There’s rarely any middle ground when it comes to the Fast & Furious franchise, which is what makes the spinoff Hobbs & Shaw such a surprise. The series is now nine movies deep, and most people have either surrendered themselves to the ludicrousness it contains or dismissed the movies as everything that’s wrong about Hollywood.
The film, which has the full ridiculous-on-purpose title of Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw, teams up Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), who have been antagonists in previous films in the series.
This time, they’re tasked by their respective governments to track down Hattie (Vanessa Kirby), an MI6 operative infected with a secret serum that could destroy the world. Also on her tail is Brixton (Idris Elba), a super soldier backed by a shadowy organization that wants the serum for its own nefarious purposes.
Usually in this series, the story is merely a loose framework in which to include as much action as possible. However, director David Leitch and co-writers Chris Morgan and Drew Pearce offer up more than lip service to the plot this time. In fact, it could be argued that Hobbs & Shaw has more to offer in the script department than all of the previous films in the series combined.
The filmmakers lean heavily into the hostile relationship between Hobbs and Shaw, and it works like a charm. The insult-heavy banter between the two is normally something that wears thin after a while, but whether it’s the lines themselves or how Johnson and Statham deliver them, the jokes remain effective throughout the movie.
Aiding the success of the film is that prior knowledge of the series is helpful but not necessary. The background of Hobbs and Shaw is laid out well, as are the introduction or re-introduction of Hattie, Brixton, and Magdalene Shaw (Helen Mirren), Deckard’s mother who’s serving time behind bars.
It wouldn’t be a Fast & Furious movie without over-the-top action, but Leitch and company keep things relatively grounded for most of the film. The action is mostly hand-to-hand combat, with the outrageous car chase scenes the series is known for saved for just the right moments.
Finally, there are a couple of fantastic uncredited cameos that elevate an already highly entertaining movie. Both of those actors use their comedic personas to complement the talents of Johnson and Statham, and their scenes together are among the best in the movie.
With next year’s Fast & Furious 9 featuring the full cast yet again, it makes you appreciate the comparatively small scale of Hobbs & Shaw. It focuses on humor and one great central relationship, and winds up being one of the best films in the series because of it.