For a film series quick to preach the importance of family, Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw provides the most realistic portrayal of a family out of all of The Fast and the Furious (2001-) films. A separation.
The colon that separates ‘Hobbs & Shaw’ from the ‘Fast & Furious’ allows Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham to ride into their own pocket-universe. It is a brave move by Universal Pictures to cherry-pick two latecomers from a series and have them carry a series-adjacent film – particularly when said series is like a vintage car and has only gathered value with maturity.
Where there is perceived shame in enjoying films that display the balls-to-the-wall insanity of movies from the nineties, The Fast & Furious films have unashamedly indulged in it. From cars driving around carrying bank vaults to vehicles parachuting out of planes, there is no other film series that has raised the action stakes as high as Fast does. The Fast & Furious series has gone big and everyone else has gone home.
Hobbs & Shaw does not play it small, nor does it pretend to be something it is not. This is affirmed early on by Idris Elba’s imposing villain Brixton, a half-man-half-robot hybrid that looks like the tech from GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra (2009), who needs no further detail when introducing himself. “Bad guy”, he remarks. Where Hobbs & Shaw continues this trend of being undeniably bold, there is an air which surrounds the film that feels forced.
If Shaw (Jason Statham) were a pressed designer suit, Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) would be a Metallica singlet. If Shaw were a pistol, Hobbs would be a double-barrel shotgun. If Shaw were a Tango, Hobbs would be the Samba. If Shaw took two steps forward, Hobbs would take two steps back. While Hobbs and Shaw are tested by their differences, it is their ability to get the job done that brings them together.
Humour in Hobbs & Shaw draws from Johnson and Statham’s odd-couple pairing. This bickering, which worked as part of an ensemble cast becomes stretched out over the course of the film’s lengthy 135-minute runtime. Their continuous retorts feel overbearing and deliberate and shifts the dynamic of the series from an action-flick to a drawn-out action-comedy. This being said, Statham and Johnson prove to be a dynamite duo who are having the time of their lives. This feel-goodness is contagious and remains in-tune with other entries in the series that make every effort to invite the viewer to become part of their dysfunctional-yet-functional family.
The action focuses heavily on hand-to-hand combat with director David Leitch finding any excuse to keep it physical. Not to say the film is deprived of blazing gun battles (with even a flamethrower thrown in there), but Hobbs and Shaw have shifted into martial arts-inspired combat. The result culminating in a refreshing update for a series always open to upping the action-ante.
You don’t turn to Fast & Furious, a film series notorious for objectifying women as if they were expensive cars, for a lesson on feminism. But Hobbs & Shaw goes there by attempting to comment on matters of consent and independence. It is an oversimplification that is all too quickly undone with the inclusion of a gang of female mercenaries, one of which wears lingerie, and in Hobbs’ constant use of the term ‘sweetheart’ when speaking to women. Sister of Shaw’s and series new-comer Hattie (portrayed by Vanessa Kirby) slides into the fold like a natural and features so prominently in the film that it could have been titled ‘Hobbs & Shaws’.
Just like Dwayne Johnson himself, the film is big, confident and makes every effort to invest in itself for future instalments – an effort that goes to prove that if Hobbs & Shaw were a party, everyone would want to attend. Despite strong chemistry between Johnson and Statham, the film is lessened by excessive wisecracking and attempts to make commentary on feminism that it is unqualified to make.
Hobbs & Shaw raises many questions regarding the future direction of the Fast & Furious series. Can Johnson and Statham successfully launch a franchise outside of the Fast universe? Will Hobbs and Shaw be back for Fast 9? Can Dwayne Johnson and Vin Diesel squash their beef?
For the latter, if Katy Perry and Taylor Swift can sort out their differences, then anything is possible.
Dwayne Johnson was very supportive of exploring the idea of Hobbs’s family, allowing for many Polynesians to be cast as his relatives. This was a definite nod to Vin Diesel’s constant references to “family” in the previous Fast & Furious movies.