'Hobbs & Shaw' review: Sharp action, bland plot

With stylistic action sense, solid cast but weak plot, film stands as one of the few decent entries in F&F franchise

Cast member and producer Jason Statham arrives at the premiere for "Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw" in Los Angeles, California. (Reuters Photo)

Director: David Leitch

Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Vanessa Kirby, Idris Elba

Score: 2.5/5

The Fast and The Furious is, to be blunt, a wildly inconsistent series. It either takes itself too seriously or takes everything as a joke and whether it works or not is really up to the script. To that end, Hobbs & Shaw must be credited for dropping all pretence of being serious, embracing the silliness inherent to it and going all-in on the “world’s gonna end” route that so many action movies have taken.

The film follows Luke Hobbs (Johnson) and Deckard Shaw (Statham), who by dint of a world-ending virus called “snowflake” – stolen by Hattie Shaw (Kirby), an MI6 agent “gone rogue” - are forced to work together to stop the evil machinations of Brixton Lore (Elba) and his mysterious benefactor.

The plot is the usual cliché “we gotta stop this weapon from ending all life on Earth”, while a maniacal mad scientist calls the shots from a backdrop that we’ve all seen too many times. Indeed, Hobbs & Shaw doesn’t bother with a strong plot, and while there is one, it is generally relegated to being a backdrop to serve the ridiculous action.

The characters, though, are solid. Hobbs and Shaw (Deckard, not Hattie), who are seen as fundamentally the same kind of person in that they both place family above everything – a recurring theme with the franchise – they are not beyond engaging in petty tactics to get what they want.

But when Hattie is brought into the mix, the entire equation changes and the film makes it very clear on that end, because the friction Hobbs and Deckard Shaw have is something that is brought up constantly by everyone – even by the sweet and short cameo characters, who will not be spoken of here.

The dynamic between Johnson and Statham is undeniably evident, in that for the most part, Johnson dominates with a complete lack of subtlety, while Statham, despite having a good presence, is left scurrying about like a mouse.

However, Hattie is, for all intents and purposes, just a plot device, a MacGuffin. Beyond the virus she holds in her body and the threat it poses, she adds little value to the film. The family may be important and Vanessa Kirby’s acting may be great but at the end of the day, Hattie, by way of her existence, carries very little merit.

And then there is Brixton Lore, a former MI6-turned-terrorist, who wants “snowflake” on behalf of his benefactor (who, by the way, comes off more like Clu from Tron: Legacy than an actual character, what with his rabble of a “perfect system” or to “save the world”) to wipe out humanity. It’s just the usual trope, taken as is with little or no tweaks. Lore is a threatening villain but a failed character. For the most part, he just regurgitates what his benefactor speaks to justify his actions and never really comes off as menacing in the slightest. It seems becoming a cyborg also took a toll on Idris Elba’s ability to emote and come off as a character.

Action is the series staple and without beating around the bush, Hobbs & Shaw is about as close as a film can get to an 80s testosterone-fueled action film. It’s got everything, really: Jumping off buildings? Check. Walking right into hostile territory? Check. Blowing stuff up and looking cool doing it? Check. It’s just a shame the plot is so bland and mediocre. It doesn't help that the comedy, which the film is laced with, is forgettable.

Hobbs & Shaw leaves no stone unturned in terms of action and it shows when the leads are beating peoples’ faces in, racing across the streets of London and bringing down an entire power plant-thingy on itself, and while the film does have its flaws, it is certainly not a “bad” bad movie.

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