FAST & FURIOUS PRESENTS: HOBBS & SHAW

Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw is bananas. Not that you’d expect anything less from a title sporting two ampersands and one colon. Depending on how you look at it, Hobbs & Shaw is either the eight-and-a-half installment in the wildly successful and endlessly entertaining The Fast and the Furious franchise, or the franchises’ first cinematic spinoff. Either way, Hobbs & Shaw is a significant coup: They’ve managed to wrestle the property from the grasps of the main players without much narrative back bending or character concessions.

The story: There’s a new deadly virus running around, and its name is “Snowflake.” Once released, this airborne disease will liquefy the insides of every being it comes in contact with a 100% success rate. Hundreds of millions, maybe billions will die. Brixton (Idris Elba), more machine than man, wants it for his fascist “cause,” which will purge the world and prepare it for his, the evolved, to inherit. If only Hattie (Vanessa Kirby), an MI6 agent, hadn’t intervened, Brixton would have had his domination. Unfortunate for Hattie, she didn’t stop the doomsday device she merely delayed it. Now she has 30(ish) hours to deactivate Snowflake, or she will be its first victim.

And when the world’s in jeopardy, whom do you call? Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and Shaw (Jason Statham), two Dragonball Z Super Saiyans in the flesh. The only drawback, they don’t much care for each other. But, the world is at stake, again, and the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. But not until we’ve flexed a half dozen muscles, traded a few blows, and landed a couple of zingers. Well, a lot of zingers — Hobbs & Shaw is action and comedy in equal measure.

At their heart, the Fast & Furious franchise has been about family, which they like to remind you no less than a dozen times. That core remains intact here, significantly in the third act when Hobbs must call on his long-lost family members for a bit of help. It gives the movie heart, but the filmmakers don’t rely on it too long. Sentimentality can only get you so far; then it’s time to bring in the pyrotechnics.

And what a show Hobbs & Shaw puts on. From Hobbs pulling a military helicopter out of the sky using a chain and hook to an apartment battle between Shaw and a task force that is more than a little bit Jackie Chan. In another, Hobbs and Shaw fight Brixton, a.k.a., Black Superman, on the back of an armored flatbed racing from an imploding research facility. But the best scene is a car/motorcycle chase through the streets of London between Shaw’s metallic Maclaren and Brixton’s jet black Batcycle.

Each of these set pieces is presented by director David Leitch, cinematographer Jonathan Sela, and the stunt team with precision and clarity. You never loose who is fighting whom, where they are, and what they are doing. Bodies are shot in full-frame, every piece of the surrounding environment is fair game, and there is a good deal of comedy. And thanks to some computer-generated enhancement, Hobbs and Shaw become more than everyday warriors and take on a mythic quality.

And it’s fun. A lot of fun. And we haven’t even talked about the cameos.

Directed by Jonathan Sela
Written by Chris Morgan, Drew Pierce
Based on a story by Chris Morgan and characters created by Gary Scott Thompson
Produced by Hiram Garcia, Dwayne Johnson, Chris Morgan, Jason Statham
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Idris Elba, Vanessa Kirby, Helen Mirren, Eiza González, Ryan Reynolds, Kevin Hart
Universal Pictures, Rated PG-13, Running time 135 minutes, Opens August 2, 2019

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