‘Hobbs and Shaw’ Review: High Performance or Old Banger?

Super soldier Brixton Lore (Idris Elba, who is definitely naming his own characters) wants to use a targeted virus to kill off anyone not strong enough to accept the full-body augmentation he believes will save mankind. The only people standing between him and genocide are Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) and Hattie Shaw (Vanessa Kirby). But can they put their past behind them to save the future?

As the film began I tried to recall if the precious fast and furious movies had given Satham and Johnson characters or if they’d simply played themselves as they usually do. The establishing shot of the lead duo answered this question. As lead characters, they’re certainly more dynamic and interesting than Vin Diesel, even if they spend most of the run time exchanging fairly dull insults at each other. The film spends quite a bit of time throwing other character actors at the screen. Ryan Reynolds, Helen Mirren, Kevin Hart, and Eddie Marsan all perform brief cameos, potentially to add the human element to the film and alleviate some of the acting onus from the lead duo.

The best of these supporting characters are definitely Idris Elba and Vanessa Kirby. Elba is the film’s villain, a troubled but zealous soldier who brings a This is action in the Hollywood style and so a lot of it is hidden. Fight choreography hidden by excessive editing and stunts and practical effects hidden by abundant CG elements. Which isn’t to say the action scenes are entirely uninteresting. There are some interesting conceits and memorable moments. The sequences set in Samoa feature a large battle sequence and a somewhat entertaining fistfight. In fact, the film does improve once the gang reaches Samoa. But this is still the franchise that believes that scale is vastly more important than substance, and when that scale is this artificial it’s hard to be excited by it.

This is, of course, a fast and furious movie and so our heroes travel around the world in a handful of establishing shots usually ending in a detailed topography of a woman’s anatomy. There’s lots of slow-motion posturing, the odd internal shot of a car engine to remind you of the film’s bizarre heritage and some utter nonsense physics, including a gag involving a row of cars on a cliff-side that’s practically animated. The same oppressive hip hop plays no matter where the gang goes, and the exotic locales are, for the most part, just background scenery which all becomes blurs once the action starts.

The Fast and Furious franchise has aspired to fun action movie status on a couple of occasions. Fast Five and Fast & Furious 6 remain the high points of the franchise. This spin-off is trying to be the big action spin-off of the racing franchise but as the scale is getting bigger, the reliance on CGI and obfuscating editing remove any excitement from the action. The titular duo have some fun chemistry, but even the movie knows it’s not quite enough.

Two Stars

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