Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw is a movie where, in the breadth of a single scene, we are witness to a character stating that, "humanity's hate for itself is greater than its self-preservation" alongside another piece of dialogue that goes something like, "genocide, smenocide." This is to say that Hobbs & Shaw very much knows what it wants to be with the question being if by the end of its mammoth two hour and seventeen minute runtime it actually has become what it wanted to be. One might interpret these two opposing lines of dialogue (spoken by the same character, I might add) for a film that wants to have its cake and eat it too by being both a serious action film that in fact takes itself seriously while injecting consistent moments of humor with the obvious outcome being that the latter then also consistently undermines the former, but what sets Hobbs & Shaw apart from its Fast & Furious brethren is that, from the get-go, it's apparent this thing doesn't take itself serious at all-in any regard-and so, when a character does begin spouting philosophical verbiage as Idris Elba's Brixton Lore does from time to time he does it with his tongue planted firmly in his cheek. It only seems natural this would be the case in a movie where both Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and Jason Statham play what are more or less heightened versions of their own public personas whilst The Rock takes down a helicopter with his bare hands and Statham shows off his Wing Chun kung fu, karate and kickboxing skills to the extent that if he and director David Leitch (John Wick, Atomic Blonde, Deadpool 2) don't team-up for a martial arts-heavy film series to jump-start the next phase of Statham's career I will be sorely disappointed. As the ninth film in the series, but the first spin-off it only feels like the natural evolution for Hobbs & Shaw to be as outlandish and self-aware as it is and in following through on these instincts in every situation and not attempting to get too caught-up in plot, basing anything in anything resembling reality, or details such as logic and physics Leitch and his crew end up delivering exactly what audiences are looking for from this type of summer blockbuster. Keeping a keen eye on character and an even tone with the humor and its balance with the legit action Hobbs & Shaw maintains the emphasis on character being most important as that's what brought us here in the first place while the delivery of tight fight choreography and colossal action set pieces is what convinces us that not only should we continue to care about and invest in these characters, but that the creative forces behind the scenes care about them too...and that's ultimately what allows Hobbs & Shaw to succeed at becoming exactly what it wanted to be. 

Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and Shaw (Jason Statham) ready themselves to break into Eteon in Hobbs & Shaw.
Photo by Daniel Smith - © 2019 Universal Pictures. All Rights Reserved.
This is all to say that Hobbs & Shaw is essentially both an odd couple comedy smashed together with a buddy action flick which isn't even an original mash-up at all, but it gets away with it largely due to the fact these two both began as adversaries to Vin Diesel's Dom and his "family". Of course, this fact is completely irrelevant when it comes to Hobbs & Shaw as we, the viewers, are now totally meant to root for both of these guys as the heroes, but not only that-Hobbs & Shaw goes so far as to not serve #JusticeForHan, but instead take the opposite position and shine new light on Statham's mercenary, Deckard Shaw, that would have this whole thing with him seeking vengeance for the defeat of his brother-who he referred to as dead here, but who helped him save little Brian Toretto in The Fate of the Furious, so...I have no idea what's going on anymore-as a moot point as this facade of the Shaw's being a criminal family, but a well-intentioned criminal family at the very least is preserved if not through the fact Deckard was apparently framed at some point in the past, but through the introduction of Hattie Shaw (Vanessa Kirby), the sister to Deckard and Owen and daughter of Magdalene "Queenie" Shaw (Helen Mirren) who has grown up to be an even more well-intentioned MI6 agent. Get all that? Cool. So, Hobbs & Shaw opens with the introduction of Hattie as she too becomes a framed MI6 agent after a mission goes wrong where she and her colleagues were attempting to retrieve a virus, oddly nicknamed Snowflake, which can be programmed to decimate millions of people. In order to keep Snowflake out of the hands of Eteon, the big bad corporate villain whom Elba's Brixton-a cyber-genetically enhanced super soldier/terrorist-works for, Hattie injects the virus into her own body thus making her the prime target for both Eteon and Brixton. Shaw is informed of his sister's dire circumstances and recruited by agent Loeb (Rob Delaney) who is for one reason or another (but mostly for the purposes of the movie coming up with a reason to pair these two together) working with the mysterious Agent Locke who successfully recruits Johnson's DSS agent Luke Hobbs with the promise of saving the world once again only to then surprise the two of them with the fact they'll be working with one another. While this is largely standard villain activity met with the level of action one has come to expect from the Fast & Furious franchise the emphasis on the "knowingness" of the whole affair allows it to feel both more free-wheeling while veering into symptomatic sections of disjointedness as well.

Composer Tyler Bates, who has scored such films as Guardians of the Galaxy, 300, and John Wick knows how to craft music to best serve an action flick and while I'm not saying he hasn't done that here what I am saying is that one can simply listen to the type of score he's put together for Hobbs & Shaw be able to quickly comprehend the fact this is as much of a live-action cartoon as one could possibly create. While much of the time there will be nuances of strings and/or synth pads working through the slightly cheesy pop-hop needle drops and orchestral scores in the Fast & Furious films (this trademark balance of hard-hitting thumps and dramatic beats courtesy of Brian Tyler who has scored every F&F film since Tokyo Drift with the exception of 6) there seems no place for anything remotely resembling nuance in the score for Hobbs & Shaw as the whole thing feels more like a rock band doing their sound check before a stadium show than it does the nicely dressed ensemble getting ready to best emulate the images on screen through their instruments. This only further illustrates the type of movie Hobbs & Shaw wants to be though, and how it goes about accomplishing that, but more what the accompanying music tells us is that everything about the film is turned up to eleven and is as heightened a version of whatever scenario is on screen as possible-characters included. We will get to Leitch's approach to action shortly, but the real draw of this movie outside of everything else is that of the chemistry and charisma between its stars. Both Johnson and Statham are each playing these very over-the-top, heightened versions of their already intense and intimidating public personas, but that they're more playing it for laughs than they are for the inherent nature of words like "intense" and "intimidating" is what makes the duo so appealing. Some of the best scenes in this mammoth action flick are simply when the two of them are confined to a single space and trading insults-no bad guys to beat-up and no explosions to be seen. This is furthermore aided by the fact the film has this "anything goes" mentality where it seems the cast as well as Leitch would just throw out certain things to try just because this spin-off is the opportunity to do so. This feeling largely comes from the couple of surprising cameos and Easter eggs present, but even through to the way in which the film is cut together and the way in which the edit hues closely to the temperature of the action gives the sense this whole thing was more copacetic than corporate-mandated. To boot, it should be noted that Kirby holds her own against her three mammoth co-stars; possessing a veracity that is fierce and capable with a narrative arc that seems to ensure she and her siblings will be pulling many a "Keith Moons" for some time.

Brixton Lore (Idris Elba) is a cyber-genetically enhanced super soldier/terrorist with unsuspected ties to our heroes.
Photo by Daniel Smith - © 2019 Universal Pictures. All Rights Reserved.
Speaking of Leitch's approach to action though, the hand to hand combat is to be appreciated certainly as there is a visceral feeling to it all even if the former stuntman does try to combine these more "grounded" fight sequences with something of a bigger scale, the obvious example being the fist fight between Shaw, Hobbs, and Brixton on a flatbed as it speeds away from Eteon's home-base as it is being demolished. The way in which Leitch keeps the shots wide so as to allow the choreography to breathe and then takes in certain hits with slow motion that is further emphasized through extraneous factors such as the weather is a technique he utilizes well that allows the audience to really take in the power of these guys and feel the hits they are landing on one another. This is short-changed when he places them on this moving vehicle though, causing the suspension of belief to hit this level where buying into the fact these guys aren't actually even hitting one another becomes difficult because we know that not only are they not actually fighting, but they're not actually fighting in the location or on the base we're being told they're fighting on. Going bigger, in this case-while a cool idea-detracts from the power of these three guys finally coming face to face in a knock-down, drag-out brawl. That isn't to say I don't appreciate the bigger stunts as the finale of Hobbs & Shaw featuring that aforementioned bit where The Rock takes down a helicopter with his bare hands is pretty fantastic and certainly delivers on the promise of upping the ante in the fashion the movie has promised from scene to scene. Moreover though, Leitch is at the top of his game when he's working with integrating different facets of the screenplay and creative choices screenwriters Chris Morgan (the guy behind every F&F movie from Tokyo Drift all the way through Fate) and Drew Pearce (Hotel Artemis) have made in an attempt to push the personalities on screen to even bigger heights than they already are. For instance, with Brixton one is dealing with a man who believes that the more of a machine he becomes, the more human he actually is and so, by giving him this motorcycle that reacts as an extension of himself it not only makes for a cool vehicle that can do some insane stunts, but it amplifies the kind of power this character is wielding lending a better sense of just how powerful this individual at least feels he is. There is a single shot made to look like a "oner" or a continuous shot filmed in one long take or at least made to look one where Hattie, Hobbs and Shaw speed around a double-decker bus that cuts off Brixton as he ramps over other vehicles, through the top level of the double-decker and lands on the other side with barely a scratch-his motorcycle then speeding off as if nothing happened. It's nuts and it's hardly about the vehicles anymore, but it is about the characters and the crazy sh!* they're doing and we tend to care about them-so, it works. 

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