Directed by: David Leitch
Written by: Chris Morgan & Drew Pearce
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Idris Elba, Vanessa Kirby, Eliza González, Cliff Curtis
Mindless action has the opportunity to provide a nice mental escape from the real world through just how ridiculous it can be. It’s easy to enjoy and I do on occasion. However, certain lines get crossed with this production that takes away from the enjoyment I typically have with the other films in this franchise.
During a mission trying to retrieve a virus that could kill everyone on the planet, Hattie (Vanessa Kirby) is attacked by a group led by Brixton Lore (Idris Elba), a man mechanically wired to be quicker and stronger than even the most athletic people. Hattie narrowly escapes and seeks refuge. Meanwhile, Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) are the best of frenemies, who have their differences and receive an alert by their agencies of this virus being on the loose. With both involved, they are tasked to work together to attain the virus, much to their displeasure.
As a full disclaimer, the Fast and Furious franchise is one of my favorite guilty pleasures in watching film. I am well aware of their faults narratively and believability, but I adore them for all of its craziness. Dwayne Johnson provided a jolt of energy to the franchise in Fast Five that changed the entire direction of the subsequent films. Luke Hobbs became an excellent addition as a side character and now with his own spin-off with the former villain, Shaw, it lost sight of the familial trait that connected me to the entire franchise.
There are spritzes of it in there, for sure, but it doesn’t feel as smooth as with the other characters. The familial relationships in the story include Shaw and Hattie as brother and sister. It’s inadvertently hilarious when the film shows flashbacks of them as kids being around the same age when Jason Statham is actually 21 years older than Vanessa Kirby. There’s also the portion of when Hobbs returns to Samoa and needs to confront leaving his family. A storyline that had potential but was sacrificed in lieu of more bombastic action. It doesn’t feel familial with these characters and it feels forced in a way that didn’t before because family stands out as the overall theme of the entire franchise. Part of it may have been trying too hard to make it so when it just felt rushed.
The more action films I watch, the more it becomes obvious that some are vanity projects and no story feels more that way than Hobbs & Shaw. Leading up to the release, reports surfaced that action stars place within their contracts how many hits they are allowed to absorb and how many fights they were allowed to lose. These are not in place because of the physical toll it might take on the actor’s body, but to not show the actor’s persona getting beat up too much. They don’t want to be perceived as weak or one that gets beat up all the time. Mix in the egos of Statham and Johnson and you have a testosterone-fueled mess of one trying to outdo the other.
A scene that highlights this madness occurs where Hobbs and Shaw try to chase Brixton’s goons, who have captured Hattie. The goons are running down the side of the building as they are harnessed to the top of the building. This story has so little regard for any sense that Hobbs, without any harnesses or gear, jumps out of the window aiming for the goons while holding onto their lines. Not only would it scrape off every inch of skin on his hand, but it’s also beyond stupid. Meanwhile, there’s Shaw who smashed a button on the elevator and somehow that makes it go down the building at the speed of light. Wait, there’s more. While the elevator shoots down and Hobbs fights the goons as they are running down the side of the building, the duo has time to talk trash to each other.
Yes, other Fast & Furious films had ridiculous action sequences, but they all came with an emotional payoff, which this story severely lacks. Everything happens just because it’s cool rather than it serving a purpose to the story. The two characters of Hobbs and Shaw were able to be really funny with their testosterone when they were complementary to the other stories but to give them their own feature shows that these characters are simply not that interesting. There’s nothing to them except for doing large action set pieces.
Bright spots for the film do include Vanessa Kirby as Hattie and Idris Elba as Brixton. Kirby continues to display that she should receive her own action franchise, as she shines with her humor and fighting ability. Elba plays a stereotypical villain but he does get the opportunity to call himself “Black Superman” so I take back everything negative written about this film.
This may work for others who just want this type of mindless action and the scene I described above might sound awesome. To that, all I have to say is enjoy the heck out of this movie then. I wanted more of an emotional throughline for these characters but the filmmakers and actors were not interested in providing that. It’s a misstep for the franchise and a lackluster film.