REVIEW: Hobbs and Shaw is suitably ridiculous, but lacks what makes The Fast & The Furious special
Needs more Vin Diesel speeches about family, tbqh
Who'd have imagined that a little pre-9/11 Point Break rip-off about street racers stealing DVD player would become the biggest original movie franchise of our times?
The Fast & The Furious has already given us seven sequels (with another on the way), and now we have the first spin-off, reteaming Dwayne Johnson's DSS agent Hobbs (who first appeared in part five), and Jason Statham's anti-hero (the villain of part seven), to stop new bad guy Idris Elba from getting hold of a deadly virus that has been injected into Shaw's previously-unseen M16 agent sister (The Crown's Vanessa Kirby, who was born in 1988 - Statham was born in 1967, yet the film shows them playing as kids together. It's best just to not think about it).
Obviously, the plot is just an excuse to bounce The Rock and J-Stay around the planet to whatever globe-trotting set-piece they have planned next - this time London, Russia and Samoa make up the itinerary.
It goes without saying that all we want is for this film to be as ludicrous as possible, to pile on the vehicular madness and cheesy one-liners. And to begin with, at least, it delivers. Hobbs and Shaw are separately introduced via a split-screen segment detailing their various home activities in London and LA, in cool day-glo lighting and stuff smashing up bad guys, and the tone is set from there.
The duo have a will-they-won't-they-get-along screwball chemistry not seen since the likes of Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, and the early parts of the movie throws us such delights as multiple surprise big-name cameos, an-all female cabal of arms dealers who all look like supermodels, Eddie Marsan as a Russian scientist with a flamethrower, and a bit where Idris Elba drives past a Greggs.
It's hard to keep this energy up though, and somewhere around the middle, sadly it becomes a case of diminishing returns and all just starts to sag. It definitely does not help that pretty much every single action beat has been spoiled by the film's marketing. When The Rock teams up with his Samoan family (including WWE star Roman Reigns), we should be in childish glee and the surprise - instead, we've already seen it in a more condensed, more enjoyable two-minute form.
The film is also incredibly baggy, at two hours and 15 minutes. Director David Leitch (Deadpool 2) sometimes thinks he's making a Judd Apatow movie, just letting his celeb mates just, y'know, riff for ages. But there are only so many ways Statham can tell The Rock he looks like a human-sized sausage with a face or whatever, and really we just want to hurry and get to the fireworks factory.
But maybe the real disappointment with Hobbs and Shaw is that it doesn't really feel like a Fast and Furious film. Yeah, those films have always been over-the-top and ridiculous, but they have also been incredibly straight-faced and heartfelt. Vin Diesel's speeches about family and brotherhood have always felt like he one hundred per cent believed them. You might laugh - most people do - but that straight-up honesty is a big part of what makes those films so endearing.
Hobbs and Shaw, though, is in on the joke, and that sort of kills it. There are comedy needle drops on the soundtrack, and there are in-jokes to the cast's other work (it's implied Statham is the same character as in The Italian Job remake, and The Rock does The People's Eyebrow at one point).
It also sees the series going to full sci-fi territory. Look, I'm aware trying to protect the believability of the Fast and Furious franchise might be a fruitless campaign - but Idris Elba is basically an anime villain in this. He has a superpowered suit making him invulnerable to bullets and works for a secret organisation with a hi-tech headquarters run by a mysterious unseen voice.
If you can put this to one side though, Hobbs and Shaw is still definitely an upper-tier mainstream Hollywood action movie. And in what has been a relatively poor summer for big popcorn films, Marvel movies aside, that's still something to be thankful for.