Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham Spin-off Into Their Own Fast & Furious Mayhem.
DIRECTED BY: DAVID LEITCH/2019
Whether or not there is still a “bitter feud” between Fast & Furious castmates Dwayne Johnson and Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson took the opportunity to spin-off of the Fast & Furious juggernaut for an anti-buddy action tale with his character of Luke Hobbs. This reconnects the on-screen chemistry Hobbs had with Jason Statham’s character, Deckard Shaw, in the last two F&F films, especially in the last installment, Fate of the Furious.
Starting with Fast Five, when Johnson joined the franchise, the Fast & Furious films have increasingly gotten more and more absurd in terms of its believability. What started as a small film about street racers involved in stealing goods from 18-wheelers while under investigation by an undercover cop, has now escalated into a full-blown globe-jumping super team (of skilled drivers, spies, hackers, etc.) who have no superpowers per se, but who are still able to survive the most unbelievable of stunts, falls, crashes, and other well choreographed mayhem. Hobbs & Shaw winks to the audience regarding this absurdity and then purposely leans in heavily to this idea. The result is that the film is exactly as advertised. The cast and the action make Hobbs & Shaw a fun, adrenaline-fueled ride, without any real attempt of plausibility. Most won’t care as long as Johnson & Statham deliver the laughs and the action.
Government Agent Hobbs (Johnson) is contacted by a CIA Agent (a hilarious cameo by an actor that will not be spoiled here) about a virus that has infected a rogue MI-6 agent named Hattie (Vanessa Kirby). Hobbs is to fly to London and meet a contact to help bring her in before it kills her and starts a global pandemic that could threaten all of mankind.
In London, Deckard Shaw, a disgraced former agent turned criminal (as we saw in previous Fast & Furious films) has been asked to bring in this same rogue agent and is told that the CIA is bringing someone in from the States to work alongside him. This of course is how Hobbs & Shaw, former prison-mates are brought back together. As we saw from The Fate of the Furious, there is still no love between these two, but of course they will have to work together to take down their biggest threat, a cyber-genetically enhanced super villain named Brixton (Idris Elba), who has history with Shaw, and also wants to find Agent Hattie for his organization’s own nefarious purposes.
Like the entire Fast & Furious franchise, Hobbs & Shaw also focus on that favorite f-word of the series: family. Once again we get to see Helen Mirren play Deckard’s mom, Queenie, and we learn more about Hobbs’ daughter Sam (Eliana Sua), and his Samoan family he has been avoiding for the past 25 years. All of these threads of their various families will take center stage by the end of it all.
The story is once again penned by Chris Morgan, who has helped write every installment since Tokyo Drift, as well as the upcoming 9th film in the F&F series. Here, he is also helped by Drew Pearce (Iron Man 3; Mission: Impossible-Rogue Nation). Director David Leitch, once again brings his stunt coordinator background to the forefront, as he did in John Wick, Atomic Blonde, and Deadpool 2, featuring many practical stunts, while also incorporating the more fantastical ones that Fast & Furious fans have come to expect.
In the end, Hobbs & Shaw is a very mixed bag, but its mostly a fun affair. The laughs, action, chemistry, and set pieces are all there, along with two great cameos. The plot is very straight-forward, yet there wasn’t as much of an emotional core around the whole “family” motif without Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, and the gang, sitting around the dinner table or cracking well-established jokes towards each other in the middle of a caper. There’s more than enough chemistry, but not enough heart is built into the script. Morgan and Pearce’s script does a good job of connecting threads from the previous Fast & Furious installments into this spin-off story, with even a few nods to other films of Statham and Johnson. I won’t even criticize the absurdity of the whole plot as that’s the point of these films….they just want you to strap yourself in for the ride and enjoy.
Idris Elba relishes this role and even gets to have some fun leaning into the notion of him being floated as a potential James Bond replacement for Daniel Craig in the future, through his character in this film. Elba would be terrific as Bond, but here he seems to have a tongue-in-cheek laugh at it all. Eiza Gonzalez (Baby Driver) makes a brief appearance as Madame M whose reputation sounds quite impressive, but she isn’t really given a lot to do here. Hopefully she and her crew find their way into a future story. The three end-credit scenes may or may not have payoffs in Fast & Furious 9, but they definitely set the stage for another Hobbs & Shaw adventure, if the box office supports another romp around the globe for these two frenemies….so stay in your chair until the last credit has rolled.