If you remove all of the instalments between the original The Fast and The Furious and the expanding brand’s latest instalment, Hobbs & Shaw, you would have absolutely no reason to assume they belonged to the same franchise. The new film is – of course – the first spin-off for the series (for argument’s sake we’ll consider Tokyo Drift to be a side-quel) and it sets about laying the foundation for an all-new canon of alternative sequels. And if you aren’t well versed in the Fast and Furious universe then none of that will make any sense to you. On the flip side, you now have an entry point whereby everything that precedes it is of little relevance.
The Fast and the Furious saga reaches preposterous heights with Hobbs & Shaw, boasting what could be the most outrageous dose of action to hit the screen this year. It has been 18 years (!) since Vin Diesel and Paul Walker first set the bar, a bar Universal was only to happy to gleefully swing around, knocking out box office hits as the series evolved to ridiculous heights. New characters were added, the world became the playground, and now two of the franchise’s most popular additions have found themselves at the wheel of their very own vehicle. American DSS agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and former British Special Forces assassin Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) strap in for maximum impact as the ultimate action odd couple at the mercy of a classically contrived plot device.
Hobbs and Shaw have been recruited as the only humans capable of saving the world from the clutches of a madman… well, a cyborg. Brixton Lore (Idris Elba) is a former M16 agent with cyber-genetic technology making him an unstoppable and ruthless force of evil. He wants to weaponise a deadly virus to cleanse the world of impurity, and before you can say “it’s been done before,” the virus is stolen by Shaw’s younger sister, Hattie (Vanessa Kirby). Hobbs and the Shaw siblings must break bones, bust heads and destroy everything in their path in order to defeat robo-Idris and save humanity from abomination.
What ensues is a bombastic assault on the senses with some of the most deliciously far-fetched action pieces the screen has ever beheld. If you thought The Fate of the Furious (aka part 8) was ludicrous, you ain’t seen nothing yet. From shape-shifting motorcycles and chase sequences down the side of skyscrapers, to mid-air car-centipedes and traditional Samoan warfare. This is a world far removed from the original’s gritty urban landscapes of Los Angeles, and with the right frame of mind and willingness to embrace the kitsch, it’s a world that offers one hell of a good time.
As you would expect and want, Johnson and Statham resume their titular roles with the perfect measure of frivolity. Director David Leitch (Deadpool 2) brings a new self-awareness to the series, which compliments this spin-off story more than it may have suited the official lineage. The rapport between the leads is immature and brutish, and at all times gratuitous. With a plot lifted straight out of a James Bond film, melded with the action of a Marvel movie and sprinkled with the humour of a James Gunn flick, it makes good on its promise of extravagance and brawn.
Kirby is a fantastic addition to the cast with the expectation of becoming a third headliner for subsequent instalments, and she cushions the perpetual feuding with her smarts and ass-kicking abilities. Elba makes an imposing presence as the Terminator-like villain. Despite being given little room to flex his talents, he embraces the tone of the movie and turns over a cheeky performance. It is also peppered with surprising cameos from some very prominent players, of which I will leave for you to discover. They contribute to the spectacle by adding an unexpected “spot the famous person” kind of interaction with the audience, which again, layers frivolity upon layers of frivolity.
If you’re the cynical type, don’t have a disposition for high-octane outrageousness, and aren’t willing to suspend your disbelief, then it may be best for you to steer well clear of this one. However, if you love the Fast and the Furious franchise and love big-dumb action, Hobbs & Shaw is the ride for you and me.
SCREEN REALM SCORE: ★★★★☆
‘Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw’ is in Australian cinemas from August 1st and US cinemas from August 2nd.