"Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw," out August 2, is a mouthful of a title, but it's not like Universal and director David Leitch ("Atomic Blonde," "Deadpool 2") have bitten off more than they can chew; with Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham at the helm, "Hobbs & Shaw" will certainly do well in theaters. Still, the movie trades out a lot (but not all) of the fast cars and family that "Fast & Furious" is known for in favor of fisticuffs and frenemies. Does it still come together, or should you wait for NOS and noshing with Vin Diesel and co. next year? Here's what the reviews say:
There's No Deep 'Fast' Lore Here: Hobbs, Shaw, Shaw's Sister Hattie And The Baddie Brixton Are All You Need
Dwayne Johnson is Hobbs, a burly DSS agent; supposedly the best tracker in the world. Jason Statham is Shaw, a suave spy whose exact allegiances are frankly a little murky; he killed one of the most beloved characters in the Fast franchise but now mostly stays on the side of the angels and ignores that heinous crime.
These guys don't want to work together again, but the unreliable behavior of Shaw's brilliant sister Hattie (the ever-terrific Vanessa Kirby), a rogue MI6 agent in possession of a world-endangering viral sample, and the frightening ambitions of the half-man, half-genetically enhanced anarchist Brixton Lorr (Idris Elba) rather force the issue.
If You Love The Bickering Between Statham And Johnson, There's A Lot — Maybe Too Much — Of That To Go Around
Simultaneously the best and worst parts of the film are Hobbs and Shaw's arguments — the combative chemistry is what made Johnson and Statham a dream team to begin with, but Leitch seems to give his stars a loose leash when it comes to banter. The clever digs and naughty insults eventually degrade into "your mom" jokes — which Johnson and Statham pull off wonderfully, but even these scenes start to drag once they've been going on for over five minutes straight.
Yet even as the bulk of Hobbs's dialogue in the film consists of non-stop insults, Johnson's charming personality consistently shines through. For one, Hobbs is apt to goofily pause a rant in order to wink at or compliment a stranger, moments that add a disarming affability to the looming brute. Set against Shaw's withering sarcasm, Hobbs is downright loveable.
Statham and Johnson are two of the most likable action stars working today, but neither mixes up what they do from movie to movie all that much. (The Johnson who shows up for the disaster film "San Andreas" isn't that different from the one who shows up for the Kevin Hart comedy "Central Intelligence.") There's a reason for this: those personas work.
Idris Elba's Bad Guy Role Is Cool But Uncomplicated
Soup up the cars all you want, but keep the people people. Elba allures through all that relentless cyborg glint, but he nonetheless feels like an unwelcome visitor from a different franchise. I say they should recast Elba in another of these movies as someone a bit more grounded in the real world, one who isn't so boringly capable (The worst kind of villain, and an all too common one.)
He's like the Terminator, but funnier. He's the muscle for the group trying to get their hands on the virus. Elba seems to be having fun laying such an over the top villain, complete with his self-driving motorcycle, which is one of the more ridiculous, yet fun gadgets in the movie.
Not unlike his turn in "Star Trek Beyond," Elba doesn't get much to do here but growl about 'the future' and throw his considerable intensity into a workmanlike baddie role.
WATCH — We dissected what makes a great "Fast & Furious" chase scene:
Vanessa Kirby Is The Movie's #1, Scene-Stealing Shaw
Kirby's icy Hattie Shaw is a welcome addition to this testosterone-saturated pairing, giving depth to a role that, as written, is little more than an emotional anchor for Shaw and a new romantic foil to Hobbs. Lithe and lethal, Kirby is magnetic to watch with a smirk always ready to form on her face — delivering a much-needed dose of cool comedy while Johnson and Statham run hot.
Not once did I buy her as Statham's sister. But not once did I care that I did not.
There's an interesting piece to be written about how Hobbs and Shaw are constantly turning to women in this movie to save them—including Eiza Gonzalez's Madame, a cameo from Helen Mirren as Shaw's mom again, and a key character in the final act that I won't spoil—but I admired how much Leitch and Kirby refused to turn Hattie into the damsel in distress character that she easily could have become.
It's not perfect, and the rest of the film's women (especially Eiza González's international-thief contact) get frustratingly short shrift, but at least this series avoids a few of the creakier aspects of old-school macho action films.
Where Later 'Fast' Movies Coast On Charisma And Character Moments, This Movie Puts Its Trust In Cameos
It would be nice if "Hobbs & Shaw" had a bit less plot and a bit more humanity. Although co-writer Chris Morgan has been with the Fast & Furious franchise longer than almost anyone at this point, his script this time (co-written with Drew Pearce) occasionally forgets that the appeal of these movies is as much about hanging out with people we like as watching them do ridiculous stuff with cars.
Some movies require a slow build, but "Hobbs & Shaw" isn't that kind of movie. It needs to charge right out the gate, guns blazing, biceps rippling, chrome domes shining. Unfortunately, it takes about an hour for "Hobbs & Shaw" to get moving, as the film gets weighed down by its self-indulgent excess and distracting cameos from the cast and crew's best buddies.
It's A Far Cry From Leitch's Best Action Directing Work On 'John Wick' And 'Atomic Blonde,' In Part Due To Overload
Leitch's constantly felt impulse to amp up every scene and provide something more yields benefits on a moment-to-moment basis, but can also reach a point of diminishing returns in its totality.
Leitch frequently falls back on the modern action trope of filming action in chaotically edited close-ups, but he nevertheless remains shrewdly conscious of the contrast in Hobbs and Shaw's respective fighting styles. The film's camera weaves and ducks in sync with Shaw's expertly fluid martial arts capabilities in close-quarters combat, but it stands back to take in all of Hobbs as he swings a giant fist at some unlucky mercenary, rocking slightly to emphasize the force of a blow's impact.
The physical combat is tightly choreographed and elegant, and a climactic, "Seven Samurai"–inspired melee in Samoa is both rousing and inventive, with an eye-popping bit where a whole series of ramshackle trucks chain themselves together mid-chase to bring down a helicopter. But there are parts that seem lifeless and obligatory.
Johnson and Statham aren't action stars for nothing. But somewhere around the midpoint of Hobbs & Shaw, the action sequences become so elaborate that they start to weigh the movie down; it becomes less a lean machine than an unwieldy, chubby sausage. And even if you feel certain there's no such thing as too much action, you surely know when you've had too much sausage.
'Fast' Fans Who Rank The Films High In The Action Movie Canon Won't Find A New Favorite Here…
In baseball there's a statistic called "wins above replacement"; it measures the value of any given player on a team by comparing them to an average or "replacement-level player" at the same position. A pitcher with a WAR of 5.0 is worth five additional wins to his team. Hobbs & Shaw is the movie version of a replacement-level player. It is adequate, but not exceptional. It's the baseline version of what one of these movies should be, now that they're not about undercover cops chasing thieves anymore.
To be blunt, there's no real emotional stakes in the final third of this movie, and I checked out more than I did in the best of the series ("Fast Five," "Furious 7").
… But, If You Can Look Past That, You'll Find Some Bits Of Fun That Stand Out From This Summer's Other Offerings
The movie[…] tries very hard to be cool, and silly, and tough, and sweet, and dumb, and clever. You know, like what the "Furious" franchise at its best can be. What results from all that unseemly effort is a movie that is, in fits and starts, a visceral jolt, but otherwise irritates in all its antic gesture.
This, my friends, is where the franchise that began 18 years ago as a glorified street racing movie. Now, none of the characters from the 2001 original remain, but the guy who launched his acting career as "The Scorpion King" (that same summer "The Fast and the Furious" first revved its engines) and one of the hoods from Guy Ritchie's stable (hairless as far back as "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels") are running around — from London to Chernobyl to Samoa — trying to stop robots from taking over the world. If that doesn't encapsulate the state of blockbuster cinema as we know it, what does?
The truth is that the Summer of 2019 has been ridiculously thin when it comes to mindless fun. And there's something to be said for merely bouncing four movie stars as charismatic as this film's quartet off each other for just over two hours. As critics have said before about similar projects, it's a movie to eat popcorn to and leave your worries at the door.
It's an overeager facsimile, though, a too gratingly self-aware fan-service product that, in most ways, is only pretending it has a personality. Slow and mild it is not. But it's neither fast nor furious, either.
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