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What happens when you pluck two of the most beloved side characters from the Fast & Furious franchise aside for their own movie? Hobbs and Shaw is what happens.
The movie, which comes with the full title of Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs and Shaw, serves as a reminder that Fast & Furious has absolutely nothing to do with street racing or pulling off small-time heists anymore.
And while movies in the mainline Fast & Furious movies take place in a world that at least feels like reality—don’t get me wrong, they’re plenty ridiculous in their own right—this film completely forgets anything resembling “psychics” or “realism.” It trades purely in the fictional (think Terminator or RoboCop), and the result is a fun movie with a pretty incoherent plot that’s worth seeing as long as you go into it with the right expectations.
At its core, this is a buddy cop movie about two guys who despise each other (for reasons that the movie hints at, but you’ll only really know if you’ve seen the Fast movies) and are forced to work together for the good of the entire planet. It lives and dies based on the chemistry between Luke Hobbs (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) and Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham). Thankfully, the two work incredibly well together, and their intense hatred leads to some funny interactions and insults.
The chemistry between them is really one of the best aspects of the movie and the only part of the plot that’s easy to get behind. After all, if Hobbs and Shaw can get along, why can’t the rest of us?
Outside of the titular characters, Idris Elba deserves praise for his portrayal of Brixton, the film’s super-soldier antagonist. The “Black Superman,” as he refers to himself a couple of times throughout the movie, does a good job with the less-than-stellar writing he’s given, and he definitely fits the role perfectly.
Early on in the film, Brixton encounters Hattie Shaw (Vanessa Kirby), and when she asks who he is, he simply responds, “Bad guy.” At this point, it’s easy to see that the film is self-aware, and it’s not trying to be anything it isn’t.
And it needs to be because it’s incredibly over-the-top with its action and fight sequences. That can be taken as a positive or a negative, depending on what you’re looking for. There’s no attempt to make the film feel grounded in anything resembling the real world (the introduction of a half-man/half-machine antagonist should be your first clue to that), but it does deliver on the action scenes with CGI that looks impressive and fights that feel fun and intense.
I can’t stress enough how ridiculous the action scenes are. You only need to see the trailer to get an idea of the kind of unrealistic nonsense you can expect from Hobbs and Shaw:
Normally, I’m not a big fan of trailers, as I feel like they sometimes give a little too much away. However, for this movie, I highly recommend watching one so you can see if you’re capable of suspending your disbelief enough to tolerate the ridiculousness you’re about to experience.
One of the nicest surprises in Hobbs and Shaw comes from the cameos. I won’t spoil who shows up (don’t look at the uncredited cast on IMDb if you don’t want to find out), but they fit perfectly in the roles they’re given, and they genuinely add something to the film with their inclusion.
I won’t spoil it, but I also want to give special attention to the final fight scene, as it’s one of the standout moments from the movie, and it makes the (excessively) long ride worth it.
While the movie’s writing isn’t one of its stronger assets (we’ll talk more of that below), all of the actors do a good job with the material they’re given. The aforementioned Johnson, Statham, and Elba handle their roles well, and Kirby deserves praise for her performance as Shaw’s sister.
This movie sure does have some problems, and most of them come from the incredibly generic plot. Stop me if you’ve heard this one: there’s a virus that’s going to kill all of humanity except a select few, and our heroes are the only ones who can stop it (and this is a spinoff from a franchise that used to be about street racing, mind you).
It’s been done to death, and Hobbs and Shaw doesn’t go out of its way to take the tried-and-true formula in any new directions. It’s filled with the same old tropes as other movies with this same plot, and to put it bluntly, the movie just doesn’t have a great story at all.
And the writing can be a bit of a problem at times, too. Many of the jokes are a little too testosterone-driven (and I say this as a fan of professional wrestling) and they just don’t land. As mentioned, the chemistry between The Rock and Statham is fantastic, and if it wasn’t for their charisma and chemistry, even fewer jokes would hit.
The biggest issue I have with Hobbs & Shaw is how long it is. There’s no “correct” length for films in general, of course, but there is a correct length for each individual movie, and this one overstays its welcome by about 30 minutes (its total runtime is 2 hours 15 minutes).
In fact, there’s a point in the movie where it actually feels like it’s getting ready to end… and then it just doesn’t. It goes onto a whole new act that I felt myself squirming through the entire time (though once that section is over, it does lead to one of the best fight scenes in the whole movie).
When I go over the things I didn’t like in Hobbs and Shaw, they almost start to feel like deal-breakers. They leave me scratching my head wondering if it’s actually a bad film. Can a film with poor writing and a generic story be watchable, or even enjoyable?
And I realize that, yes, it is a flawed film but that’s okay. Commando is, for all intents and purposes, a flawed film, yet it’s one of my top favorite movies of all time. Hobbs and Shaw shares a lot with the action classic. While it may not be as good, it’s close enough that I can wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone who enjoys an insane action movie that says, “Realism… What realism?”