Five years ago, I wouldn’t have been interested in “Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw.” I hadn’t seen any of the “Fast & Furious” films yet, and Dwayne Johnson was still not much more than a former wrestler turned actor with a few fun roles. He wasn’t a massive franchise movie star yet.
Then my friend convinced me to see one of the films. I resisted at first because I don’t like seeing a movie in a series if I haven’t seen the others. But I gave in. We went to “Furious 7” in 2015, and it was a transformative experience.
The insane stunts entranced me and entertained by the over-the-top storytelling. I accepted the heavy-handed themes, and I laughed at the melodrama whether I was supposed to or not.
After seeing the film, my friend explained to me that the franchise had evolved and become a powerhouse of entertainment that dared to challenge the Marvel films. What once started as a franchise about street racing became a thrill ride of superhero action. These heroes didn’t wear spandex or titanium armor, though, they wore muscle tees. Henceforth, I was a fan of the “Fast & Furious” series and vowed never to miss a film.
Furiously fast forward to Thursday night. I just taught a class on the first franchise I loved, “Star Wars,” and I was ready for some high octane hilarity with “Hobbs and Shaw.” I was not disappointed. This new spin-off of the series gives audiences everything they love about “Fast & Furious” then turns it up to 11.
The action, comedy and absurd physics-defying stunts are amped up. You can see this movie and be a stick in the mud frustrated by how frivolous it all is or accept it. I accepted it, and thankfully, so did my wife. After seeing the movie, I playfully said, “So that was the greatest movie of all time, right?” She chuckled and didn’t confirm my original assessment of the movie. We later decided that “Hobbs & Shaw” may not be the greatest movie of all time, but it was money well spent for an entertaining evening.
Dwayne Johnson, formerly known as the Rock, is responsible for much of the entertainment. Johnson can charm any audience member with a cocked eyebrow or a smoldering look. He can melt the hardened heart of people who think that action films are sillier today than ever before with a tough guy quip. He’s a powerhouse performer who continues to surprise.
While I’m tempted to say that he’ll never move beyond franchises and score an Oscar, he’s proven me wrong before. No one thought we’d see him sing in a Disney movie, and he’s done that. He’s an expectation-defying master of entertainment.
In “Hobbs and Shaw,” he doesn’t defy expectations. He and the screenwriters recognized what worked about his previous performances and roles then they recreated them in one character. Hobbs is an amalgamation. He’s a family man, tough guy, charismatic lead, and heartfelt romantic rolled into one character. And more often than not, those opposing personalities work well together.
Jason Statham is excellent in the movie too, but his character, Deckard Shaw, doesn’t have as many layers as Hobbs. He’s mainly a tough guy who tries to spar with Johnson verbally but isn’t nearly as successful. However, Statham does, thankfully, get a few chances to show off his impressive fighting skills.
Shaw’s sister, played by Vanessa Kirby, doesn’t merely hold her own against these two action stars. She makes them look nearly obsolete. Kirby is confident, powerful, intelligent and formidable. I saw hints of this in “Mission Impossible: Fallout” but here she is a fully developed character with as much star power as her co-stars.
Idris Elba is also fantastic in the film and has some already iconic lines such as “Look at me. I’m black Superman.” He certainly is that, but I think the writers and director could have taken his inhuman power further. He never looks like a chump in action scenes because he usually has the upper hand, but the director could have accentuated that more. Regardless, this was one of Elba’s most entertaining action performances, and in it, he proves he needed to be cast as James Bond yesterday.
Surprisingly, there are a few scene-stealing cameos that rival what Marvel gave audiences in “Endgame.” The cameo scenes go on for a little too long, but I can forgive that considering the overly long dialogue is coming from two exciting additions to this franchise. The film also suffers because it is too long. That said, you can’t fault a team of producers, which includes Johnson and Statham, for wanting to cram as much awesome in a movie as possible.
Length aside, I enjoyed “Hobbs and Shaw.” It will likely be a blip on my mind weeks from now, but that’s OK. Action movies like this one don’t need to bury themselves deep in my consciousness. They need to keep my wife and me entertained during a late night, and “Hobbs and Shaw” did that. Thankfully, the movie didn’t shake my newfound appreciation for the “Fast & Furious” franchise, and I’m pumped for a sequel.