Hobbs & Shaw Is A Solid Action Movie That Lacks An Identity

Hobbs & Shaw Is A Solid Action Movie That Lacks An Identity
The bickering between Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and Shaw (Jason Statham) is basically all of <em>Hobbs &</em><em> Shaw.</em> (Image: Universal)

Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw has three end credits scenes and those scenes tell you everything you need to know about the film. (No spoilers, I promise.)

Scenes during the credits have become rather commonplace these days. It’s where filmmakers usually unleash shocking reveals or take risks that get people talking. In Hobbs & Shaw though, the scenes are just jokes. Funny jokes, sure, but they add nothing to the movie overall. Each feels like it was added because it didn’t fit in the movie but credit scenes are cool and this movie wants to be cool so throw them in there.

That’s Hobbs & Shaw. It’s a movie that’s funny, adds very little to the action genre, and exists simply because it can. That’s not to say it’s without merit or entertainment value. Blowing shit up can be super fun, the film just rarely rises above that.

Directed by David Leitch (Deadpool 2) and written by Chris Morgan (Fast and Furious 3-8), Hobbs & Shaw is the first spinoff of the wildly successful Fast & Furious franchise. It takes two characters introduced in the those movies, Luke Hobbs (played by Dwayne Johnson) and Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), and gives them not just their own film, but basically their own franchise.

However, while the Fast & Furious films got their start humbly, fetishising cars and family values, Hobbs & Shaw keeps those things very much on the outside in favour of big, brawny action that feels more Schwarzenegger and Stallone then Diesel and Walker ” and roast battle humour that’s more Comedy Central than total blockbuster. It’s a Fast & Furious movie that doesn’t really care that it’s a part of that franchise.

The basic plot of Hobbs & Shaw is that Shaw’s sister Hattie (Vanessa Kirby) steals a deadly virus from a super-soldier named Brixton (Idris Elba). In order to defeat Brixton and save Hattie, as well as the world, U.S. and UK intelligence independently recruit Hobbs and Shaw. Of course, the two men hate each other and after a fairly interesting opening to the film where we see each of their lives in a split screen parallel, the remainder of the movie sees them at each other’s throats and eventually coming together to save the world.

Almost all of that feels like well-travelled territory. Their bickering is part 48 Hours, part Deadpool, part a million other buddy cop movies. The action is part Fast & Furious, and part Mission: Impossible, with a few scenes that feel like straight-up lifts of those films. And the story about a super virus, I mean, aren’t all these movies about a super virus? There’s even a joke later on in this film about a super SUPER virus. It’s all very silly.

Which, of course, is how the Fast & Furious franchise is perceived these days: as over the top and silly. But the first eight films do their best to be at least semi-serious with the ridiculousness mostly relegated to action scenes. Here though, Hobbs & Shaw is never serious. From motorcycles that transform and cars that twist in the air, to jumping off buildings and slow-motion fistfights, the whole movie is a cartoon.

And, as the stars of a cartoon, Johnson and Statham are right at home. They’ve done this all before. Each actor takes not just his Fast & Furious character, but basically their respective careers as action heroes, and turns them up to 11. Both are a little more cocky, a little bulkier, and a little meaner than usual. The characters, and the actors, always feel like they’re trying to outdo the other. At times, that chemistry works well but eventually, it gets a little repetitive and numbing.

In fact, the two best things in Hobbs & Shaw aren’t actually Hobbs and Shaw. They’re their costars, Vanessa Kirby and Idris Elba. Unlike the title characters, Kirby and Elba bring at least a hint of reality and humanity to the sea of wham-bam action. Kirby plays a fierce action hero herself whose actions speak louder than words and, therefore, can stand toe to toe with the leads.

Elba, as an enhanced super soldier, has an off the charts confidence that makes him seem like a worthy adversary against the two stars. Plus, his character actually has an ethos behind his thinking, which makes him feel shockingly detached from everyone else who blows things up and asks questions later.

Hobbs and his family showdown with Brixton. (Photo: Universal)

That almost all changes in a promising third act which brings Hobbs back to Samoa to reconnect with his family. With Hobbs & Shaw, Leitch and Morgan wanted to dive deeper into these characters and the film does so… for a moment.

The Samoa scene is meant to evoke the themes of family from the main Fast & Furious movies and, thanks to performances by Cliff Curtis and Lori Pelenise Tuisano as Hobbs’ brother and mother, it does. But, rather quickly, that down-home, grounded, family feeling just escalates into another massive action set-piece. And while the final action is particularly jaw-dropping, it’s a little less so when you’ve just seen a glimpse into a more personal, interesting movie.

Watching Hobbs & Shaw, it would be hard to not find at least some enjoyment in it. It’s got personality to spare, decent jokes, incredibly staged action, lots of beautiful visuals, and even some welcome surprises. But without its own identity, without an interesting hook or resonant emotional through-line, most of the movie feels rather shallow ” like it’s trying to impress us instead of engage us. As if it’s kind of movie that would need three pointless end credit scenes just to squeeze out one or two more laughs out in case you haven’t had your fill.

Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw is in cinemas now.