Movie Review – Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw
This is the ninth feature in the franchise that started with The Fast and the Furious (2001). It’s also the first spin-off or the first entry in the franchise that doesn’t feature any of the original cast members from that 2001 hit. The film doesn’t embrace totally new characters. It pulls two of the most popular characters from the various sequels. If one is a fan of the franchise, then a lot of the things here will seem familiar beyond the two protagonists. The stuntman-turned-director, David Leitch (Deadpool 2 and Atomic Blonde) crafts ridiculous action that is somewhere between reality and the super-hero style that most mainstream audiences have become accustomed. Written by Chris Morgan and Drew Pearce, the film does incorporate themes that are also prevalent or repetitive among the sequels, specifically the theme of family, what displaces or what bonds people as such.
Dwayne Johnson (Fast Five and Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle) stars as Luke Hobbs, a federal agent who works for an organization, known as DSS. He seems highly-skilled in military operations and military combat. He also comes across as Special Forces, except he works alone. He’s his own Special Forces team. He could too be like a member of the Mission: Impossible team, except he combines several members of that team all into himself. He’s a veritable one-man band when it comes to stopping bad guys like terrorists and saving the world. He’s virtually a super-hero.
Jason Statham (Furious 7 and The Transporter) co-stars as Deckard Shaw, a British military officer who becomes a mercenary. He worked as a bad guy himself. He was in fact the villain or the antagonist in Furious 7 (2015). He comes from a family of criminals. His brother was the villain in Fast & Furious 6 (2013). He came after the heroes in Furious 7. It was Luke who helped to arrest Deckard. In a twist for The Fate of the Furious (2017), Luke and Deckard were forced to work together to stop an even worse terrorist. That previous film was the first step to redeeming Deckard. This film is yet another step for him into becoming a full-on hero as well.
Deckard is as much a lone ranger as Luke, so again it’s a situation where the two are forced to work together to stop an even worse terrorist or even worse bad guy. However, because this film leans into super-hero aesthetics and aspects, which this franchise turned toward back for Fast Five (2011), that bad guy is a full-on, comic book villain. It might make this film silly, but Leitch and those involved with making this film recognize that silliness and embrace it. The way it does so is with the quips and one-liners. Luke and Deckard can’t help but hurl insults at each other. They play the dozens in between intense and over-the-top action sequences, a good chunk of which involving fast-moving vehicles.
Idris Elba (Prometheus and Pacific Rim) also co-stars as Brixton Lore, a former MI-6 agent who used to work with Deckard years ago. Things went south between the two and Deckard shot Brixton, thinking he was dead. However, a powerful corporation called Eteon managed to resurrect Brixton in a move similar to and somewhere in between Universal Soldier (1992) and RoboCop (1987). He refers to himself as the Black Superman. He can’t exactly fly, but thanks to the technology inside him and attached to him, Brixton can move fast and is bulletproof. Elba has played a bad guy before going back to HBO’s The Wire, so he is deliciously evil here.
It’s funny though because for the past few years, people have pushed for Elba to be the next James Bond. This film in many ways is a Bond film, but a Bond film where the goal is for Bond to learn to have a partner or sidekick and work as a duo rather than just a one-man-band. Elba has perhaps given up on the idea of being the next James Bond. He can be akin to a Bond villain here and still have just as much fun. By that logic, Johnson and Statham are the Bond equivalents.
Vanessa Kirby (Mission: Impossible – Fallout and The Crown) plays Hattie Shaw, the younger sister to Deckard. She’s the veritable McGuffin in this narrative. Yet, she’s not as unimportant or as irrelevant as most McGuffins are. She’s estranged from her brother because she thinks he’s a bad guy. She went to work for MI-6 as well to rebel from her family of criminals. Reconnecting with her brother seems to be an arc for her character. As a MI-6 agent, she gets some good action beats herself.
Her relationship to her family members aren’t as impactful as Luke’s relationship with his family. The third act of this movie is in fact all about Luke’s relationship with his family. Luke, like Dwayne Johnson, is Samoan. The third act takes the characters to Samoa and really becomes a love letter to that island nation and the people on it and who have come from it. The film fully emerges itself in the land and the people, spotlighting members of Luke’s family who are all Samoan.
Cliff Curtis who recently worked with Statham in The Meg (2018) plays Jonah, the brother to Johnson’s character. Curtis isn’t Samoan. He’s from New Zealand, which is the closest major country to the Samoan islands. Lori Pelenise Tuisano plays the mother to Curtis and Johnson’s characters. Shout-out to Roman Reigns who plays Mateo, a relative to Johnson’s character. Roman Reigns, aka Joe Anoa’i, is also a relative to Johnson in real life, as well as being a WWE performer like Johnson. This tribute to Samoan culture culminates in a Siva Tau, which is a traditional dance meant to invoke the warrior spirit that is a part of their faith.
A month prior saw the release of Stuber, another action comedy featuring a former WWE performer who comes from Asian descent. Samoa is a Polynesian country but considered a part of Asia. Stuber didn’t really capitalize on the culture from which its Asian star hailed. Here, Johnson does capitalize and uses this mainstream vehicle as a way of bringing his Samoan culture to millions. It shows pride and flavor that a lot of films don’t have or to which merely pay lip-service.
Rated PG-13 for action, violence, suggestive material and strong language.
Running Time: 2 hrs. and 17 mins.