The last few “Fast & Furious” movies have gotten a little heavy on the number of characters. The franchise isn’t as crowded as, say, the MCU, but it’s becoming increasingly reasonable to say that “anybody who’s anybody” has been in one of these movies. So it makes sense that the cast has to be splintered off into two factions: one presumably including Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his “family,” and the one featured in this movie, which includes Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), and their respective families.
Hobbs has been a “Fast & Furious” mainstay since the fifth movie. A DSS agent initially tasked with capturing Dom and his team, Hobbs eventually saw that they weren’t the true enemy and learned to work with them, not against them. Shaw’s role is a little more complicated. The brother of sixth-movie villain Owen Shaw, Deckard declared war on Dom and his family when they critically injured his brother. He even went so far as to kill Dom’s friend Han. However, in the eighth movie, he somewhat redeemed himself by working to defeat terrorist Cipher (for personal reasons, not the greater good) and save Dom’s baby. This was enough to make him a “good guy” in the eyes of the script, but it wasn’t enough to make him a good guy in the eyes of the fans (who famously were not ready to forgive him for the death of Han), or in the eyes of Hobbs, apparently.
The new movie sees Hobbs and Shaw forced to team up by the CIA, Hobbs because a former colleague recommends him, and Shaw because his sister Hattie (Vanessa Kirby) is a person of interest in the mission. Hattie has injected herself with a virus that is capable of killing millions, and the theory is that she wants to weaponize it for nefarious purposes, but really she’s trying to keep it out of the hands of the evil Brixton (Idris Elba). Shaw isn’t willing to let Hattie die to destroy the virus, but keeping her alive for potential extraction means she’s susceptible to capture by Brixton and his terrorist organization. During a rare moment where all three main characters are on the same page, they flee to Samoa, where Hobbs must seek help from his estranged family.
This being a “Fast & Furious” movie, even one without Vin Diesel, you can probably guess what kinds of shenanigans will transpire over the course of the film. There will be fighting, car chases, broken glass, fireballs, and all manner of affronts to the laws of physics. The dialogue too is entirely typical of this kind of blockbuster, with the one-liners coming… quickly and with figurative malice. The title characters do a lot of bickering, but Hobbs only seems to not want to work with Shaw because they’ve been opponents in the past and not because, say, he terrorized a hospital in the seventh movie. There are plenty of good reasons to not want to work with Deckard Shaw, can’t the movie give Hobbs one that isn’t petty?
“Hobbs & Shaw” is every bit a middle-of-the-road action movie. It doesn’t reach the heartfelt highs of “Furious 7,” but it doesn’t detract from the series’ apex like “The Fate of the Furious.” I spent much of the too-long runtime debating which side of the recommendation median was for me, and then I learned that a moviegoer seated near me had fallen asleep. I’ve seen (well, heard, because of snoring) this happen many times over the years, but it has almost always been in films that were either boring or had soothing properties. But this is a “Fast & Furious” movie. It’s synonymous with zooming, crashing, ineffective shooting, and explosions. If it’s putting people to sleep, it’s simply not doing its job.
“Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw” is rated PG-13 for prolonged sequences of action and violence, suggestive material and some strong language. Its running time is 137 minutes
Robert R. Garver is a graduate of the Cinema Studies program at New York University. His weekly movie reviews have been published since 2006.