Fast & Furious: Hobbs & Shaw (3 stars)

Fast & Furious: Hobbs & Shaw

Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham reunite for an intermittently fun spin-off

It's taken nine films to get here but the Fast & Furious franchise's first spin-off liberates its most entertaining elements – Dwayne Johnson's DSS agent Luke Hobbs and Jason Statham's ex mercenary Deckard Shaw – and situates them in a high-stakes buddy actioner. With the pair agitated by the arrangement and prone to smash stuff when angry, the stage is set for next-level bickering and destruction.

'The fate of the world is in your hands and you can't even get along,' Idris Elba's Brixton tells the follicly challenged bruisers, summing up the movie in a sentence. He's the film's self-described 'bad guy' or, at least, its most visible one, with shadowy forces at play in the form of tech cult Eteon. Hobbs & Shaw sees the series' taste for gravity-defying action evolve into straight-out sci-fi, as the duo come up against Elba's bionic soldier in pursuit of a programmable disease that's been half-inched by a rogue MI6 operative, who just so happens to be Shaw's sister Hattie (a miscast but game Vanessa Kirby).

With Helen Mirren returning as Shaw's mockney mum and Hobbs' daughter and estranged brother featuring, it's all about faa-mily, but in this brazenly absurd context any attempt at sincerity falls flat. Elba flirts with Bond-esque megalomania – he boasts about being 'black Superman' and, regarding one particularly convoluted method of capture, comments, 'It's a little bit elaborate I must admit,' – but, as a lackey, he's not granted full agency, so it's not really a role he can get his teeth into.

Given that the main films in the series are lumbered with nonentities, including leaden lead Vin Diesel, this latest effort doesn't feel as overburdened as its predecessors. However, if the franchise's box office clout is reflected in its A-list cameos, it's cringing how lazy some of this stuff is. Sense always takes a sky-dive but characters pop up just to provide weirdly convenient solutions and there's a total disinterest in details.

Nevertheless, director David Leitch has plenty of form when it comes to style-slathered action (the former stuntman is the uncredited co-director of John Wick and the lone helmer of Atomic Blonde and Deadpool 2) and he goes from slow-mo to turbo-charged during crazy but coherently shot set-pieces. The CGI isn't always a match for Leitch's ambition but when he scales things down the fist-fights fly – showcasing Statham's martial arts prowess, as well as Johnson's more blunderbuss approach.

What should have been a hoot is only partly successful due to the sketchy script (from series regular Chris Morgan and Iron Man 3's Drew Pearce) that yields the occasional good line ('You stand out like balls on a bulldog,' Shaw tells his hulking partner). Both Statham and Johnson have the chops for comedy and one of the pleasures of their previous Fast & Furious appearances was an occasionally surreal approach to their scenes (Johnson busting his way out of a plaster cast by flexing his bicep, Statham taking on a plane full of adversaries with an oblivious baby in tow) but there's a lack of imagination here.

'I've been down this road,' remarks Shaw as he's first reunited with Hobbs. 'It's a total waste of time.' That's not entirely true of the film itself, yet, when it comes to creativity, its tank feels half-empty.

General release from Thu 1 Aug.

Fast & Furious presents: Hobbs & Shaw

  • 3 stars
  • 2019
  • US
  • 2h 16min
  • 12A
  • Directed by: David Leitch
  • Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Idris Elba, Vanessa Kirby, Roman Reigns, Eiza Gonzalez, Eddie Marsan, Cliff Curtis, Helen Mirren
  • UK release: 2 August 2019

Hobbs (Johnson) and Shaw (Statham) reluctantly team up to stop nasty Brixton (Elba) from doing bad things. It should have been a hoot, but while the two leads have proven comedy chops, a sketchy script doesn’t give them enough to do and there’s a general lack of imagination. The tank is half empty on this one.

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