Film Review: Hobbs & Shaw

Or to give it its full title Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw.

I’ve always been a fan of the Fast franchise (Tokyo Drift aside), and one of the aspects I’ve liked is that the series has gone from “Point Break with street racing” to this latest movie, which is a globetrotting buddy action movie featuring shady conspiracies, humanity threatening viruses and superhuman bad guys. It’s like a Mission: Impossible movie but lower on the brains and bigger on the action. So, it’s like Mission: Impossible 2. Only amazing.

hobbsshaw pos

The plot is simple, MI6 agent Hattie Shaw (Vanessa Kirby) is part of a team sent to retrieve a deadly virus that could wipe out mankind. Unfortunately, after her team obtains the asset they are attacked by a mysterious dude who self identifies as “bad guy” and takes out most of the team. Hattie gives him the slip, but in order to do so has to inject the virus into her own bloodstream. The villain then frames Hattie as the thief meaning she has the law and the wrongdoers on her tail.

In the US the CIA approaches Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) to help track Hattie down as he’s the best in the business. He takes the job and flies to London to meet his contact for the mission. The contact is former MI6 agent turned criminal Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), who has also been approached by the CIA and is Hattie’s big brother. The siblings haven’t talked since Shaw went rogue, turning on MI6 and becoming a traitor. The duo don’t get on and argue, but reluctantly take the job, although each goes their own way.

Hobbs tracks down Hattie while Shaw discovers that the mysterious group known as Eteon are responsible. This group believes that only the strong should survive and will use technology to enhance the strong and this virus to purge the weak. The bad guys try to snatch Hattie to get the virus, and Bad Guy returns, revealed to be Brixton Lore (Idris Elba). Brixton was believed to have been dead, killed by former black ops teammate Shaw after he turned.

Brixton revived by Eteon and essentially a cyborg easily bests both Shaw and Hobbs in combat but the trio give him the slip. They reach out to the scientist responsible for the virus. He gives them two options- first, they kill Hattie and burn her body, thereby destroying the virus. The second is to remove the virus and then destroy it, the problem being that the only machine that can do this is in Eteon’s possession at a secret, and heavily guarded base.

Further adding to their problems is that Eteon has used their grip on the media to present Hobbs and Shaw as being traitors who have aligned with Hattie to steal the virus, and so they are all on the run.

Can they set aside their differences to save Hattie and the world? Can they extract the virus before it kills Hattie? Is Shaw right to suspect that Hobbs is interested in his sister? Can they really go toe-to-toe against a global conspiracy and a superhuman foe?

Here’s the thing, this movie is pretty dumb and ridiculous, but it works because of two key factors; the cast and the fact that it just goes with it. This isn’t the kind of film that takes itself too seriously and there’s a real sense of fun to proceedings. The action is massively overblown with buildings collapsing, physics defying moments and feats of heroism usually reserved for the cape and cowl set. Hobbs and Shaw are supposed to be regular-ish guys, highly trained but normal, but both seem able to shake off being thrown through walls fairly easily.

It should be bad news that our heroes seem so in control and strong, but there’s just enough humour to stop it and there’s also the fact that the film makes sure they are constantly outgunned. Eteon have an army of goons for our heroes to kick, shoot and bodyslam their way through, and at the top is Elba’s Brixton who dominates their showdowns utterly. He can predict their moves and counteract them, striking with ruthless efficiency, meaning that neither Hobbs nor Shaw can get an edge. But would they have the edge if they worked together?

It’s here that the film really plays it’s trump card in that with Johnson and Statham they have paired the most charismatic of current action heroes. Johnson’s Hobbs is a hulking powerhouse and Statham’s Shaw looks and moves like someone who knows how to kick ass. Shaw’s slickness counteracts with Hobbs more direct, no-nonsense approach and the two bicker with real humour and chemistry. The artist formerly known as The Rock delivers with bags of swagger and loud mouth charm, while former diver Statham is consistently likeable with his gravelly voiced, sarky tough guy persona.

The pairing works well and the film does a good job in highlighting their differences and similarities, the fact that underneath the superficial stuff they both have a strong loyalty and dedication to their allies, toughness and quick thinking. The duo works well, and you wonder that this might spend the end of the Fast franchise as two of the bigger names and personalities strike out on their own.

They also have a great villain to play off with Idris Elba’s natural charisma and ability to grandstand making Brixton a solid villain. His desire for revenge upon Shaw is palpable as is his ruthless menacing aura, Elba plays the character with some charm but what really works is that he nails the sense of danger around the man.

Whenever Brixton appears he feels like a killing machine, like a constant threat to those around him. He holds his own and makes a good adversary, you want him to lose but he’s so magnetic on screen you kinda wanna see more of him. This was definitely true in WoM’s case, as she loved the movie, her only criticism being that Johnson, Statham and Elba should have spent more time without shirts on.

Vanessa Kirby is also on fine form as Hattie Shaw. She’s funny and charming, sparring well with Johnson and both convey a sense of mutual respect and attraction between the two. She also convinces as an ass kicker in her own right and she’s a nice addition to the ranks, the calming influence between the bickering heroes and something which unites them.

There are a plethora of enjoyable cameos including Helen Mirren as the Shaws’ mother, Rob Delaney as a CIA operative and Kevin Hart as a bored air marshal who wants to throw in with them. The pick of the bunch for me is Ryan Reynolds as Locke, a CIA agent who has worked with Hobbs before and has created an imaginary bromance between the two. It’s Reynolds doing Reynolds, but it works brilliantly and there are nice touches, like the way Locke has the same Samoan tattoo as Hobbs and refers to him as “Becky”. I’m a huge Reynolds fan so I wouldn’t mind seeing Fast and the Furious Presents: Hobbs and Locke.

This movie is silly and unrealistic, there are action sequences that don’t so much stretch credibility as tear it clean in two, but it doesn’t matter. This movie sets out to be a loud, fun action movie and it succeeds in doing that. Sure, some parts are predictable. And, yes, the themes of family and loyalty are delivered with all the subtlety of a People’s Elbow, but so what? It made me laugh it, it thrilled me and it entertained me throughout.

It’s not clever. But it is big.

Verdict: 7/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

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