Nothing wrong with a good, dumb action movie is there? It feels like a long time since we had something of this ilk that not only delivered on its promise of huge, expansive, massively over-the-top action set-pieces coupled with some sense of fun and suspension of belief. True, John Wick has filled a void that was much needed but even he is a little on the serious side despite his ever-expanding frolics. High-speed horse riding, for example. That’s where the Fast & Furious came in, and since it’s reboot of sorts in 2009, it has become the action franchise to beat but its ridiculousness was slowly running out of hydro-gas even if its box office was soaring. Enter Hobbs & Shaw to freshen – and mix – things up.
A common question that will be asked about Hobbs & Shaw will no doubt be “Do I have to sit through EIGHT films to catch up? Do I need to see all the others to know what’s happening?” The answer, plainly, is no as this is its own beast, loosely connected to the main branch of the mayhem but taking it down slightly different roads. Indeed, much of the backstory of Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and Shaw (Jason Statham) is here with only pieces of their previous lives touched about in the F&F and while there’s no deep dive into their history and their complexities, it’s enough to help catch everyone up.
To talk about the plot is something of a fool’s errand, however, as there isn’t a lot of it but that’s not really the point is it? This is about the good guys (well, in this case they are) getting the bad guy, played here by a suitably pumped up (literally) Idris Elba, an ex-MI6 hardman on the hunt for a virus that can wipe out much of the world’s population – and one that has been stolen by Shaw’s estranged sister, Hattie (Vanessa Kirby). In hot pursuit across London, the Ukraine and Samoa, there are chases and fisticuffs and plenty to keep those sections of its audience happy, but it’s the energetic and playful interactions between the two leads that makes everything play so brilliantly. Like a bickering old couple, Johnson and Statham’s banter is infectious as they rip each other both in the film context and even, in a roundabout way, take a few pokes at each other’s personal lives with gusto.
Elba, meanwhile, as “Black Superman” is perhaps the best he has been for a hot minute – The Dark Tower, for example, now a distant memory – and proves a worthy foe; while Kirby, fresh from her extended cameo in Mission: Impossible – Fallout, is the film’s standout, as the dynamically fierce Hattie. David Leitch, meanwhile, brings all of his usual energy and ferociously breathless style to the film with some exemplary set-pieces that prove the former stuntman is one of action cinema’s most dynamic directors right now with his stint on Deadpool 2 perhaps most relevant here given its mix of big action and laughs.
Will Hobbs & Shaw be involved at the Oscars come February 2020? Of course not (unless they add the much needed stunt category before year’s end). Will it clean up at the box office? Well, this year has been a weird one for that, but if anything can buck the trend of non-Marvel/Disney titles falling short of expectations then this is the one to do it. A rollicking good time at the movies.
Scott J.Davis | [rating=4]
Action | USA, 2019 | 12A | 1st August 2019 (UK) | Universal Pictures | Dir.David Leitch | Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Idris Elba, Vanessa Kirby, Helen Mirren, Eiza González