'Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw': What the Critics Are Saying
The reviews for Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw are in.
The first spinoff in the high-octane series, which hits theaters Friday, sees Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham reprise their roles as law enforcement diplomatic security agent Luke Hobbs and assassin Deckard Shaw, respectively. Deadpool 2 director David Leitch helmed Hobbs & Shaw with a script from franchise scribe Chris Morgan and Drew Pearce.
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The action pic follows Hobbs and Shaw, along with Shaw’s sister Hattie (played by Mission: Impossible – Fallout's Vanessa Kirby), as they face a new enemy unlike any the series has ever seen — cyber-genetically enhanced villain Brixton (Idris Elba).
The Hollywood Reporter's Todd McCarthy notes that some aging franchises become “tired, repetitive, cobwebby” over time, but this offshoot avoids those traps, instead being “giddy and goofy in spots” and wearing “its fundamental absurdity with good humor.” Fans will also appreciate that the “elemental appeal of the series' stress on speed, nerve, spectacular stunts and devil-may-care confidence among its muscle-bound main characters” have remained.
McCarthy adds that the film feels “constantly on the move at a clip faster than James Bond” with “fast-flying antagonistic banter” between Johnson and Statham as they “break the laws of physics time and time again.” With a screenplay by Morgan, on board for a seventh Fast & Furious film, and Pearce, creator of the original story for Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, Hobbs & Shaw easily delivers on action.
McCarthy does mark one flaw — a confusing climax — with Hobbs and Shaw having not one but two end battles with Elba’s villainous Lorr. Though the extra act does offer background to Johnson’s character as he and Shaw, along with Hattie, battle Lorr in Samoa, McCarthy says “it actually makes for too much of a good thing, by perhaps 15 minutes or so.”
IndieWire’s Eric Kohn, meanwhile, enjoyed the addition of Johnson returning to his Samoan homeland, “where a blend of island rituals and family bonding actually generates some glimmers of real emotion.” Kohn highlights the franchise for being “culturally ahead of the curve with its diverse cast” and the Samoan climax "smuggles a progressive representational agenda into slick blockbuster clothing, and at some level it feels like a call to arms."
Chris Klimek of NPR notes that Hobbs & Shaw's Leitch uses his stunt background to his advantage, resulting in set pieces that are "crisper and more dimensional" than previous films in the franchise. Klimek also compares the leading men to Fast & Furious' star Vin Diesel, describing Johnson and Statham "more athletic (and charismatic)" who bring laughs along with battle scenes.
Vanity Fair's Richard Lawson notes that the film loses out on an opportunity to deeply explore Hobbs and Shaw's frenemy relationship, suggesting "that the constant bickering and name-calling between these two virile hardheads is simply a cover for professional respect, not an aggressive rebuke of attraction. Oh well." Lawson also takes issue with Elba's supervillain character, who with "all that relentless cyborg glint" is "an unwelcome visitor from a different franchise." The success of future Fast & Furious films, according Lawson, is by following this rule: "Keep the people people."
Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune applauds Kirby’s addition to the “$200 million ode to fossil fuel” film by noting “when you have someone of her caliber rattling through exposition with such elan and sly wit, you think, well, the material’s not Shakespeare, or Deadpool 2 (Leitch’s best film to date), but it’ll do.” The critic gives light praise to the film’s appeal, sharing that in the end this franchise is “about bad people trying to conquer the planet and, for the good people, the importance of home, hearth and a place to store automatic weapons.”
Stephanie Zacharek points out in Time that “too much of a good thing is a bad thing.” With Hobbs & Shaw, too many action sequences, even with Johnson and Statham’s skill for such a thing, can become “so elaborate that they start to weigh the movie down,” she asserts. When helicopters aren’t being lassoed out of the sky, Zacharek compliments the sarcastic banter between the leading men as insults flying about “like a symphony of firecrackers.”
CNN's Brian Lowry appreciates Johnson's opportunity to celebrate his Samoan heritage and the welcomed break of Hobbs and Shaw's arguing with cameos, such as Helen Mirren's Queenie. The abundance of action, however, makes the 136-minute film quite a ride — just not a particularly fast one. Regardless of these flaws, Lowry writes the "everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach" will ultimately please fans and likely set up future Fast & Furious adventures.
For Rolling Stone, Peter Travers writes the ninth chapter in the series is “more deserving of a road test than a review.” While Leitch “keeps the action and the comedy at full velocity,” the issue lies in repetition — “stunt, banter, stunt.” Of the cast, Travers calls Kirby “dazzling,” Elba “having a blast as Brixton, the ‘black Superman,'” and Johnson and Statham rounding out action with “surreal silliness that’s infectious.”
In The Guardian, Peter Bradshaw appreciates the film for its “gonzo action” and “cheerfully silly plot MacGuffin,” noting that while the film is “a bit overextended,” theatergoers will easily be given “bangs and laughs for your buck.”
Hobbs & Shaw speeds into theaters Friday.
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