‘Hobbs and Shaw’ isn’t a great movie … but it can be a lot of fun

‘Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs and Shaw’

Rated PG-13: Prolonged sequences of action and violence, suggestive material and some strong language.
Playing at: Alamo Drafthouse, Premiere Cinemas, Cinemark’s Tinseltown 17, Cinemark’s Movies 16 and Stars & Stripes Drive-In.
Credits: Directed by David Leitch. Screenplay by Chris Morgan and Drew Pearce, from a story by Chris Morgan, based on characters created by Gary Scott Thompson. Original music by Tyler Bates. Cinematography by Jonathan Sela. Edited by Christopher Rouse.
Stars: Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Idris Elba, Vanessa Kirby, Helen Mirren, Eiza Gonzalez, Eddie Marsan, Eliana Sua, Cliff Curtis and Lori Pelenise Tuisano, with uncredited cameos by Kevin Hart, Ryan Reynolds and more.  

Bill’s rating: Three of five stars

Varied writers and directors behind the “Fast & Furious” franchise already pulled off the impossible when this big-budget, high-speed, testosterone-fueled, action-oriented series delivered occasional critically-praised blockbusters. (“Fast 5” and “Furious 7” come to mind.) Mind you, it helped when writers also focused on family, or at least relationships shared by Vin Diesel’s Dom and Michelle Rodriguez’s Letty, along with the late Paul Walker’s Brian and Dom’s sister Mia, played by Jordana Brewster.

Even so, every film maintained an emphasis on heroes, fast cars and impossible stunts which audiences cheered. Never mind a consistent defiance of logic and physics.

Consider the title, “Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs and Shaw.” The new movie seems not be an actual chapter in the “Fast & Furious” franchise, but rather the introduction of a spinoff series.

True. Dwayne Johnson (Hobbs) became a late member of the “Fast & Furious” cast, as did Jason Statham (Shaw), although wasn’t he a major villain?

The thing is, even though the purposely silly new film leads to an unveiling of Hobbs’ (and Johnson’s) Samoan roots, emphasis from beginning to end is on fists, bullets and explosions – and of course on stunts that pass the borders of believability, which audiences still do not mind whatsoever.

A decision was made to hire experienced David Leitch – co-director of “John Wick” and director of “Atomic Blonde” and “Deadpool 2” – to devise ways to spend $200 million on co-stars and a blistering, loud array of stunts most will consider cool, even while rolling their eyes.

So many of the one-liners are funny, both insults and challenges, which does not help “Hobbs and Shaw” rank as a guilty pleasure. We simply know too little about the characters for that to happen.

On the other hand – and this is important — critics might make an effort to keep in mind precisely what filmmakers hoped to accomplish in the first place with their movie, and how, before looking down noses in judgmental fashion.

Fact: Johnson and Statham, who also co-produce, and director Leitch carefully came up with a popcorn blockbuster, helped immensely by audiences clicking off their brains and simply going with the flow.

A futuristic villain is introduced, along with a virus that might wipe out mankind if a special agent had not hidden it within her own body.

And while many will miss – really miss – the “Fast & Furious” emphasis on fast cars, there remain exciting chase sequences, which find cars and motorcycles speeding, or set down, between the wheels of an 18-wheeler, with the pursuit proceeding on the other side.

The picture makes use of likable actors, who fit their characters like the proverbial glove.

Johnson’s conquering of comedic skills saw him become a star as soon as he no longer had to be billed as The Rock. Statham became an action star as early as “The Italian Job” and “The Transporter” series among others.

So important to notice are the two other leading actors. Any pretty Hollywood wannabe could have been hired as Hattie, but Leitch brought Vanessa Kirby to the party who, after making a mark in last year’s “Mission Impossible: Fallout” opposite Tom Cruise, now is willing to expand her expertise with believable fight scenes in “Hobbs and Shaw.” She appears to be having fun, and why not after earning awards as Princess Margaret in British series “The Crown.”

While acting onstage in “Uncle Vanya” in 2016, the critic for Variety wrote of Kirby: “It is a performance that confirms her as the outstanding stage actress of her generation.”

And yet now Hobbs praises her new character as an outstanding contemporary “badass?” Talk about a diverse resume.

Every pure action movie benefits from a great villain, but who could have expected actor Idris Elba would offer a genuine smile while calling himself a “black Superman?” More to the point, he is a cybernetically improved (think Terminator Light), futuristic villain with super strength, computers behind his eyes and an unwillingness to die.

But yes, this is the same Elba who deserved an Oscar nomination for his work in the Netflix-produced “Beasts of No Nation,” brilliantly provided vocal work as tiger Shere Khan in the CGI remake of “The Jungle Book” and next will dance as McCavity in Tom Hooper’s screen adaptation of “Cats.”

Yet here is Elba, People magazine’s Sexiest Man in America, presently trading punches in the rain with both title characters.

“Hobbs and Shaw” also has no shortage of somewhat surprising supporting performances or cameos, a few even uncredited.

Not exactly ranking as spoilers are Helen Mirren having fun behind bars, Ryan Reynolds the picture of confidence as Agent Locke and diminutive Kevin Hart requesting a step up from his position as air marshal Dinkley … not to mention his office location.

And more. Be sure to glance at everyone in the fight sequences and, as always these days, don’t be in any rush to leave before the final credits.

As silly as the movie is – and those who have read reviews may have seen it described as ridiculous, moronic or stupid – audiences, especially younger audiences, presently appear to dig it. That has to be because, in part, “Hobbs and Shaw” succeeds on a basis of personalities and charisma.

It wants only to entertain for a couple hours, instead of aspiring for awards consideration.

Rather than making Hobbs and Shaw longtime, heroic friends, the title characters are introduced as men who hate each other. Each would risk his life to save the world, but preferably on his own.

“Do you think I’m stupid?” asks Shaw.

“Of course, I think you’re stupid,” retorts Hobbs.

Forgive us for wondering if screenwriters are channeling conversations from M&M commercials.

But then film director Leitch also has $200 million to spend on blowing things up. Still, so much of the antagonistic banter is tossed out that a proportion is bound to earn laughs.

“Fast & Furious” may have leaped the shark when cars took on a modern submarine breaking through the ice. As for “Hobbs and Shaw,” there’s a nifty (OK, funny) conclusion in store even after Hobbs and a string of pumped-up family vehicles have difficulty bringing down Elba’s helicopter.

Gage’s rating: Three-and-one-half of five stars

The “Fast and Furious” franchise had no shortage of ridiculous moments, from a car destroying a submarine with a missile, to a new introduction of a superhuman as “black Superman” in “Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs and Shaw.”

With the release of “Fate of the Furious,” the franchise did not appear to be heading in a good direction.

But now “Hobbs and Shaw” hits theaters with no shortage of ridiculous moments … and it actually works for the most part. It is strangely fun to watch even when defying logic.

Dwayne Johnson (Hobbs) and Jason Statham (Shaw) work well together, to say the least. Their chemistry is good.

Yes, jokes do become tiring, but somehow funnier lines return to dominate. Even with a predictable ending, the stars still make audiences chuckle.

Even after the movie is over.

Idris Elba (playing Brixton, aka Black Superman), on the other hand, delivers a more serious character, having survived being shot in the face by Shaw.

One cannot help but shake one’s head when considering some scenes with Elba – like that transforming motorcycle, which is also cool. It feels like Elba is warming up to be the next James Bond. And if this was intended as an audition tape, he nailed the role.

The story is as ridiculous as some of the planned action, with the end of the world in the balance – and also literally in the body of Hattie (Vanessa Kirby), Shaw’s sister.

She is a fun character, kicking butt in several scenes.

Even if one is not fond of the overall plot, action scenes dominate anyway.

To repeat, stunts, fights and action scenes are ridiculous in terms of believability, but in a great way. One only needs to watch one action scene to understand.

Consider: We have a superhuman villain with a built-in computer behind his eyes, we have cars literally running through solid concrete, and another car flipping to shoot a drone, and that’s just near the beginning.

Easy instructions on how to enjoy “Hobbs and Shaw:” Just try not to take the movie seriously.

The supporting cast is also fun, especially cameos delivered by Ryan Reynolds and Kevin Hart.

Overall, “Hobbs and Shaw” is what a lot of moviegoers have been looking for this summer: an action-packed fun movie you can just sit back, relax and enjoy.

I originally feared this might be as boring as the last movie in the “Fast & Furious” series. I’m glad I was wrong.

The great chemistry of Johnson and Statham, with help from Elba’s original villain, propels this movie into summer blockbuster status. That’s what it was meant to be.