lead. It’s just a genuine shame that the producers and filmmakers decided to continue down the dumb route rather than try to punch up the script with a little intelligence. I mean, Shane Black has made a career off of crafting smart, action-driven buddy cop movies, so there’s a precedent. The biggest problem is that screenwriter Drew Pearce failed to bring the funny which is on display when our duo is exchanging insults. Every single barb is so obvious and falls flat. Hobbs & Shaw is a complete waste of potential for a movie franchise that needs to stop trying to overcompensate and just deep dive into what a ridiculous comedy it should be.