Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw (2019) proves that Johnson and Statham can drive schtick

Having successfully reinvented and reinvigorated itself, the “Fast & Furious” franchise seemed to be an unstoppable juggernaut, with even the tragic loss of one of its founding cast members failing to rob it of any momentum. A pity, then, that the one thing the franchise seemed unable to overcome was the competing egos of its leading men: founding cast member Vin Diesel and box office guarantee Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. What was Universal to do? Spin-off!

When Brixton Lore (Idris Elba), a cybernetically enhanced terrorist, attempts to steal a genetic doomsday virus, MI6 agent Hattie Shaw (Vanessa Kirby) injects herself with the contagion to keep it out of Brixton’s hands. With Hattie MIA,  the CIA recruit Luke Hobbs (Johnson) to work with Hattie’s brother Deckard Shaw (Statham) to recover Hattie, the virus and defeat Brixton and his shadow organisation Eteon.

While there’s no denying the big-screen charisma of The Rock and Statham’s rock ’em-sock ‘em action movie credentials, it’s a good thing “Hobbs & Shaw” has Vanessa Kirby to inject some vivacity and life into the rampant machismo and flaccid posturing that takes up a lot of the movie’s runtime.

There’s a drab, dreary quality to much of the movie, a greyness which fails to recapture the polished glamour of its parent franchise, especially the high-concept globetrotting “Top Gear” wish fulfilment of “Fast & Furious 7” and “Fast & Furious 8”. Whereas the main franchise has, of late, been – along with the “Mission: Impossible” franchise – at the forefront of blockbuster action cinema (where Bond movies used to be), “Hobbs & Shaw” feels like a 90s throwback, a contemporary of “Bad Boys” given a quick 21st century wash and brush up.

While Elba and Kirby feel fresh, there’s a tiredness to the ‘hilarious’ bickering banter Statham and Johnson seem obliged to indulge in whenever there’s even the merest hint of a quiet moment. While the action and fight scenes are as impressively choreographed as you’d expect, the car chases feel rote and more of a franchise obligation than a necessary part of the story.

As for the story, that’s where “Hobbs & Shaw” disappoints the most, cobbling together familiar elements from “Mission: Impossible 2”, “Moana”, “The A-Team” and even “Avengers: Infinity War”. Sure it’s fun to watch but there’s a distinct lack of new ideas on offer and may actually indicate the F&F franchise is, once again, starting to run out of fuel.



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