Movie Guru: “Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw” is hilarious and honestly better than its parent series
Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw
Rated: PG-13 for prolonged sequences of action and violence, suggestive material and some strong language
Screenplay by: Chris Morgan and Drew Pearce
Story by: Chris Morgan, based on characters created by Gary Scott Thompson
Directed by: David Leitch
Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Idris Elba, Vanessa Kirby, Helen Mirren, Eiza González, Eddie Marsan, Eliana Sua, Cliff Curtis and more
Grade: Three and a half stars
Sometimes the spinoff is better than the original.
That’s definitely true of “Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw,” opening this weekend. Action-packed, charmingly ridiculous and all-around delightful: This movie has all of the good parts of its parent series and none of the bad. The acting is better, the writing is better, the women get to beat up more people and the vehicles are just as cool. As an added bonus, Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham are both more pleasant company than Vin Diesel.
The movie is set a few months after “The Fate of the Furious,” the parent series’ eighth installment. The only two facts from that movie that are relevant here, however, is that Hobbs (Johnson) and Shaw (Statham) worked together once before and hated it. They can’t stand each other, but when a new super-virus ends up in the hands of Shaw’s little sister, they have no choice in the matter. With powerful enemies chasing them, the three will need to overcome their differences if they want to have any hope of staying alive and saving the day.
While plot-accurate, the synopsis completely fails to convey how funny the movie is. Trailers, too, often spoil the most entertaining parts of the movie, but here, the whole movie is really just that funny. It’s impossible to pick a favorite bit, or even a running joke, though there are two particularly delightful surprises it would be a crime to spoil. An excellent sense of comic timing means that even some of the trailer jokes play out better in the film, which is surprising.
There’s also a ton of action. It’s beautifully filmed and deeply satisfying. Statham, naturally, gets several well-choreographed fight scenes, and though Johnson is more of a brawler, he gets plenty of opportunities to do just that. The biggest and best surprise was how much fighting Vanessa Kirby gets to do and how well she does it. It’s clear she’s just as tough as the boys, and watching her beat people up is an absolute joy.
Of course, we can’t forget about the vehicles. Though not quite as auto-obsessed as its parent series, “Hobbs & Shaw” still puts a number of cars, motorcycles and trucks through their entertainingly improbable paces. An early chase through the streets of London is probably the best and most complicated, though all of the vehicular shenanigans are a treat to watch.
There are even a few dramatic family moments that the “Fast & Furious” movies so like to indulge in. It’s all basic stuff, but the acting from the three leads is good enough that I still got choked up a little. Kirby has great chemistry with both men, though one relationship skews toward siblingness and the other plays more romantically. It grounds the more sitcom-like chemistry between the two leads, rounding it out into something deeply satisfying.
It’s obvious that Universal is hoping to turn this into a long-running franchise, and I, for one, am all for it. With Hobbs and Shaw behind the wheel, I’ll be in for a wild ride.
Jenniffer Wardell is an award-winning movie critic and member of the Denver Film Critics Society. Find her on Twitter at @wardellwriter or drop her a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.