de facto film reviews 3 stars

by Ben Rothrock

The Fast & Furious franchise has been with us for almost 20 years at this point, and it is still going strong. After the last two entries, Furious 7 and The Fate of the Furious, made over 1 billion dollars at the box office, it has becomes Universal’s most successful franchise, and one of the most powerful properties in the film industry. No matter how far they stretch this series, it doesn’t show any signs of slamming the brakes.

So it only makes sense that the studio would do whatever they can to keep it going. Despite running for eight films, there are some places still left to look. That is, if Universal is willing to look hard enough. There are truly places for the series to go, but it isn’t a very large target to hit. But that won’t stop them from trying, and now they give us the first spin-off in the long running franchise, Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw.

After their reluctant team up in The Fate of the Furious, Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) are working as hired hands, taking down whatever crime their respective governments anonymously puts into their hands. However, their latest mission finds them hunting for the same thing; a super virus capable of wiping out billions of lives within a short period of time. For Luke, this is another job to save the world, but for Deckard, it’s personal because the one in possession of the virus is his sister, Hattie Shaw (Vanessa Kirby).

But they’re not the only ones after the virus. Their main adversary is Brixton (Idris Elba), a cybernetic-enhanced assassin working for a sadistic tech cult called Eteon. He and his men are capable of doing just about anything to get their way, and they wish to use the virus to make the world in their own image. Luke, Deckard, and Hattie will have to put their differences aside and work together to stop Brixton before he and Eteon destroy the world.

It’s safe to say that this film is the true definition of a spin-off. It has almost nothing to do with its companions in the main series, making no mention of Dominic Torreto and the others aside from a few tongue-and-cheek references. And aside from a few muscle cars, it has completely abandoned the franchise’s street racing origins for almost comedically over-the-top stories involving advanced technology and international espionage.

The good news; the series is still as hard hitting and fun as ever. Hobbs & Shaw may not be the best film in the gargantuan series, but its fast-paced, well choreographed action and irresistible chemistry between Johnson and Statham makes this one of its most entertaining. There’s also a level of humor in this one more so than the previous films, arguably making it the funniest film in the series. It’s no cinematic art, but it’s exactly what a summer blockbuster should be; fun, funny, and purely brainless.

This film does loose some points for not being as heartfelt as the previous films, specifically the last two. There isn’t much in the way of character progression or truly affecting drama in this one. It’s primary focus is the action. If you’re are unfamiliar with the leading characters and what they’ve done up to this point, then you probably will find it hard to connect to them or the world around them. At this point, you’re either with the series or not.

But for established fans of the franchise, they should breathe a sigh of relief that they should find something to love about this film. Whether it’s the hilariously insane action sequences or just the banter between the lead characters, there’s loads of fun to be had with this little romp. In an age where movies are sloppy, CGI messes with poorly handled social commentary, it’s refreshing to have a film who’s only focus is to entertain the audience.

Much of the film’s fun comes from Johnson, Statham, and Kirby. The former two were the best part of the previous entry, so now they get the chance to truly test the limit of their comedic potential. And boy is it fun to watch. No matter what, their banter and one liners never get old, and it gets better with the addition of Kirby. Statham and Kirby actually feel like they are brother and sister, so their rivalry humor works even better. Needless to say, these three are the best matched trio in recent history.

The series continues to top itself in terms of action, to the point where the action in this film is almost cartoonishly over-the-top. Rather than pushing the laws of physics like the previous films, this film completely does away with them. Whether or not you’re accepting of this will depend on if you like the film. For this reviewer, it’s the film’s best asset, and what makes the action work is that it’s well done. It’s consistently exciting and unexpected in ways that keeps the film from getting boring.

The film also breathes new life into the series with its humor. Sure, the previous films had a good amount of humor largely thanks to the chemistry between the ensemble cast. But this one is the first in the series to truly act like a comedy. It presents the audience with actual jokes rather than just the witty remarks its characters make. This is also thanks to some truly unexpected cameos (which will go unnamed for spoilers sake) that adds some great laughs to the film.

Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw lacks the heart of the franchise’s previous two installments, but thanks to the infections chemistry of its leads, some truly laugh-out-loud humor, and well made and deliriously ridiculous action, it manages to rank among the series most entertaining films. The Fast & Furious saga still has places to go, and if they keep going down this route, it will still have a place in our hearts as the ultimate escapist film series.