Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw
The phenomenon of the Fast and Furious movies is unlike anything seen in cinema apart from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The franchise has become so successful; producers don’t know what to do with it. The most recent films leaned more heavily into the disbelief and ridicule in terms of its plot and characters, relying on fun action and flashy objects on screen (including women). The franchise is now foraying into the spin-off territory, following two fan-favorite characters, in Fast and Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw (2019).
Hobbs & Shaw follows Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), the frequent cop of the Fast movies, as he is recruited along with ex-villain Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) to find an apocalyptic virus before nefarious superhuman/cyborg Brixton (Idris Elba) gets it first.
While the plot might seem as ridiculous as any of the previous Fast films, this film had the difference of David Leitch in the director’s chair. Leitch has been on a roll, delivering some of the most unique action films of recent years with John Wick (2014), Atomic Blonde (2017), and Deadpool 2 (2018). The former stuntman brings about his immersive and enjoyable choreography to Hobbs & Shaw’s fight sequences, as well as adapting it to the vehicle chases (thankfully, without getting carried away in this facet). As far as recent Fast & Furious films go, Hobbs & Shaw keeps itself much more grounded and updated with the perception of today’s viewers; Vanessa Kirby plays Shaw’s sister, and is given a much more participative roll in the plot than the testimonial female appearances of the past, and there is a real attempt to think through plot lines and character traits.
Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham had previously sparked an incredible chemistry in their scarce scenes on Fate of the Furious (2017), however when side-characters are made protagonists, their endearing gimmicks as supporting players become nuisances as main character traits. Luckily Johnson and Statham are able to strike a comedic balance that keeps the audience giggling at their banters, while reserving time for true character development. The actors also seem much more engaged with the film, as well as aware of how ridiculous the narrative is. Leitch, gratefully, added a much-needed self-reflection in the franchise that had begun to take itself too seriously. The main-films were dragged down by a cast that was either phoning in performances (Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris) or had fallen far in their acting abilities (Vin Diesel); it was smart of Universal to pick to two characters with the more dedicated performers and give them a chance at the spotlight, a changing of the guard was needed desperately.
The film doesn’t borrow too much from the previous Fast films, instead intent on creating its own side-universe. This provides a clean slate of sorts that allows Leitch and his stars to add a new tone to the franchise, and essentially stand alone as a blockbuster film as well. The result is a fun and self-aware flick that adds much more creative action and chases than the Fast & Furious franchise had delivered in a long while.