Buckle up for a fuel-injected mix of banter, ballistics and beefy, bone-crunching beatdowns
Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw
Starring Dwayne Johnson & Jason Statham
Directed by David Leitch
Buckle up—Hollywood’s high-octane franchise peels out in a super-charged spinoff featuring two tough guys teamed up to save the planet from a cyber-enhanced mega-villain.
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is federal agent Luke Hobbs, and Jason Statham plays Deckard Shaw, a rogue British Special Forces assassin, both reprising their roles from previous Fast & Furious flicks. In case you’ve lost count, there’ve been eight, starting with The Fast and the Furious back in 2001.
The F&F films—now Universal Pictures’ highest-grossing franchise of all time, with a total box-office draw of some $5 billion—came to be known for over-the-top action, spectacular vehicular stunts, bombastic fights and a colorful core of misfit, muscle-bound motorheads. The movies weren’t high art, but they became the go-to for bountiful cinematic buffets of shoot-’em-up, blow-’em-up, beat-’em-up guilty pleasures, built upon the fuel-injected, chop-shop charisma of leading-man Vin Diesel and his late co-star, Paul Walker (who died in 2013) and a cadre of supporting actors. I’ll always have fond memories of the times they dueled with tanks, raced submarines and parachuted cars out of an airplane.
Hobbs and Shaw weren’t always teammates, as F&F fans well know. They started out on opposite sides of the playing field—with Shaw as an outright baddie—but became begrudging colleagues, and fan favorites, after an heroic act of redemption by Shaw (see The Fate of the Furious, 2017).
Now they’re called back into action to track down a virtually indestructible criminal, Brixton (Idris Elba, the star of TV’s Luther), who’s been reverse-engineered with cyber technology to become the vanguard of a shadowy movement that purports to become the “future of mankind.” Brixton will do anything to get his hands on a deadly proto-virus—a programmable apocalypse—with the power to wipe out all humanity and start over again.
“I’m black Superman!” he decrees.
Hobbs and Shaw need to get to the virus first, and fast—not only to save the world, but also for an extremely personal reason.
Fast cars? Explosions? Fights? Yes, yes and yes! This is a Fast & Furious property, after all. There’s a rip-roaring chase through downtown London with a supercool convertible McLaren 720S Spider and Brixton’s “smart” motorcycle, and another through the collapsing, exploding ruins of a decrepit Ukrainian factory—and bonus points for a clash-of-the-titans, three-way smackdown that continues onto the back of a moving flatbed truck.
And that’s all before the action moves to Samoa, where the fighting takes a “traditional” twist as Hobbs reconnects with his family there—and he and Decker lasso Brixton’s helicopter with a giant chain from a wrecker.
Vanessa Kirby (she played Princess Margaret in The Crown on Netflix) is a total badass as Shaw’s sister, Hattie, an MI6 field agent with a secret—and a combustive, combative skill set that puts her right alongside other formidable females in in the F&F lineage, including Michelle Rodriguez, Gal Gadot and Charlize Theron. There’s the great Helen Mirren, reprising her previous role from The Fate of the Furious as Shaw’s mother, Queenie, now in prison—and adapting quite well, thank you. And a couple of surprise comedic cameos (I won’t spoil it by giving them away) add to the tasty flow of quick-fire quips and humor.
Johnson and Statham, both alpha-male movie stars, fall easily into the movie’s heady, diesel-fuel mix of banter, ballistics and beefy, bone-crunching, balls-to-the-wall beatdowns. Director David Leitch (Atomic Blonde, Deadpool 2) has a good grip on combining outrageous action with good ol’ buddy comedy, and he understands that the supercharged engine of the Fast & Furious movies has always purred with the warm, steady hum of another f-word, family.
At one point in Hobbs & Shaw, a multi-vehicle pursuit seems to lead into a dead end. Oh, no! Was it in London? Or the Ukraine? Or that narrow mountain road in Samoa, with four or five cars and trucks daisy-chained to a helicopter, about to pull them all over a cliff, and Hobbs holding them all together, like Hercules?
“We’re running out of road!” shouts Hattie.
Not to worry. With two more Fast & Furious movies already in the pipeline, an animated Netflix series this fall, and maybe even another spinoff coming down the pike, there’s still plenty of room for the F&F franchise to roam, a lot more road to ride. It’s a big, wide world, there’s always somewhere else to go, and just look around—there are so many places that haven’t been destroyed yet!
In theaters Aug. 2, 2019