Technically, the movie is titled Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw. This is, of course, to achieve the coveted double-ampersand score and also to let viewers know that the film takes place on whatever physics-free alternate universe/planet/reality the F&F series calls home.
The film is a throwback to mismatched buddy-cop action franchises of the 80s/90s, oiled up with the lube of aggressive hetero-masculinity. “You’re big and dumb!” shouts one. “You’re small and dumb!” shouts the other. “Tiny penis!” they both shout! What fun we have! We’re having fun, right?!
“Harmless” isn’t quite the right term for a film that explicitly suggests men who love each other must first physically harm one another before even contemplating a hug. However, if you can mentally plug your nose at the psychic smell-o-vision of Axe body spray and fear of erectile dysfunction, Hobbs & Shaw is a perfectly fine bit of action shenanigans.
Director David Leitch’s opening sequence actually sets the bar fairly high, introducing the differences between Hobbs (The Rock) and Shaw (Jason Statham) in mostly dialogue-free split-screen action. Then people talk and everything gets dumber. Shaw’s sister, Hattie (Vanessa Kirby), is an MI-6 agent who steals a deadly MacGuffin virus to prevent bad guys from getting it. The fact that the virus is codenamed “Snowflake” sure feels like a MAGA jab at moviegoers who don’t suckle at The Rock’s ample teat.
The head evil dude is Brixton (Idris Elba), a cybernetically enhanced murder-doer who believes himself to be the “next evolution” of the human man. Presumably, that means he doesn’t explain a woman’s joke back to her. As you’d expect, the whole thing is just a series of loosely strung together action setpieces, culminating in a largely gun-free showdown in Samoa, where The Rock uses the native word for brother so much it’s less a climax and more a Rosetta stone lesson.
Although clearly a few gold coins short of John Wick’s American action standard, the spectacles are lower-case spectacular enough. Lots of people are picked up and slammed into things, and what Hobbs & Shaw lacks in clever choreography it makes up for with pulsating music prompts. This is, of course, provided you’re comfortable with not merely suspending disbelief but jettisoning it into the sun. Brixton is a self-described “black Superman,” but that doesn’t explain how Hattie—who is decidedly not black and not Superman—can basically take a helicopter crash to the face and be fine.
The middle finger to Sir Isaac Newton shouldn’t, and won’t, prevent anyone from largely enjoying the tomfoolery. It’s just that when we see Tom Cruise actually surf on top of a plane or marvel at the intricate slapwork of Keanu Reeves with regularity, Hobbs & Shaw is a painfully obvious downgrade. Unless you really, really like jokes about wieners and rectal probing…
Oh, and it’s worth noting that the film sports two cameos from actors who are incredibly effective in bursts of 5 minutes or less and painful in stretches literally any longer. There’s no doubt their inclusion here was a hint at what a fully independent Hobbs & Shaw franchise would look like. Let me be the first to say, please God no. No. No. NO.
Grade = C