REVIEW: ‘Hobbs and Shaw’ is all foam, no beer

I don’t mind turning my brain off and enjoying a movie more cheesy than mac and cheese. But this “Fast and Furious” spin-off just pushes things too far.

If we want to get technical, this is kind of the second spin-off movie in the series, since “Tokyo Drift” was basically a side-story too, but I digress.

The latest “Fast” movie follows two characters who entered later in the franchise. One is Diplomatic Security Service Agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) who joined the fray in 2011’s “Fast Five.” The other is former British Special Forces turned mercenary Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) who joined in 2015’s “Furious 7.”

Because Shaw operates outside the law and Hobbs operates within, the two have been longtime enemies and rivals. However, when a cybernetic-enhanced super soldier named Brixton (Idris Elba) threatens the world’s population with a new virus, the two are forced to work together to take him and his organization down. The situation is made more complicated, though, because Deckard’s sister Hattie (Vanessa Kirby), an MI6 agent, is one of Brixton’s targets.

There’s no doubt the “Fast and Furious” series has become more absurd as its gone on. It’s also true that the franchise has become more self-aware with its progression. However, there has always seemed to be some bounds of reason and balance.

It’s not the case with this spin-off. The movie goes to absolutely ridiculous levels of unrealistic action, and does every bit of it with jokes that wink and nudge at the audience. As a result, the action is difficult to get into. The stakes are allegedly high here, yet so much of the movie is filled with a comedic tone that one can’t be all too invested in the fights.

Johnson and Statham as the titular characters. Courtesy Universal Pictures.

That’s not to say there’s no entertainment value. Some solid fights are featured and there are some really fun sequences large in scale that can hold a person’s attention. However, none of them are all too memorable and don’t put a person on the edge of their seat. A movie can have the best special effects and can break levels of realism, but if there’s no tension it’s difficult to be engaged.

Along with the rough balance by going too low on realism, too high on comedy and never committing to suspense, this flick also suffers with its two titular characters. Their rivalry in the last “Fast and the Furious” picture worked fine, but it doesn’t go as well when the rest of the ensemble is gone.

Johnson and Statham do have screen presence and charisma, yet it can only carry things so far with these two characters. Basically the two bicker and banter, and there’s not much else. Again, this can work when there are other types of characters around them, but when these two are the only ones, the back-and-forth runs out of steam.

A reason for this is the two are so similar. In many buddy genre movies, the two main characters are usually quite different. However, despite Shaw being an outlaw and Hobbs acting as a man of the law, they act really similar.

Another piece of the movie difficult to appreciate was the inclusion of Ryan Reynolds and Kevin Hart. The two portray government agents who assist Hobbs and Shaw along the way in glorified cameos, and they are rather unfunny.

Story-wise, “Hobbs and Shaw” is set up in a three-act format, which is fine. The problem, though, is how the movie handles its third act. It includes an entire segment about Hobbs’ extended family in Samoa that feels somewhat shoe-horned in.

The concept is fine, and probably could have worked as a movie all in itself, but here its kind of shoved in. It also pushes the picture’s run time to nearly two and a half hours, which is not necessary with an action flick like this.

There were bits and pieces of “Hobbs and Shaw” that worked, but as a whole, the execution was off. The characters don’t work as well on their own and the film doesn’t find a proper balance in dealing with a high stakes action movie with an comedic tone. 2.25 out of 5.


Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

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