Fifteen minutes into ‘Hobbs & Shaw’ we establish Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson and Jason Statham are fast and furiously alpha.
While Johnson’s Luke Hobbs is the hulk-esque lawman who prefers brawn over finesse while beating down bad guys, smug former agent-turned-rogue Statham is all about the style with moves that involve Deckard Shaw rolling up in a McLaren to a fight.
If we still had doubts over their different, err, techniques, a split screen hammers in this very fact as the duo go about their respective business in Los Angeles and London. A plot, or a semblance of one, is unspooling in the background but that is secondary really when The Rock and Statham fill the screen.
Their smack talk and absolute disregard for each other may seem contrived at times, but the chemistry between the frenemies is undeniable. Who doesn’t love a buddy comedy, really? Past gems such as ‘Bad Boys’ and ‘Rush Hour’ have all milked this routine with flair, playing the lead characters off each other for comic gold and ‘Hobbs & Shaw’ doesn’t hold back either, skipping down this very well-trodden road.
The rebuttals are sharp and the writing crisp by Chris Morgan and Drew Pearce. And even when the jokes don’t land, The Rock and Statham unknowingly elicit the laughs with their deadpan delivery. It really shouldn’t work on paper, but boy does it fly.
You don’t even question The Rock’s sincerity when he utters lines like ‘When the fate of the world is at stake, it becomes my business’, or ‘The island will provide, brother’ when the climax of the film transports the protagonists to Samoa, wielding family heirlooms at a fight filled with artillery firepower.
Suspending belief is the name of the game, but really, what else can you expect from a film with ‘Fast & Furious’ in its title? Sometimes its just easier to sit back and enjoy the adrenaline fuelled ride.
For those who care about the film’s actual plot, well there’s a bio-threat looming as a deadly virus that could ‘melt the insides of your body’ and annihilate weaklings from the human race is sought by a terror outfit called Etheon. Idris Elba plays the cyber-genetically enhanced anarchist Brixton, an old pal of Shaw’s, who’s after the virus. However, his plan to extract the deadly agent is thwarted by MI6 agent Hattie Shaw (Vanessa Kirby), who just happens to be Deckard Shaw’s baby sister.
In a film that is heavy on the testosterone, Kirby truly holds her own with some killer moves on display.
But if you thought it was safe without Vin Diesel’s Dominic Torreto in the picture to break out into yet another speech about family, don’t heave a sigh of relief just yet. Family forms the very backbone of this frenemy enterprise - be it Shaw’s equation with his sister Hattie or mother Magdalene (a sassy Helen Mirren) or Hobbs’ detachment from his Samoan roots.
In fact, when the action does move to the island of Hawaii, which fills in for Samoa, the lush green landscape falls away to focus on The Rock embrace his heritage and his estranged family, which includes a cameo by WWE star Roman Reigns.
In terms of celebrity cameos, there are quite a number of them with director David Leitch calling on a buddy from a previous as well to fill in the void (let’s not spoil the fun). Aside from his roster of famous friends, Leitch, whose past film credits include ‘John Wick’ and ‘Deadpool 2’, has also been a stunt coordinator and its this very skill that he brings to the fight sequences.
It’s undeniable that the action is what truly elevates ‘Hobbs & Shaw’. The fights are slick and the camerawork captures each punch landing with slow-motion finesse. The Samoan sequence is perhaps the film’s best, albeit with some ludicrous moments that had folks laughing out loud in the cinema hall.
In a summer where franchise fatigue has plagued the Hollywood box office with some epic duds, ‘Hobbs & Shaw’ could very well break the curse with this thrill ride.
PS: Do wait around for a couple of mid- and post-credit scenes.
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‘Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw’
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Vanessa Kirby
Directed by David Leitch
Stars: 3 out of 5