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FAST & FURIOUS PRESENTS: HOBBS & SHAW gets 7/10 A Shaw thing


Directed by David Leitch

Starring Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Idris Elba, Vanessa Kirby

7/10

This ninth iteration of The Fast and the Furious marks the first spin-off for the franchise. Over the course of the series, it’s shifted from a crew of truck hijackers boosting electronic goods, to sheer spy-fi that would make even James Bond gasp. So it makes sense to temporarily hand the baton over to two of the most popular actors in the series to expand the world. In the hands of stuntman/ director David Leitch (John Wick, Deadpool 2, Atomic Blonde), this should be a sure thing.

As you can imagine the plot for Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw continues that tradition of spy-fi that has marked the last few films. Law man Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and former criminal Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) are forced to try and set aside their differences as they search London for a stolen high tech virus. Pitted against them is a cybernetically enhanced terrorist (Idris Elba) with his own radical agenda for the potentially apocalyptic virus.

Hobbs & Shaw rests heavily upon the charismatic interaction between its two leads, and honestly… why shouldn’t it? Both the characters have been established as dialectic opposites that are antagonistic towards each other in previous Fast and Furious outings, and both the actors play well to this bickering banter (and occasional punch ups). As such the rough edged American law man and the smooth British criminal are the perfect pairing for this, creating an exceptional buddy action comedy dynamic. This allows Johnson and Statham to verbally spar with each other, almost as often as they bounce the back of generic thugs heads off walls, producing a fair amount of laughs in between the violent mayhem, speeding vehicles, and CG explosions.

That chemistry is enough to propel the film along through some fairly rough peaks and troughs. Without that Hobbs & Shaw would be an average action film, with some high concept mayhem, that is a little too reliant on computer effects over physical, and rapid editing, for execution. It works, but it’s a fairly average big budget example of the action movie genre. With that chemistry of the two leads, it is lifted up a level, becoming a rollicking good time.

Of course, for this to be truly effective, Hobbs and Shaw need a decent threat to be pitted against. This does leave a quandary for the franchise. In a world where physics often gives way to the power of nitrous oxide, where being thrown through a wall is commonplace, and a person can rip the main gun off a military helicopter and wield it – how do you make someone appear superhuman? Hobbs & Shaw does fairly well in this regard with Elba’s Brixton being given cybernetic enhancements to boost him towards the standard of an average Kryptonian. While the displays of strength and endurance are impressive, it’s something that the franchise is already reliant on (albeit slightly amped up). What does make Brixton an effective villain is the link displayed between man and machine displayed by his wireless operation of his autonomous motorcycle or military drones. It allows for him to perform a graceful ballet of carnage during the inevitable high speed chase through the busy London streets, giving him the look and feel of a high performance sports car. As such it is a bit of a call back to the sleek prototype feel of Robert Patrick’s liquid metal T1000 (Terminator 2), complete with a knowing finger wave by Elba as a nod to this.

When the rubber hits the road Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw is just pure unadulterated fun, living up to the legacy that the series has set itself over the last few films.

DAVID O’CONNELL

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