Fast & Furious: Hobbs & Shaw Review
Two of the Fast & Furious franchise's top stars are going to have to work together... even if it kills them
Doing what it says on the tin, few will be disappointed by Tango & Cash (2019), even if its ludicrously overlong and arguably a few decades too late.Luke Hobbs and Deckard Shaw were arguably two of the greatest additions to the unexpected blockbuster franchise The Fast and the Furious, with Dwayne Johnson's Hobbs helping inject a new dynamic into the series ever since he landed in the fifth (and still best) outing, Fast Five, whilst Jason Statham's Shaw made for a kick-ass villain, introduced in the credits of Fast & Furious 6, and a viable threat throughout Furious 7, even if, by the end of Fast & Furious 8, he was suddenly one of the team.
Eight movies into the Fast & Furious series and few will argue that the scenes with both Johnson and Shaw were an absolute high point, particularly when they were butting their bald heads together in a gloriously over-the-top alpha male put-down match. Seeking to capitalise on this chemistry - or friction - Hobbs & Shaw is the first of several planned Fast & Furious spin-off projects, attempting to see how much mileage the franchise gets from features which don't involve the original stars.
Does it justify the bump to 2020 for Fast & Furious 9? The jury is still out. But if it gives Diesel's crew more time to fuel the rocket that will take their cars into space, then you can hardly complain
The story has Vanessa Kirby's MI6 agent framed and on the run from Idris Elba's super-soldier criminal, Brixton Lore, with only two people on the planet capable of tracking her and bringing her in - and with the fate of the world in the balance. Hobbs and Shaw. Butting heads right from the outset, the two struggle to find any common ground, eventually finding something of a purpose in protecting the wayward agent from her 'cyber-genetically-enhanced' opponent, who has a history with Shaw.
Off-screen, two other bald heads were butting up against one another in the world of the Fast & Furious - the 'father' of the franchise, Vin Diesel, and arguably its biggest draw, Dwayne Johnson, who was still carving out a name for himself in the ever-shifting action landscape when he joined this particular family, but who now clearly feels he's outgrown it. The result? Not only a spin-off 'rival' franchise, but actually a film which bumped the proposed ninth Fast & Furious film to a 2020 holding slot (from its planned 2019 summer release), much to the chagrin of not only Diesel, but all of his old Fast & Furious crew.
Was it worth it? Well, Hobbs & Shaw is certainly a lot of bang for your buck, taking a few minutes of witty skit between the two leads and seeking to transform it into an epic running gag. Clocking in at a rather unforgiving 135 minutes, the monolithic action extravaganza often feels like it's fitting into a pre-ordained slot with a specific running time, content to throw in a half a dozen montages just to meet expectations; serve up multiple scenery-changes in a bid to live up to its globe-trotting big brother franchise, and hammer home the overarching themes of family and vehicular mayhem, even if it means adding a whole fourth act to the feature just because... who needs one forty minute long ending when you can have two?
For many, this is just what it says on the box - and then some - and the added bang for your buck is just an opportunity for further grin-inducing insanity, but Hobbs & Shaw has a remarkably laissez-faire attitude when it comes to almost anything but action, with even the jokes occasionally hit and miss, and things like efficient storytelling, characterisation and plot all utterly surplus to requirements. It also struggles to offer up any genuine tension with its indestructible leads charged with fighting a slightly more indestructible opponent whilst dealing with a human ticking time bomb threat that has been done better a dozen times before - even in Woo's Mission: Impossible II.
There's at least 85 minutes of high octane blistering action and snappy hilarity in this 135 minute movie so, if you've got time to kill, it's worth checking out
It's a moot point though; this is Tango & Cash for the new generation, pushing the boundaries of 12A violence (but still unquestionably 12A, which is a shame given what the director has previously accomplished with a harder rating in John Wick, Atomic Blonde, and Deadpool 2 - the fighting, but for perhaps in the final, final conflict, seldom has genuine impact, and is blisteringly fast-cut) and going full 80s in its sensibilities, even - at its height - showing some self-awareness over the whole macho male setup, whilst it delivers a succession of increasingly preposterous, but still frequently entertaining action setpieces. And it comes up with the concept of cyber-genetic-enhancement, which earns it an extra point right off the bat.
Johnson and, perhaps in particular, Statham deserve this kind of epic Big Screen payday (apart from The Meg, Statham has never had it this big) and they make for a solid updating to the Stallone/Kurt Russell union back in the 80s, even if the script here is hardly on fire, stretching their running animosity gag thin over the first two hours of the movie, and seeking far too much help from star cameos to keep the jokes flowing (there are at least two standouts; the first has the funniest jokes in the film, and completely overshadows Johnson - stick around to the very end of the end credits for more in this respect - whilst the second even manages to make that Starlord gag humorous a second time out). Elba too tries his hardest to do something with his role even if - for good or bad - he's little more than the best Bond henchman not from a Bond film, whilst Kirby expands her action repertoire post-Mission: Impossible - Fallout, and delivers a stunning audition for a potential upcoming Catwoman lead. She's certainly one to watch.
Few who love the Fast & Furious series will be able to resist the insanity of Hobbs & Shaw, both a no-brainer in terms of obvious spin-off after the last film, and also clearly a no-brainer in realisation. It's in-line with the franchise as a whole, selling spectacularly stupid as a grin-inducing positive, and almost getting away with it. Some judicious editing, and maybe a modicum of plausible peril (something, curiously, which the greater franchise whole seemed ever so slightly more capable of delivering - crazy as it may sound, this one may actually be missing the Diesel factor) would have pushed this higher up the ranks, but Statham and Johnson still clearly had a lot of fun flying around the world blowing stuff up, and that kind of thing is scarily contagious, when you're in the right mood for it. Does it justify the bump to 2020 for Fast & Furious 9? The jury is still out. But if it gives Diesel's crew more time to fuel the rocket that will take their cars into space, then you can hardly complain. There's at least 85 minutes of high octane blistering action and snappy hilarity in this 135 minute movie so, if you've got time to kill, it's worth checking out.
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