Fast & Furious: Hobbs & Shaw
This ridiculous spin-off doesn't quite kill the Fast & Furious franchise, but it certainly doesn't do it any favours.
Here's one of those sentences you never expect to see yourself writing: Hobbs & Shaw makes The Fate of the Furious look like gritty realism. Think about that for a moment. That film ended with a crew of street-racers-turned-international-super-spies being pursued by both Russian separatists and a remote-control driven nuclear submarine across an icy Siberian tundra...in Lamborghinis. And it still offered more realism and nuance than this spin-off.
How is that even possible? It's better not to ask.
Hobbs & Shaw is an offering that might finally have pushed things too far in a franchise defined by its ability to stretch things (plot, stunts, singlets and micro-shorts) to seemingly impossible levels. Escalation has always been the name of the game for the Fast & Furious franchise, the filmmakers forever seeking new and inventive ways of delivering essentially the same story. Like Mission: Impossible crossed with The Italian Job, each instalment sees our ragtag crew of racers tasked with pulling off ludicrous heists with fast cars and fancy driving. The villains grew larger and more megalomaniacal (from rival street racers to drug cartel bosses and Dr Evil-esque world destroyers), the cars gained enormous value (from a 1999 Nissan Skyline to the US$2 million Nissan IDx NISMO) and the cast began to approach Avengers levels of celebrity.
Two of those additions were Dwayne Johnson as Luke Hobbs and Jason Statham as Deckard Shaw. Both entered the franchise as pseudo-villains, only to then be drawn into the "family" by its patriarch Dom, played by the ever-growling Vin Diesel. As Hobbs and Shaw's popularity grew, a spin-off seemed inevitable. But whilst the demand was undoubtedly there, the delivery falls well short of expectations.
This movie feels like the output of an AI that was fed the data set of the franchise but was incapable of identifying its humanity (and, dare we say, heart). Yes, it features insane stunts, amazing vehicles and unceasing bromance, but none of it ever gels. In particular, the supposed friction between the two leads lacks all substance, especially since The Fate of the Furious already saw them mostly resolve their differences and become buddies. Thrust together here and told to work together like the Russian and American agents from The Man from U.N.C.L.E, Hobbs and Shaw must track down Shaw's sister (The Crown's Vanessa Kirby) after she infects herself with a deadly virus to keep it from falling into the villain's hands (played this time around by Idris Elba). Borrowing heavily, then, from Mission: Impossible 2, the story sees the trio fight against time to extract the virus before it takes hold and wipes out most of humanity.
Why? Remember, we asked you not to ask questions. Ever. Because you see, very little stands up to scrutiny. Why do Hobbs and Shaw actually hate each other? Unclear. Why are they tasked with this job when the agencies that recruit them are far better equipped and motivated? Unclear. Why is Hobbs able to pull a Blackhawk helicopter down from the sky when only moments earlier he and four other fully-laden cars weren't able to do it? Jeez, get off my back already.
And sure, this is a series that not only invites you to suspend belief, but actively requires you to do so. Until now, audiences have willingly obliged. Here, though, it's one step too far. The heroes and villains are invulnerable, the plot is beffudling and logic has straight up Nos'd itself into the atmosphere. It's a pity, because there's so much to like about Johnson and Statham in these roles, especially when they work as a willing duo defined by their differences rather than simply bickering with forced (and unbearably unfunny) insults.
Ultimately, Hobbs & Shaw may not have killed off the franchise, but it's certainly done it no favours. It's also a perfect example of the risk of branching too far from a clearly winning formula.