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Review – Fast & Furious: Hobbs & Shaw – “Big dudes, big fights, big explosions, big banter, big laughs, big surprises and big love”

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David Leitch (Atomic Blonde and Deadpool 2) takes the reins of Fast & Furious: Hobbs & Shaw, directing from a script by Fast and Furious 3-9 writer Chris Morgan. Starring Jason Statham (Crank) and Dwayne Johnson (Moana) in the title roles and backed up by Vanessa Kirby (Mission: Impossible – Fallout), Idris Elba (Thor: Ragnarok), Helen Mirren (Gosford Park), Eddie Marsan (The World’s End) and Cliff Curtis (Sunshine) this supersized spinoff is OTT action heaven and I hope they make ten of them.

MI6 agent Hattie Shaw (Kirby) is safeguarding a super virus when her team is jumped by cybernetically enhanced terrorist Brixton (Elba) and to stop the sickness that turns your insides into soup falling into the wrong hands she injects herself with it and goes on the run. 

To catch Hattie, get the virus out of her and stop Brixton, the Americans and Brits send in their best men: the hulking Hobbs (Johnson) and lethal smoothy Shaw (Statham). The two “hate” each other but are going to have to find a way to work together to save the world.

Hobbs & Shaw still feels like it fits in the Fast & Furious universe utilising that same signature brand of insane literally unbelievable Looney-Tunes-meets-WWE action exhibited by all the later entries, but you could easily and happily still go into this one blind. It is very much a self-contained standalone film.

The action is non-stop and over-the-top, the boys run down the sides of buildings, smash through walls, pull off sick stunts and survive beating the heck out of everyone and each other with a perfect combo of Johnson’s size and brute strength and Statham’s athleticism and martial arts skills.

The pair go great together in the non-splodey bits too. That chemistry they demoed in Fast and Furious 8 got us here in the first place and is in great form. The boys spar just as well verbally as they do with their fists, trading barbs and quips and trash talk throughout and constantly trying to one-up each other.

And this is where the difference between Hobbs & Shaw and the FF-verse comes in: Hobbs & Shaw is far funnier. With Spy and Jumanji they both showed that as well as being super tough they are both well-suited to comedy and Hobbs & Shaw showcases this with plenty of knowing Statham scowls, Johnson eyebrow raises and savvy ribbing of each other’s appearances and personas. 

This comedy element is further enhanced by some surprise special guest stars whom I would hate to spoil, with one, in particular, being quite a huge shock to see turn up. Unfortunately, after a first appearance that brings the house down, they are severely overused, having most definitely worn out their welcome by their third appearance in the mid-to-post-credits, to eye-rolling results.

This excess has a negative effect elsewhere too. After an enormous action set-piece in a Ukranian power plant that feels like the end of the film, you suddenly realise that the gang still haven’t got to Somoa yet and there is at least another half an hour of running time left. 

To be fair though, this fourth act is eye and mind-fryingly exciting and nuts and you certainly get your money’s worth. You’ll just feel like you’ve done one of Dwayne’s workouts by the time you get back outside.

Apart from the big lad and Stath, Elba supplies a great intimidating baddie that manages to provide more than a match for our heroes; Mirren still doesn’t get enough screen time, but twinkles with cheek and the hope that one day soon she’ll get to take the wheel or beat someone up; Marsan is clearly having great fun as a Russian scientist, and especially when he gets his mitts on a flamethrower… While Cliff Curtis shows up late in the day as Hobbs’ brother to help Hobbs repair a machine and also help Johnson with the emotional stuff.

Vanessa Kirby steals every scene she is in until she gets sidelined for exactly thirty minutes at the end. Spry and wry she keeps the boys in check and on their toes and is certainly no damsel or love interest. She has exactly one chaste smooch of The Rock and lets him know that she will decide whether she will be back for another. She does not. Tragically, The Rock does not make out with Statham instead. Give it another five movies.

Whether Statham and Johnson now return to the fold, or if this is the start of a competing concurrent franchise remains to be seen, but with big dudes, big fights, big explosions, big banter, big laughs, big surprises and big love The Rock and The Stath have most definitely just made a challenge. Your move, Vin.

Fast & Furious: Hobbs & Shaw is out in the UK now.

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