The ‘Fast and Furious’ franchise expands with the surprisingly crude and relentlessly violent ‘Hobbs & Shaw.’
Kernel Rating: 2 out of 5
MPAA Rating: PG-13 Length: 135 minutes
Age Appropriate For: 14+. This spinoff of the ‘Fast and Furious’ franchise focuses on two men who are paired together to save the world. The threat is a super-soldier and his army, so there are tons of fistfights, shoot-outs, explosions, car chases, and other violent scenes that result in numerous deaths and injuries. Cursing, insults, and rude jokes throughout, including a reliance on crude, genitalia-focused, and sexually themed humor. Surgical scenes are shown, including one where a man’s back is opened up and his spine is visible. Characters flirt, kiss, and are placed in compromising physical situations; sexual relationships are implied and joked about; women’s breasts and butts are on display; men appear shirtless. Criminal behaviors are celebrated throughout.
By Roxana Hadadi
“The Fast and the Furious” franchise has focused over and over again on the concept of family, and even when the films’ plots become more ridiculous—this team of onetime street racers has now saved the world numerous times—the importance of familial relationships remains paramount. That guiding ethos has helped redeem the film franchise as is devolves into increasing crudeness and nonstop violence, but it can’t save “Fast and Furious Presents: Hobbs and Shaw,” an overly long, generic-feeling experiment in blowing things up and ogling half-naked women. These characters barely drive anymore!
“Hobbs and Shaw” focuses on two characters introduced in preceding “Fast and Furious” films: Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), a former U.S. operative, and Shaw (Jason Statham), a former British operative. Both have helped save the world, but Shaw was once a bad guy, and Hobbs is a hothead. Against their will, they’re brought together when a weaponized virus goes missing in London, supposedly stolen by an MI-6 agent gone rogue, Hattie (Vanessa Kirby). The virus has the possibility to go airborne and spread to countless people, and its horrifying effects on the human body—essentially liquifying one’s internal organs—make it a top priority for the British and American governments.
Hobbs, lauded as one of the best trackers in the world, is supposed to help find the woman on the run—and Hattie also happens to be Shaw’s estranged sister. Although Hobbs and Shaw can’t stand each other, they are forced to team up to bring Hattie in. What the men are unaware of, however, is how much they have in common: Both separated from their families of origin, both preferring to work alone, and both obsessed with being the toughest guy in the room.
Yet everything they are pales in comparison with the genetically enhanced super-soldier Brixton (Idris Elba), who is after the virus Hattie stole and who can handle anything Hobbs and Shaw throw at him. He absorbs all their punches without becoming wounded. His body armor can stop bullets. He’s genetically engineered to communicate with his motorcycle and his gun, which can only fire when he handles it.
How do two men and one woman beat someone who can’t be harmed in any way, who seems to have no weaknesses? Like the other “Fast and Furious” movies, these characters learn something about the importance of family and teamwork by coming together, but the film takes its time getting there. Many scenes are devoted to Hobbs and Shaw trading endless, increasingly raunchy insults, or to intimidation tactics that devolve into physical violence, or to one-upping each other in ways that are increasingly tiring to watch.
The film finally lives up to its focus on family with a third-act trip to Hobbs’s home country of Samoa, which is also the setting of several large-scale action scenes that are as off-the-wall as anything in a preceding “Fast and Furious” film. (Imagine a helicopter chained to four custom cars running nitrous for an extra boost, and you get the idea.) But before then, the movie meanders from location to location, spends too much with unexpected cameos from A-list actors (including a frequent Johnson collaborator), and sends a surprisingly anti-science message. Elba is a fine villain who clearly relishes in the nefarious material offered to Brixton, but Kirby’s Hattie is defined purely by her relationships with her brother Shaw or with potential love interest Hobbs. Not all new characters in the film are created equal.
As the stakes of “Fast and Furious” films have ratcheted upward, the franchise has seemed to reach a creative plateau, and “Hobbs & Shaw” is a further indication of this rote filmmaking. Sure, there are a few impressive combat scenes, and a chase through the streets of London is thrilling, and Johnson and Statham have good chemistry. But the film resorts too often to crudeness in its humor, and the problematic messaging regarding its villain is that scientists, research, and medical advancements are not to be trusted. It’s an unexpected turn for a spinoff film that could have been funnier, more exciting, and more effectively paced than what “Hobbs & Shaw” ends up being.
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