Movie Review: Hobbs & Shaw

This review was written for Pop Culture Leftovers (PCL) and is featured as a Critic Review for PCL on Rotten Tomatoes. PCL was kind enough to allow me to showcase this review on my own website, but I encourage everyone to visit their site for reviews by other writers, and the Pop Culture Leftovers Podcast for which they are primarily known.

Taking a detour from the main franchise, Hobbs and Shaw manages to inject new life into an already lively universe.

After settling down with an undisclosed period of time since the events of Fate of the Furious, Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) are pulled into a new mission of super powered proportions. While confronting their own demons, they are forced to work together, this time, to stop a virus from consuming the world, but a cyber enhanced villain named Brixton (Idris Elba), with his own plans for “saving humanity,” stands in their way. 

As with any of the movies in the Fast and Furious franchise, this one doesn’t add anything groundbreaking to the plot line, but its straight forward storytelling is nonetheless satisfying. Not surprisingly, Johnson and Statham both steal the spotlight in their respective scenes, but together, they show a new level of chemistry that the previous installments had only hinted at. Hobbs and Shaw is full of comedic banter between these two and their pissing contest. Unfortunately, the jokes don’t always land. Audiences overall will find themselves laughing at the expense of these frenemies. 

Stuck in the middle of all of this testosterone-infused muscle flexing and bickering is Shaw’s younger sister, Hattie Shaw (Vanessa Kirby), who not only gets thrust into this mission with these sparring “Alpha Males”, but she fully holds her own with them. Bringing charm, smarts, and a full package of badass to the table, Kirby throws the old tropes of women in spy movies out the window (among other things) and is a refreshing addition to this franchise. 

Elba leads the charge on the opposite end of all this action-packed chaos, as Brixton, a character that is unapologetically one dimensional, but in the best manner possible. In his opening scene, he directly introduces himself as the “bad guy” and continues to sprinkle in his meta level commentary to remind the audience that they should not be on his side, and ironically at one point, he boldly refers to himself as being “Black Superman”, even though he is clearly more fitted as the antagonist, Zod. At times, he could even be reflected as a Disney type villain. Elba appears to have a lot of fun with this character and it absolutely shows in his portrayal.

Much like Elba’s character, this movie goes full throttle into identifying itself, which is absolute hyperbolic insanity. Neither the director nor the cast take themselves too seriously and the viewers enjoyment solely depends on their ability to suspend disbelief. With that said, the overall story arc felt disjointed and mismatched. Being a spinoff, it is expected to have flagship moments like Nitrous Oxide “NOS” infused super car action scenes and character tie ins to keep the universe connected. However, as a spinoff, it also needs to establish its own identity. This movie certainly feels like a new experience in the first two acts, giving a modern day action spy tone with a futuristic science fiction paint job. By the end of the second act, it appeared the movie was over, but it abruptly changed gears to a completely different tone. Even though the action stays consistent, the third act feels like it would have been better suited as a separate story in another movie, where it could have been fully fleshed out.

Hobbs and Shaw shifted to be fully reflective of the core franchise, which would have been fine had this not been a spinoff that needed to separate itself from the other titles. Realistically, creating a spinoff and leading into unknown territory is a huge gamble, especially with millions of dollars at stake. It seems like the writers and producers struggled with balancing what they wanted to create and what the main franchise’s fan base might expect and they probably didn’t want to make any “mistakes”. This was most likely the safest option to keep a fanbase content and transition completely into something different, but it could have been better executed. Even with Johnson and Statham leading the way, among other great actors, this movie relied too heavily on the brand of Fast and Furious to get an audience into the theater seats. Going forward, it would be a welcome change to commit entirely to the initial vision and build a new identity with its own unique themes. Let the core Fast and Furious movies tackle the themes they are already known for.

While the plot feels weaker than any of its main cast, it introduced a lot and brought much to the table that has been desired. Hobbs and Shaw has a strong foundation with many ideas to continue into a new franchise of its own. This movie has set the groundwork for what appears to be a long term story arc with many seemingly insignificant supporting characters and cameos, but it also shows great potential for these same characters to become recurring and more impactful to an overarching trilogy or possibly more. Hobbs and Shaw is a clear introduction into an ever expanding universe with many more ideas and stories to tell in future installments without the limitations of the main line of Fast and Furious movies or its already clustered roster of characters. 

Hobbs and Shaw is a delightfully engaging spy action-comedy filled with many great moments, both in character development and pure adrenaline action. The core cast has plenty of charisma and humor within their interactions. As a spinoff, though, the movie plays itself safe to an extent and unfortunately has some faults because of that decision, but in the end, it also sets up a universe with loads of potential and excitement for future installments outside of the main Fast and Furious franchise. It is definitely worth the price of admission.

My first Rotten Tomato Review quote as a Critic!