“Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw” pits Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham with stuntman-slash-director David Leitch. Hang onto your hats, cause shit’s about to get real — long.
But before the gratuitous chase scenes, director Leitch (“Deadpool 2”) has fun introducing these characters.
Hobbs (Johnson) is into Nietzsche and Motley Crue; Shaw (Statham) is into fancy cars and nice suits. They’re hired to track rogue agent Hattie (Vanessa Kirby), who has stolen a deadly plague. They want to find her before renegade Brixton (Idris Elba) tracks her down, and beware. He’s got some bodily upgrades going on.
Johnson (“Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle”) has the build of a gladiator and a boyish playfulness that’s unwittingly likable. As Hobbs, he's as convincing quoting Nietzsche as he is bench-pressing 300 pounds.
Statham's Shaw is sleek and cheeky, a perfect juxtaposition. He’s not as outwardly animated as Johnson, but he skillfully executes a controlled humor through gritted teeth.
Kirby (“The Crown”) is elegant and dainty as Hattie, and she believably holds her own in the ring. Her steely stare seems perfect for portraying British royalty or an undercover agent.
And Elba (“Thor: Ragnarok”) plays Brixton with toughness and surprising vulnerability. Describing his backstory, Brixton looks down at his fists, exclaiming “I’m black Superman.” You get the very real hint that his was a shared wish to be, or see, for many. And it’s bittersweet.
Writers Chris Morgan and Drew Pearce (an “Iron Man,” a “Mission Impossible,” numerous F&Fs) ride the line of progress and played out.
Too much dialogue is dedicated to “mine’s bigger than yours” banter. Throw in some sizeist comments and jabs at “fragile male ego,” and prepare to be confused.
During a man-to-man, Shaw confronts Hobbs about his designs on a woman. Hobbs refreshingly talks consent before taking it someplace unnecessary and kinda gross. “If she chooses to look the way of this big, well-endowed man, I’m gonna let her climb that mountain.” Hmpf.
This film does make good on its promise for plenty of exciting, ludicrous and laughable scenarios pitting cars against bigger, badder vehicles. Expect the usual booms, blams and peppy music you saw in its predecessors.
And while it’s exciting watching characters defy gravity on ropes, in cars, in nothing, it gets stale, and it’s not quite worth it until the third act, when Hobbs traces his roots to Samoa. Here the writers focus on what’s tangible and balanced. It’s also a cultural jackpot as Johnson and friends embrace the traditions and much, much more.
Along with explosions, home and family run deep here. It’s almost a saving grace, it’s not quite enough, but at times, it feels like much more.
As characters prep for a showdown, Sefina, a sage Samoan woman (Lori Pelenise Tuisano) says “It doesn’t take a man to pull a trigger.” In another scene, Brixton criticizes the main characters. “People cannot be trusted. Look at you two, the fate of the world is in your hands, and you can’t even get along.”
“Hobbs & Shaw” may be the perfect mix of where we’re at and where we’ve been, and that we’re trying. With a franchise like that has F&F films nine and 10 planned, we’re bound to see more with these characters. And that might not be a bad thing.
Melinda Lavine is a features reporter at the DNT. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or (218) 723-5346.
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Vanessa Kirby, Idris Elba\u0009
Director: David Leitch
Writers: Chris Morgan and Drew Pearce
Rating: PG-13 for prolonged sequences of action and violence, suggestive material and some strong language
Now showing: Premiere, Duluth 10, Lakes 10