'Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw': Film Review

Eighteen years ago, an unheralded little Universal release called The Fast and the Furious climaxed with two drag racers played by the little-known Vin Diesel and Paul Walker cranking up their engines and macho to see who might make it across some L.A. train tracks before an approaching engine did. This summer we've got the franchise's latest outsized sprig, in which the grand finale features a battle royal involving the villainous Idris Elba in a jumbo helicopter chained to a hefty truck bearing Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham along the coast of Samoa.


In the curiously titled Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw, which is being positioned as a franchise offshoot, the faces, scale and cost ($200 million) have changed but not the elemental appeal of the series' stress on speed, nerve, spectacular stunts and devil-may-care confidence among its muscle-bound main characters.

Officially, this gigantic, sometimes rollicking and enjoyably absurd venture is not an actual Fast and Furious entry but something of a parallel event; Fast & Furious 9 with Vin Diesel, Charlize Theron, Michelle Rodriguez and other familiar faces, but without Johnson or Statham, will continue the main series' narrative next May. But the family ties are visible everywhere, even when the filmmakers, if not the actors, make you suspect they'd actually like to be making a Mission: Impossible installment.

Screenwriters Chris Morgan, who remains on board for his seventh Fast installment, and Drew Pearce, who created the original story for Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, have worked especially hard to load the script with fast-flying antagonistic banter between Johnson's Yank, Hobbs, and Statham's working class Brit, Shaw. These guys don't want to work together again, but the unreliable behavior of Shaw's brilliant sister Hattie (the ever-terrific Vanessa Kirby), a rogue MI6 agent in possession of a world-endangering viral sample, and the frightening ambitions of the half-man, half-genetically enhanced anarchist Brixton Lorr (Elba) rather force the issue.

Anyone who has seen director (and former stuntman) David Leitch's previous features, Atomic Blonde and Deadpool 2, knows that he has a tendency to intricately detail his scenes. Indeed, here, perhaps even more than before, he loads them up with no end of touches, including obsessive behavior and — his saving grace — humor, to the point where one can sometimes lose track of what the scene is actually about. On that score, however, all you have to really remember is that Hattie's virus sample must not fall into the hands of the relentless, burgeoning superman Lorr and that much of the action you see onscreen cannot come close to happening in real life.

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