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Hobbs And Shaw’ Coasts On Charisma Of Its Stars

Fast and Furious’ spin-off is big and dumb but not much fun

Photo credit: Universal

Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham star as the title characters "Hobbs and Shaw" and they can't stop fighting even when the fate of humanity rests in their hands.

Companion viewing

"The Road Warrior" (1981)

"The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift" (2006)

"Fast Five" (2011)

"Fast and the Furious" is expanding its movie franchise by presenting a new film spinning off some supporting characters in lead roles. Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham star in "Hobbs and Shaw."

"The Fast and the Furious" hit the road in 2001 but didn’t really take off until Justin Lin started pushing it further and further into a giddy cartoon realm where physics got thrown out the window but the action left you breathless. Now, "The Fast and the Furious" presents "Hobbs and Shaw" placing Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham in the lead roles to see if the franchise has legs without Vin Diesel.

I confess I had high hopes for this being the big, dumb, fun action film of the summer in the tradition of previous Fast and Furious films and the likes of "Live Free and Die Hard." Films where you can turn off your brain and just enjoy the thrills of a summer popcorn movie. The film promised appealing stars in Johnson and Statham, Idris Elba savoring an evil turn, and former 87Eleven stuntman David Leitch taking the wheel.

The film delivers on big and dumb but comes up short on the fun. Instead of the fast and the furious it feels more like the slow and lackluster as Johnson and Statham fight like an old married couple for more than two hours even when the fate of the humanity is at stake. Even with likable stars trading insults there is only so much juvenile, schoolyard penis jokes a person can take. If the writing were more clever the results might have been more fun but as the film stands it gets old after about 20 minutes. It's a one-note joke that plays itself out fast.

That could have been ignored if the film at least delivered solid action, but it doesn't. It creates a complicated plot involving a deadly virus and human cyborg-like technology that seems more suited to comic book superheroes than to the crew of the Fast and the Furious.

Leitch did a great job bringing a kick-ass female character to the screen with "Atomic Blonde," where he displayed his action design sense to deliver grueling fights that had some grit and tension. But here he gives us action that defaults to fast cuts and CGI. There is a good fight between Johnson's Hobbs and Vanessa Kirby's Hattie where she has to find clever ways to try and do some damage to Hobbs. But there is little else on display to impress. There are a lot of things blowing up and some ridiculous action set pieces but nothing that wows us.

Screenwriters Chris Morgan and Drew Pearce drag the story out and fail to exploit any of the strengths presented by this franchise installment. They have Elba giving us a formidable performance as the enhanced human Brixton but after a flashy screen entrance he has little to do. They also bring in Helen Mirren as Shaw's mum. But Mirren is wasted, too. The film has Hobbs return to Samoa to resolve some family issues and there seems to be a great opportunity for the mothers of Hobbs and Shaw to have a moment disciplining their boys and making them realize that saving the world is more important than their testosterone driven one-upmanship game. Ryan Reynolds makes a hilarious cameo, but he's not enough to save the film.

It’s hard to imagine how anyone could fail at such low hanging fruit, but the creative team behind "Hobbs and Shaw" do. I’m sure the film will still make a ton of money based solely on the genuine charisma of Johnson, Statham and Elba, but it should have been so much more entertaining.

Listen to this story by Beth Accomando.

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