If you’re watching a film where a super soldier (Idris Elba) is out to wreak havoc, and the only people that can stop him are a ripped-to-shreds cop (The Rock, every magnificent inch of him) and a smart-mouthed spy (Jason Statham), what franchise are you watching? It’s not a hard question. Only Fast and Furious could get away with a plot so nonsensical, yet David Leitch lets his action movie skills do the talking to deliver a summer blockbuster with old-fashioned thrills and spills.
This spin-off’s existence may have caused some rifts in the Fast and Furious family, but like all films in the series so far Hobbs and Shaw is exactly about that – family. Throughout the franchise’s increasingly zany and physics-bending antics (a trip to space is not out of the question), this emphasis on family has helped to ground everything just enough to stop it being forgettable. It’s spun a little differently here, but die-hard fans needn’t worry; this is definitely a Fast and Furious movie.
The story is really just a vehicle to pull of one death-defying move after another. Leitch definitely feels more at home with the close-quarters combat scenarios, the kind of action he has made his name with, and there is a never-ending tirade of fisticuffs throughout this wild boar of a movie. The differences between how each protagonist’s fights are shot and directed speaks volumes for their characters, and offers exciting variety in what might otherwise be one boring punch after another.
The driving sequences might not match the incredulousness of James Wan’s seventh installment, but are still monumental. This is a gritted teeth, muscle flexing extravaganza that even Dwayne Johnson can’t resist using to flex his bicep right at the camera. And beneath all the action there is an interesting comment to be made about onscreen masculinity where muscular bravado is no longer something to attain, but part of the joke.
On that note, the humour is mostly solid, a conversation on a plane in particular hitting all the right notes. Some other parts don’t work quite as well, but throughout everything Johnson and Statham play off each other like a pair of feuding siblings desperately wanting to out-macho the other. Their relationship is in itself an entertaining fiasco of bravado and metaphorical man spreading, but unlike Deadpool this is not a comedy. The incredible action sequences are backed up by a buddy-cop scenario that brings out the best in both of its lead stars. They are both outshone, however, by Deckard’s sister Hattie (an electric Vanessa Kirby), who grows sick of the masculine showboating and steals the best moments for herself.
The one let-down, predictably, is the villain. Even from the trailers Brixton looked a bit one-dimensional. But Elba at least makes him irresistible to look at. His fight scenes are also breathtaking, his real time to shine coming in a chase on the London streets. In a way he sums up Hobbs and Shaw perfectly. This is a film that is not especially deep or thoughtful, and perhaps it drags on a little too long, but knows exactly what it wants to do and never lets up. Hobbs and Shaw is the perfect summer escape. Come for the gasoline-powered action. Stay for the Greggs cameo.
Hobbs & Shaw is in cinemas now.