Simply put, “Hobbs & Shaw,” the spin-off the increasingly camp “Fast and Furious” franchise (eight movies strong with — whew — a ninth on the way next year) is exactly what you expect it to be. Riddled with cliches, explosions, predictable plot points and action tropes, at this point the movie is almost a parody of action-adventure films.
However, it also has something that many other movies end up missing — a sense of fun. It's not a well-crafted film and you have to wade through a lot of cheesiness to get to the end, but you also can't help laughing at both the scripted jokes and the sheer ridiculousness of it all. And I think that makes it all even out in the end.
So the story — such as it is — starts with MI6 agents raiding a warehouse for a programmable super virus that could kill millions. They are interrupted when Brixton (Idris Elba), a super soldier with enhanced abilities and a Transformer-esque motorcycle, arrives and tries to claim it as his own. Hattie Shaw (Vanessa Kirby) is the only agent to make it out alive, escaping with the virus in tow.
As Brixton puts out the call to hunt down Hattie, the CIA calls upon Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), a government agent himself and originally an antagonist several films ago, and Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), a mercenary and the antagonist just two films back, to find her first. The only complication being that means a run-in with Brixton and that Hattie just happens to be Shaw's sister. And — you all saw this coming — then the fireworks start.
As someone pointed out to me, the franchise has strayed so far from its roots of street racers that at this point it's basically science fiction. And that's a fair point. Words such as “super soldier,” “activation chip,” “top scientist” and “programmable virus” get tossed around so much that it makes it feel that this could easily be set on a futuristic Mars as modern-day Earth.
And that just adds to the point that everything in this movie is over-the-top. The action sequences have become increasingly more so over the past few movies, which each outing trying to one-up the next with realistic-enough sequences that would not actually work outside of the realm of cinematic physics. And this should go without saying, but expect explosions, gunfire, fighting and other scenes of almost mindless violence throughout.
Just for some fun, there is a “debate” sprinkled in about humanity versus machinery and be prepared to be whacked upside the head repeatedly about the importance of family (another hallmark of the whole series).
So that's the … well, not quite bad, but not quite good of this film. The actual good is that at least the movie is fun. Pure, unadulterated fun. Sure, it's silly, campy and ridiculously, but it has such a devil-may-care spirit about it you can almost put that behind you. Plus the odd-couple pairing on Johnson and Statham is solid. The interplay between their two characters makes the film worth watching, even if its in a typical machismo sort of way.
Added in just to sweeten the deal are a couple bit parts from some well-known actors put in just for laughs and you are well on your way. In a world full of ponderous films bent on exploring the depths of humanity's problems, it's not so bad a thing to have one that is just pure escapism. Granted, it doesn't make for the best or most compelling film, but if you go in with the right mindset you can come out with your ribs aching from the laughter.
Once again, this film is exactly what you expect, for better or for worse. I don't blame anyone for passing it over without a second thought. But if you want a good laugh and don't mind more than a little ridiculousness in your cinematic diet, then maybe go have some fun.
David Rookhuyzen is a freelance movie reviewer for the Green Valley News.