The idea of a Fast and Furious spin-off has been kicked around for quite some time, especially with the success of franchises like the Marvel cinematic universe. One that was really seriously considered was for Dwayne Johnson’s character, Luke Hobbs, who has been a popular fan favourite since his first appearance in Fast 5.
Now anyone who’s read my reviews for quite some time will know that I’m not the biggest Fast and Furious fan. I get what the appeal of it is, but I’ve always said that there’s a difference between suspension of disbelief and insulting my intelligence. I just find it baffling how far the franchise has veered off its original course, going from being an LA thriller about street-racing, to a sort of round-the-world heist, to now, secret agents saving the world? I would say it’s jumped the shark but, let’s be honest, we did that ages ago.
You’ll also know that I didn’t give a very good review to the last film, The Fate of The Furious. One of the things I enjoyed most about that movie was the back-and-forth between Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham. Clearly someone else thought that was the case too since it was announced that the spin-off film would be a double act between the two. And oh dear, was I in two minds about this one. On the one hand, I quite liked the idea of the film, but I questioned what they could do with the setup. And especially since they started making this around the same time the production of Fast and Furious 9 has been going on, it makes it unlikely that either character will be appearing in the next movie.
And yes, Fast and Furious 9 is indeed in production. Hobbs and Shaw is hoping for some success as well considering the bad press right now, with the production holding on Fast and Furious 9 after a stuntman died. A poor reception for this film in combination with that news could result in a production failure, and there have already been serious questions asked about the safety procedures on film productions like this as a result.
Hobbs and Shaw’s plot is that the pair have been basically coerced into working together by the CIA to get a virus back from Hobbs’ sister Hattie (played by Vanessa Kirby), which aimed to be used by a rather secretive organisation being fronted by enhanced super-soldier, Brixton (played by Idris Elba). From there, you get the usual Fast and Furious formula if you’re familiar with the franchise by now. For a spin-off to the series, this doesn’t exactly feel like much of one. There’s nothing really different; the only thing that feels dissimilar this time is that most of the rest of the usual cast is absent.
Oh yes, and it’s amazing how far we’ve come in terms of how ridiculous the plots have gotten. Since I don’t think back in the day we would have even considered the idea of a sort of mechanically enhanced super-soldier who refers to himself as “Black Superman”. Even by Fast and Furious standards, this is getting ridiculous.
The film seems to divide its character development into a sort of two-thirds. Most of the film is mostly about Jason Statham’s character more than anyone else, and I already mentioned in my last review how I didn’t like how much they’re trying to redeem his character, since he was the villain in the seventh movie. But man, they tried to recton virtually everything about his character in this movie. He’s gone from being a villain who really challenged the crew to being portrayed as a guy who’s been wrongfully done in the past, and that’s why he became a villain. It doesn’t lower his badass quality, but I think the film writers seem to think that he’s been redeemed much more than he actually has. I’m actually someone who really likes the whole idea of a storyline about a ‘villain going good’ – when it’s written well it can be a very interesting arc, but they haven’t taken the time to really write it that brilliantly with Shaw. As a result, Hobbs often feels like he’s just along for the ride. Most of his character development doesn’t come until about the final third of the film when we’re reintroduced to his family, mostly played by actors from New Zealand and of Pacific Island descent. Honestly, the cast playing the Rock’s family in this film is one of the best parts about it. I really wish more of the film was about them.
And there’s some excellent casting. Cliff Curtis is definitely good as playing Hobbs’ brother, and Lori Pelenise Tuisano will definitely go down as one of the unsung performances of this film. It’s also been very heavily advertised that Leati Joseph Anoaʻi – aka the WWE wrestler Roman Reigns – is in the film, and oh God do they want to remind you of that fact every other second as the camera seems to be pointing towards him at almost all times. I swear Vince McMahon must have bribed the cameraman or editor at some point. Though his casting is definitely one of the weirder choices and his role is just to do some action, only some of it resembling his wrestling career, his entire role is non-speaking, which is very odd for someone that was so advertised. Mind you, much as I’ll defend Roman Reigns as a wrestler, his microphone skills have always been a bit hit-and-miss, so maybe that was a blessing in disguise.
Another weird thing about the cast is that there seems to be a barrage of cameos. The only one to really be expected is Helen Mirren who reprises her role from the last movie. But there are also some other ones, including John Dulaney, oddly in this film for only a few scenes, and for some strange reason, Ryan Reynolds features too. I suspect it was part of a favour to Deadpool 2 director, David Leitch, who’s also directing this film. While there are a few others which I will keep to myself, there’s one that’s actually incredibly funny which you can look forward to.
Now, here’s the thing. Hobbs and Shaw’s back-and-forth is still really quite good in this film, and its honestly one of the better parts of the film; Jason Statham and Dwayne Johnson do have excellent on-screen chemistry, but I really think there should have been some point where David Leitch just cut a scene briefly. Some of the scenes go on far too long, and it can be very distracting how out-there the film can get. There are some scenes where you’re once again reminded that there’s suspension of belief and there’s calling me a moron.
One of the particular ones is a chase scene later on in the film involving a helicopter which was really frustrating in how illogical it was, because in terms of cinematography and actually what’s happening on screen, it’s probably one of the best things in the movie. Speaking of which, the film’s effects are actually fairly good, and the cinematography is as usual, quite good for these films. David Leach seems to be very good at directing action scenes involving cars, which is a must if you’re to be making a Fast and Furious film.
But of course, the product placements are everywhere. I saw a few scenes that looked so much like advertisements, they gave Man Of Steel a run for its money. It’s also kind of a juxtaposition when you go from seeing signs for things like Armani and Lamborghini… to Greggs. I’m not even joking, they genuinely drive past a Greggs at one point, making sure you see the sign as much as possible.
What’s more, this film is sequel-baiting like no one’s business by the end of the movie. They’re really counting on making this a spin-off franchise to go alongside the Fast and Furious franchise. I will say, for all the sequel-baiting they do, they at least wrap up all the character arcs from this movie, rather than completely spending most of their time worrying about material for the sequel, which I have to give them credit for.
Hobbs and Shaw is a dumb, fun movie, which, if you’re used to the Fast and Furious films, isn’t going to change your mind either way. If you like them, you’ll like this one. If you didn’t like them, this won’t change your mind. While I’ll admit the pairing of Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham still works very well, and Idris Elba makes a very enjoyable villain, the script-writing isn’t great and I’m frankly just getting tired of Fast and Furious now. Including this one, we are now 9 movies into the franchise. And more are on the horizon? Jeez, I’m feeling very burnt out for something I didn’t care about much in the first place (and in fact, some of the films I even downright hated).
If there’s more Hobbs and Shaw, I’ll probably go to see it – I think I enjoyed this film more than the last two Fast and Furious ones but man, am I bored. If we don’t see these characters for a few more years, I’m certainly not going to be too upset, though I think if they’re not in Fast and Furious 9, it’s going to be a serious disadvantage.
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