Who could have possibly imagined that a simple film about street racing would lead to a franchise spanning eighteen years, and counting! Admittedly, there was a rocky patch following the third film, Tokyo Drift, but the F&F franchise shifted gear (eh!!) and came back stronger than ever.
I can’t immediately recall the last film to actually contain a proper street race, as it seems that with each and every instalment, the action gets bigger, the stunts become more ridiculously elaborate and the plot less thought through yet still perfectly capable of keeping your attention. Now, while Purists may not be happy with how far the films have strayed from their humble beginnings, I absolutely love it!
Before we went into the screening I said to Mark that if I didn’t think ‘Oh my God, really?!?’ on, at least, three different occasions then I was going to be severely disappointed. I am happy to report that it absolutely delivered.
Is it believable? Not at all.
Is it a masterpiece? Hell no.
Is the story thin and reaching? Without a doubt.
But is it a ridiculously fun way to escape from the everyday stresses of life? Abso-bloody-lutely!!
This film reunites not-such-BFFs DSS agent, Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and former British Special Forces, Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) tasked with the job of securing a deadly super virus from a rogue MI6 agent (and Deckard’s sister), Hattie Shaw(Vanessa Kirby) before the virus is released resulting in a global extinction level catastrophe. The trouble is, they are not the only ones after the virus, the super secretive and shady tech company, Eteon, also want it and they have sent their best to get it: bionically-enhanced agent Brixton aka ‘Black Superman’ (Idris Elba). The question is, can Hobbs and Shaw put their differences aside in order to get the job done?
In order to establish the main premise of the story, the film starts off as your run-of-the-mill spy thriller, but once the action starts it is pretty much non-stop, pausing just long enough for Hobbs and Shaw to sling a few playground insults at each other. Johnson and Statham have just enough on-screen chemistry to keep the incessant bickering from becoming boring, and the inevitable mutual respect from being too insincere.
It was pretty obvious that Elba was going to deliver a solid villain, nothing to really shout home about, but definitely a solid performance which fit in well with the dynamic between Johnson and Statham. Whereas Kirby’s turn as Hattie was like a breath of fresh air amongst the fog of testosterone that permeates the film. Her character was reminiscent of Gal Gadot’s character, Gisele, and I think that her inclusion into the franchise goes a way to filling the surprisingly big hole that Gadot left behind.
Hobbs & Shaw also offers up two surprising castings, which I don’t want to reveal too much about as the surprise is half of the fun, although both characters have the potential for repeat appearances should a Hobbs & Shaw franchise take off. Where I enjoyed the first one (the CIA agent who persuades Hobbs to take the job) as it naturally fit into the style and personality of the film, the second one (the Air Marshall) felt too much like an forced cameo, and the scene went on too long for me.
In keeping with the films light hearted mockery of the F&F franchise, there are also some little nods to the main actors previous work, including the little mini, in a garage full of supercars, that was used for ‘a job in Italy’.
The film was well-paced, the music was on point and the action sequences were well choreographed. Speaking of action sequences, and in the spirit of full disclosure; I don’t know about you but I don’t normally notice what is going on in the background of high action scenes, but I did get distracted during an early car chase scene…. by the size of a Greggs shop. Which is probably one of the most British things I will probably ever do.
Although Hobbs & Shaw has been released under the Fast & Furious umbrella, this definitely has the air of a standalone movie and it also feels like the start of a new spin off franchise, with just enough of a hint of mystery and intrigue to keep you wanting more. It will be interesting to know whether the mysterious Head of Eteon is someone that we have already been introduced to in previous F&F movies or whether it will be a new character entirely.
Overall, this is a movie that should not work but does, and I think that is largely down to the experience of director, stuntman and stunt co-ordinator, David Leitch, who directed films such as John Wick (uncredited), Atomic Blonde and Deadpool 2. He manages to expand on, and celebrate, the ridiculousness of the main franchise whilst maintaining its ultimate underlying theme: Family.
On a final note, in a perfect example of just how brilliantly absurd this film was, I have to warn you that, should you stay for the mid-credit scene, there is a major spoiler for the finale of Game of Thrones. So if you haven’t seen it yet (where have you been?) I would recommend putting your fingers in your ears and humming very loudly. Or you could just leave at the end of the film and eliminate that risk 🙂
Have you seen it? Let me know your thoughts.