The “Fast and Furious” franchise started off as a bunch of gearheads stealing DVD players. During the past decade, it’s turned into a bunch of lunky pseudo-superheroes finding new ways to punch each other.
In that grand tradition, “Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw” is unabashedly stupid. But it’s also full of personality (with a charisma void like Vin Diesel out of the picture), cheesy dad jokes and over-the-top stunts that, in a summer full of self-serious blockbusters, exists to have fun and stroke the egos of its stars.
Requiring absolutely no knowledge of the original “Fast” films, “Hobbs & Shaw” sets the difference between its two titular characters early in some humorous parallel split screens. Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), is a no-nonsense meathead who pumps iron, drinks raw eggs and throws criminals through glass like they were toys.
Shaw (Jason Statham) is slicker and, well, British. He makes omelettes and coffee in the morning and is more concise with his bad-guy beatings.
While they have an established contentious history from “The Fate of the Furious,” this tosses that rivalry off in a few sentences, making this a re-boot, as they must team up to stop a super soldier, Brixton Lore (Idris Elba), who’s threatening to unleash a super virus on the world.
Assisted by a robotic spine and AI, Lore has the ability to slow down time and predict and respond to every punch, kick or bullet before it happens. It makes him, as he says, “ the Black Superman.” This explains why he’s just about the only character alive who can go toe-to-toe with Hobbs and Shaw, two seemingly invincible special agents with an inexplicable ability to never bleed or break a bone, no matter how far they fall off a helicopter or how hard of a punch they take.
Shaw’s only weakness is the safety of his sister, Hattie (“Mission: Impossible — Fallout”’s Vanessa Kirby), who has injected herself with the killer supervirus to keep it from Lore. With her brother and Hobbs along for the ride, they have to find a way to extract it before she is killed or has to kill herself. And true to the franchise’s signature lesson, that family comes before everything else, they’re not about to let her die.
Directed by former stuntman David Leitch (“Deadpool 2,” “John Wick”), “Hobbs & Shaw” goes heavy on “John Wick”-like bone-crunching action sequences, where bullets and broken are dispensed at a equally rapid clip.
Still seeming to settle into his role as an action director, Leitch doesn’t quite have a handle on the right pacing and tone. The action scenes are often too shaky and frantic to grasp what’s going on. When it’s a massive showdown between Samoans and Lore’s army of cronies, it’s an assault on all senses.
While the bickering between Hobbs and Shaw is fun, it loses its luster about an hour in. We know the buddy cop formula and that they’ll eventually team up for the greater good, so there’s no need for the long tease.
The movie works best when it adheres to the “Fast and Furious” formula, with motorcycle chases that weave through busy streets and under semi trucks and a daisy chain of vehicles trying to take down a helicopter. They’re preposterous and delightful.
The team of Johnson, Statham and Kirby sell the nonsense with a knowing wink, while Elba struts through the movie like the best Marvel villain that never was.
They know this is ridiculous. We know it’s absurd. So why not have some fun while summer is still around?
— ANDREW GAUG | ST. JOE LIVE