Even though it had the potential to really push the boundaries of this franchise and explore new avenues, Hobbs and Shaw is sadly an underwhelming experience. It’s two leads do a great job of carrying the plot with great chemistry and a few laugh out loud one liners but even with all their machismo, they’re unable to save the film from an overshare of a marketing campaign and the constraints of the overarching franchise.
Coming off the back of two mostly well received action flicks in Atomic Blonde (2017) and Deadpool 2 (2018), David Leitch continues his high production output with this year’s Fast & Furious entry: Hobbs and Shaw. The fan favourite rivalry between Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham’s characters takes centre stage in this spin-off title to mixed results. The hyper-masculine franchise continues the bonkers action set piece formula set forth by the fifth instalment and attempts to turn it up to 11 with this side release. Attempts is the key word here as the film makes efforts to be the wackiest in the series, but doesn’t quite break the shackles of the universe like it could have done. There is a lot to be enjoyed here however for the Fast & Furious fan but sadly, there’s little we haven’t seen before.
There isn’t much of a plot to discuss but alas, the film opens with MI6 agents led by Hattie Shaw (portrayed by Vanessa Kirby) attempting to retrieve a virus known as ‘Snowflake.’ Augmented and self proclaimed “Black Superman” Brixton Lore (portrayed by Idris Elba) arrives on the scene killing all present aside from Shaw who injects herself with the virus, stopping Lore from taking it back to terrorist organisation Eteon, who wish to use the virus to kill all of the weak people in the world, making way for a new generation of stronger humans. Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) are approached by the CIA and MI6 respectively to find Deckard’s sister and retrieve the virus before Eteon can get their hands on it. What follows is a string of beats that lead from one action set piece to the next all the way to the final whistle.
The story is serviceable at best which is to be expected of this franchise. Hobbs and Shaw does attempt to standout from the franchise by upping the wackiness, incorporating cybernetic implants and an evil technology based organisation but doesn’t manage to separate itself enough both in terms of events and the execution of them from the mainline series. Hobbs and Shaw had a real opportunity to really push the boundaries of an already crazy universe and frankly the result is a little underwhelming.
The key elements that do carry the film however are the performances of the leads and the chemistry between them. Statham and Johnson are pretty wonderful in their respective roles and the ridiculous “alpha” rivalry actually comes off very well and serves as the film’s comedic draw that holds the thing together. Considering that the joke is simply that they’re constantly trying to out-alpha each other and it’s played countless times throughout, it never really gets old. Their constant bickering is so hilariously extreme and on the nose that its difficult to not get on board with it, even if the joke is thrown at you every 15 minutes or so.
The rest of the cast do a pretty good job of filling their character roles in the plot with Vanessa Kirby putting in a great first time action performance and Idris Elba playing the villain that is up to the high standard he sets for himself. The dialogue can be very cheesy but the cast generally do a pretty good job of embracing it, allowing themselves to really fall into their characters which is great to see. For a big franchise spin off title there’s a surprising amount of heart in this film. It’s likely that Johnson and Statham had big roles to play as both were given producing credits, but it’s also a testament to Leitch’s directorial capabilities. Even though the plot does little more than set up more sequels and definitely doesn’t go the whole nine yards in terms of mixing up the franchise’s universe, the characters are still very likeable and fun to watch, which is what saves this film from total mediocrity.
The same cannot be said however for the film’s visuals, action and editing. That is not to say that it is bad by any means, but its not particularly great, special or unique by the standards of this franchise. Christopher Rouse’s editing keeps the plot moving along nicely and keeps the action tight and fast paced. Jonathan Sela’s cinematography is a bit heavy on the shaky cam but generally does a good enough job of giving the audience a good view of the action. Perfectly serviceable jobs done by both but unfortunately nothing anybody is going to remember. It also doesn’t help that almost every major action moment throughout were in the trailers and marketing for the film. It’s a prime example of a film’s marketing ruining the experience. I genuinely believe I would have enjoyed the action more if much of it had been saved for the feature experience rather than in a highlight reel shown before other films. It’s like listening to the abridged version of an epic classical piece. Its true you’re not getting the full experience but you’re also not missing much. There’s no major standout moment throughout the main story that wasn’t in the trailers. As a result, by the time it comes around you’re sat in your seat thinking “Oh yeah this is that bit.” Once the credits roll you’ll realise you had the same thought throughout all of the best moments in the film. There’s a lot that’s disappointing about this film but this takes the top spot. The worst part about it is that its by no means any fault of the production crew. The film as it is has some (albeit few) great moments that had the potential to really wow the audience, but sadly, if you’ve seen the trailers (which is likely given the massive marketing campaign of this film) it’s very unlikely you’ll leave the theatre thoroughly wowed.
Whilst being carried by the chemistry between the two leads, general all round good performances and a consistent comedic element, Hobbs and Shaw is an exercise in under-performing. The marketing campaign for this film left nothing to the imagination of prospective audiences so that when it came to the actual viewing experience, little surprised. The film also doesn’t quite do enough to separate itself from the mainline franchise resulting in what is overall, an underwhelming experience which its two “apex-predator” leads do attempt to compensate for, but unfortunately just don’t quite manage it.
Written by Alfie Smith
All images courtesy of Universal Pictures