Fast and the Furious is on screens once again with the ninth film in this franchise which began all the way back in 2001. This latest film is the first offshoot installment from the main franchise, with David Leitch directing, and series regular screenwriter Chris Morgan returning. Leitch is coming off previous successes Atomic Blonde, and Deadpool 2 with this film that reunites F&F supporting characters Hobbs and Shaw in leading roles.
While the branding Fast & Furious is loud and proud in all the marketing materials for this film, Hobbs and Shaw feels a little different to your regular F&F films. While the more recent installments in the series became increasingly removed from its humble street racing beginnings, Hobbs and Shaw takes place in an entirely different space, and street racing is the furthest thing from its thoughts. This film takes the spy action adventure component of the latter F&F films, and for the most part sheds the rest.
While this approach isn’t necessarily a bad idea, Hobbs and Shaw sorely misses the ensemble cast and characters of the main series with these two characters struggling to lift the entire film on their own. Reducing the cast here reduces the variety of characters, performances, and sensibilities all of the other characters bring to the mix, and while this film makes efforts to fill the void with new ideas and characters, it only manages to do so with small amounts of success.
Leitch strives to flesh out Hobbs and Shaw beyond what’s been revealed in the F&F films, and it’s generally the least interesting aspect of the film. These elements work well enough but aren’t the draw-card for this franchise where these characters have shined in smaller roles. Other than their personal sub-plots the main arc here takes the characters on an adventure pursuing an effortlessly thrown together McGuffin, with scenes connected together by action sequences which as you’d predict is where the film is at its most entertaining.
Again there’s really little in the action that holds this film out as being part of the F&F story, but otherwise its’ fun as its own action film with sequences that are entertaining, ambitious, and involving some well-crafted sequences that are ludicrously fun to watch. This franchise clearly continues to think ahead however by expanding the universe further with new characters in minor roles that could easily pop up elsewhere, while also introducing more sinister elements here that are far from resolved by the end of the film.
It’s debatable whether Leitch makes the most of the Rock here, he certainly delivers more than his fair share of action however that’s only part of what makes the Rock great, the other parts include his natural charisma and charm on screen and his smaller character moments were used a bit too sparingly here. That said he and Statham are a good pairing, they both deliver different styles of action, they bounce their dialogue off each other effectively and with great comedic timing.
The performances don’t really do anything new from what we’ve seen in the main F&F series so there’s a bit of re-treading familiar material but the film does manage to deliver an arc that gets them to a different place by the film’s end (even if too predictably). There’s not much going on with Idris Elba here however and he’s far from given anything really memorable to do but he’s a menacing enough foe for the heroes.
Overall Hobbs and Shaw delivers works well enough and is an enjoyable action film, but one that doesn’t measure up to the main series. Taking two of the regular supporting characters to carry one film has mixed results here, its villain is uninspiring but at least hints at something more interesting in the works, and if the film does well enough there’s likely still scope to build the universe up to more than a single series franchise.
For now I’m giving Fast and Furious: Hobbs and Shaw 6.5 out of 10, it’s in cinemas around Australia from 1 August 2019.