31st Jul2019

‘Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw’ Review

by Matthew Turner

Stars: Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Vanessa Kirby, Eiza González, Idris Elba, Helen Mirren, Eddie Marsan, Cliff Curtis | Written by Chris Morgan, Drew Pearce | Directed by David Leitch

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Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham ditch the rest of the Fast & Furious crew for this entertaining team-up that boasts big stunts, big fights and big characters. The laughs aren’t quite as big as the film thinks they are, but it’s hard to complain when the action is this much fun.

The plot kicks off with MI6 agent Hattie (Vanessa Kirby) injecting herself with a deadly time-delayed virus, in order to stop it falling into the hands of cyber-genetically enhanced baddie Brixton (Idris Elba). With the future of humanity at stake, MI6 and the CIA recruit Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) and Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) to recover the virus, unaware that the pair have a mutually antagonistic relationship. Meanwhile, a sinister organisation frames Hattie for the theft of the virus, while Hobbs and Shaw discover something else to argue about when it turns out Hattie is Shaw’s sister.

Johnson and Statham have proven comic chemistry, so it’s a treat to see a whole movie devoted to their bickering-yet-affectionate back and forth relationship. Their action styles also complement each other nicely, something the film exploits early on with an amusing split-screen sequence where Hobbs takes down criminals in L.A while Shaw beats up bad guys in London.

Elba proves an eminently worthy bad guy as Brixton – his character has a history with Shaw – and he’s clearly enjoying himself, judging by the relish with which he delivers the line, “Look at me – I’m black Superman!” Accordingly, the introduction of cyber-genetic enhancement moves the franchise into superhero – or rather supervillain – territory, and it’s not hard to see the central conflict as a metaphor for traditional, plucky action movies holding their own against an all-conquering stream of superhero movies.

However, as good as Elba is, the real stand-out is Vanessa Kirby (previously best known for The Crown, so this should give her career a significant boost), who gives as good as she gets in the fight scene and stunt departments, while also generating strong chemistry with Johnson and delivering her entire performance with a playful twinkle in her eye. Here’s hoping she returns for a future instalment in the main franchise.

In addition to the main cast, there are a small handful of surprise cameos that it would be churlish to reveal here, though if you’re at all interested in that sort of thing, it would be wise to see the film as soon as possible, because they’ll be all over the internet by the weekend. Suffice it to say that they’re not quite worth the build-up – they’re clearly there for comic relief, but the scenes aren’t as funny as everyone involved seems to think they are.

When it comes to the action and stunt sequences, Hobbs & Shaw is genuinely spectacular, whether it’s staging a fight on the side of a skyscraper (it looks like it was meant to be The Shard), a high speed chase scene on the streets of London (enhanced by Brixton’s mind-controlled motorcycle), a punch-up in a warehouse or an extraordinary set-piece, already familiar from the trailers, where Johnson keeps a helicopter on a leash with his bare hands.

Hobbs & Shaw is further enhanced by its tongue-in-cheek approach to locations, having the characters move from London to Russia to Samoa, despite the fact that the virus capsules in Hattie’s bloodstream will dissolve within 48 hours.

If there’s a flaw, it’s only that the dialogue and one-liners could have used a little toning up in places, as they never quite get the big laughs the film was obviously going for. Indeed, the film frequently gives up on the one-liner concept altogether and has Johnson and Statham just pull faces at each other instead, with funnier results.

In short, this a big, bold action movie that’s as entertaining as it is ridiculous. It’s unclear if Johnson and Statham will both be on board for Fast and Furious 9, but either way, we won’t have seen the last of them as they clearly have a successful spin-off franchise on their hands.

**** 4/5

Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw is in UK cinemas from tomorrow, Thursday August 1st.

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