Considering the Fast & Furious franchise has generated over $5 billion at the worldwide box office, it’s not a surprise producers wanted to expand it. Plus, separating their feuding stars (Dwayne Johnson and Vin Diesel) was a bonus. Taking two of their most bankable actors, Johnson and Jason Statham, to lead the spin-off, Hobbs & Shaw follows the series’ successful formula: over-the-top action scenes set around the world, and a focus on family.
A nefarious organization known as Eteon wants to improve mankind through the use of technology. They plan to use a programmable virus dubbed “Snowflake,” which is supposed to kill off the weak but it isn’t clear how the virus would be discerning. MI6 attempts to secure the virus, but the unit they sent is wiped out, except for Hattie (Vanessa Kirby), who injects herself and escapes with it. Brixton Lore (Idris Elba), who calls himself Black Superman although with Eteon having turned him into a cyborg he is more Black Terminator, frames her for stealing the virus and murdering her team, causing her to become a fugitive.
Hobbs and Shaw are brought onto the case, separately, by the CIA. When they first encounter each other at a CIA office in London, they refuse to work together and berate each other with insults, a recurring bit throughout the movie. This mission is personal for Shaw. Hattie is his sister and Brixton is a former friend who Shaw thought he had killed before Eteon revived him. When Brixton captures Hattie to retrieve the virus, Hobbs and Shaw put aside most of their differences, though they continue to one-up and out macho the other.
Hattie is no damsel in distress. She is wily, and a former partner in crime of her brother when they were younger. Though smaller than the fellas, she is a tough fighter and gets in plenty of licks. She is elusive, never held against her will for long. She even helps Hobbs and Shaw break free when they are being tortured by Brixton. She is also a ticking time bomb as the virus is set to activate, killing her and going airborne. They have to find a way to extract it from her bloodstream or else she needs to die and her body burned. She is willing to accept that outcome, but her brother isn’t. Unfortunately, the only place there’s a machine to extract the virus is at Eteon’s Ukrainian compound
The story becomes personal for Hobbs. After being framed in the media along with the Shaws, the only safe place he can think of is Samoa, his former home. He hasn’t been there in 25 years after fracturing the family, but of course, when push comes to shove, the family stands together, echoing the theme of the franchise.
Johnson and Statham have a good chemistry together, though their bantering gets a little silly. Getting a lot silly are the scenes with guest stars Ryan Reynolds and Kevin Hart. Elba brings a gravitas that adds depth to his character. Kirby holds her own and could well be an action heroine if she wanted to go that route.
The fight scenes are adequate, but they don’t rise to the level of Leitch’s past work, John Wick or Atomic Blonde. The climax is shot well. The frames are filled with fine detail as the main three actors fight in the rain in slow motion. The action scenes are memorable for being thrilling and cartoonish. During a chase down a building exterior, Hobbs lets go of his rope and freefalls multiple times onto bad guys. Driving through the streets of London, Shaw drives a car while pursued by baddies on motorcycles that combine stunts and CGI effects. The destructive way Shaw ends the chase stands out. He also drives a modified dune buggy through the Ukrainian compound as explosions go off. And the biggest action sequence features trucks, a helicopter, and Hobbs’s muscles as they race along Somoan cliffs.
Hobbs & Shaw should be fast and furious enough to please fans of the franchise and those looking for a ridiculous action movie because there’s plenty of laughs and WTF moments to distract from the plot.