Way back in 1989 there was a film called Tango & Cash. It starred two action heroes of the era and was great fun, if admittedly very silly. The plot didn’t really matter that much, all that the audience got were a series of action set pieces inter-spliced with one liners between the two main characters who didn’t really like each other. This rivalry would be intensified when Cash fell for Tango’s sister. Over the course of the story however, they would find a common ground and a grudging respect for each other.
And it’s with that same premise (of sorts) that we come to Hobbs & Shaw (or to give it’s full mouthful of a title, Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw).
Cards laid firmly on the table, I’ve always had a soft spot for the original The Fast and the Furious. I never cared much for the three films that followed it, but come the fifth film, something changed. The series seemed to try and stop taking itself seriously and from then on things started getting fun in a big way. In fact each film that followed it seemed to try and top the ridiculousness of its predecessor and yet somehow the filmmakers built a universe where characters would be able to reappear and even switch sides to enable the story to continue with the viewer still getting some degree of investment and involvement in the story.
Inevitably, with Paramount having benefitted massively in terms of the box office takings from the fruits of this new direction, they decided that they wanted to keep this juggernaut rolling and would do so with a spinoff film featuring two of the more fringe supporting characters who didn’t traditionally fit into the “family” of the Dominic Toretto-lead motor-heads upon which the series was founded.
With the two “secret agent” characters from the recent films now front and centre, Hobbs & Shaw allows the story to move away somewhat from the smell of petrol and nitrous and instead veer more towards something resembling Mission: Impossible. I use this association as the plot to Hobbs & Shaw is very similar to that of the second film in the Tom Cruise franchise with a lone victim carrying a virus cable of bringing an end to mankind and a sinister, shadowy group desperately looking to use this disease as a sort of culling tool to wipe out a huge chunk of the global populace in order to bring about a new world order.
Just to be clear, Hobbs & Shaw is absolutely not what you want if you’re looking for a smart, intelligent spy thriller. Far from it in fact, but if you are looking for a big, dumb action movie that harkens back to the genre’s golden age of the ‘80s & ‘90s, then this might just be the only film that you will see this year to satisfy that need. I’m not for a second going to try and convince non-lovers of the Fast and The Furious’ later films to suddenly try and appreciate what’s being offered here. To put it simply, if you don’t like or haven’t seen these films, then Hobbs & Shaw is probably best avoided. However, if you’re in the mood to watch what is essentially a live action, cartoon from a time before you took life too seriously, then this might just be worth two and a quarter hours of your time. Hobbs & Shaw is a film that on the surface involves its two main stars doing what they do best, kicking ass and making wise cracking quips along the way. Actually that’s pretty much all this film is but that’s kind of to be expected with a film like this.
Director David Leitch is carving out quite a niche for himself within the genre of fast paced action with films such as Atomic Blonde and Deadpool 2 and let’s not forget that the actor/stuntman also served as a producer on 2014’s John Wick, a film that I firmly believe brought the action film back into the general cinema going public’s consciousness, for better or worse, depending on your love of the genre. In short I feel it was about time that I got to see Jason Statham beating up a group of assassins armed only with an electric toaster and this film delivered just that.
Moving on to Hobbs & Shaw‘s remaining cast, all of which seemingly walk the fine line between absolute parody and taking their roles seriously, both co-stars Vanessa Kirby as Hattie Shaw and main bad guy Brixton (Idris Elba) both seemed to be in on the joke, whilst somehow still sticking to the film’s mission statement. Hobbs & Shaw isn’t afraid to push the boundaries even further with a few cameos that are very much tied to both the director’s previous work and also a nice little side piece to Dwayne Johnson’s other films. We’re even treated to a throwaway line to Statham’s role in the 2003 The Italian Job remake/reimagining.
I once read a theory whereby to truly enjoy the Fast & Furious films, you need to imagine that you have happened upon its lead Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) in the latter stages of his life. He’s sat in a bar drinking, telling you his life story and for each beer you buy him, his story gets more interesting and more ridiculously over the top. If this scenario was real then by the time you reached the chapter that is Hobbs & Shaw, you would’ve moved on to buying him chasers, but don’t let that diminish the fact that you would still have had a heck of a lot of fun hearing the tale play out. Hobbs & Shaw is as ludicrous and over the top as a modern day action film can reasonably get but if you’re invested in this, by now, fairly absurd and over the top franchise, then this is then expected upping of the ante and with your expectations suitably tempered, should deliver a fair dose of big dumb fun. If those things aren’t what you want in a big summer blockbuster, then avoid it like the plague.
Film ‘89 Verdict – 7/10
Hobbs & Shaw is on general theatrical release now.