At some point, buddy-cop movies about a straight-edge hero paired with a wisecracking, “screw the rules” partner might get old. Maybe. Certainly not with Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw, a truly stellar spinoff from the decades-spanning Vin Diesel action franchise.
Vin’s gone this time around, though. Taking the helm at last is franchise savior Dwayne Johnson as Luke Hobbs, the antagonist turned capital-F Family member in the main series. He’s paired with Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), the former villain-turned-ally, who gets the traditional “heroic retcon” treatment here to soften him up and reframe his previous psychopathic behavior as secretly magnanimous. The fast-and-loose character work is one of the charms of this overall franchise because it mirrors the series’ tenuous adherence to physics and reality.
The only rule in Hobbs & Shaw is that it rules.
After the villainous — or at least villainous until he’s somehow redeemed in the next movie, probably — Brixton Lore (Idris Elba) tries to steal a nanovirus called Snowflake from Shaw’s sister, Hattie (Vanessa Kirby), the dynamic duo of mismatched heroes must rescue her because she injected herself with Snowflake at the last moment to keep the virus out of Brixton’s reach. It’s the basic plot you’d expect from this sort of thing, which is fine. The chemistry of the three leads buoys is the main attraction, and they all deliver. Kirby shows off her action chops in a way Mission: Impossible — Fallout never managed.
Given that Hobbs & Shaw is a Fast & Furious film, it all boils down, of course, to families. The ultimate showdown in Samoa introduces Hobbs’ extended family. Kudos to Johnson for emphasizing the inclusion of Samoan culture and actors in the film. The final action sequences may be a little CGI-heavy, but that’s part-and-parcel with the latter entries of its parent franchise and done in the service of some hilariously imaginative moments. So what if the 30-minute battle starts at night and ends at noon? It’s all relative to how much fun you’re having watching the rapid succession of absurdity. It all culminates in a moment of Peak Brosploitation that defies description.
Hobbs & Shaw isn’t afraid to reference its buddy-cop ancestors and owes a lot of its tone in Tango & Cash in particular. There’s plenty to be said for contemporary action films that try to capture the same feeling of those ’80s and ’90s classics, which truly became runaway, off-the-wall movies with inflated star salaries and over-budgeted productions. This feels like their most genuine successor in years. That being said, it also benefits from the creative vision of Johnson, who continues to prove himself a consummate entertainer dedicated to general quality-control. Not that all his films have been great — Skyscraper comes to mind — but this one feels personal to him, and his hand is felt here, which ensures that Hobbs & Shaw is the best possible version of itself.
That may not be for everyone, but if you’ve ever wanted to see Statham and Johnson duo-punch a cyborg, well, it’s definitely for you.
Bonus features include deleted scenes and short features about the characters and various stunts.