No one would ever have predicted that the Fast And Furious franchise would grow into a whopping eight movies and a spinoff, but here we are. Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw is the series’ first foray into expanding the Fast & Furious Cinematic Universe (not the official name). It’s an entertaining effort, to say the least.

Hero Time

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Hobbs & Shaw is pure mindless balls-to-the-walls action from beginning to end. It shamelessly derives its action beats from superhero movies. How do you make the movie thrilling and suspenseful when your two main protagonists (Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson’s Hobbs and Jason Statham’s Shaw) can perform near-superhuman feats with no effort?

By including an actual super soldier à la Captain America (Idris Elba’s Brixton) and an apocalyptic tech cult/ organization named Eteon, not unlike Marvel’s A.I.M or G.I. Joes’ Cobra. Heck, the leader of this organization is a mysterious unseen villain, one with an ominous and unsettling disembodied voice (go figure).

In order to provide just a lick of urgency, the filmmakers had to resort to outrageous and outlandish premises. Hobbs & Shaw riffs off familiar comic-book elements and settings for its plot, with a deadly virus threatening to annihilate humanity. So it’s up the dynamic duo to save the world despite their conflicts and differences.

Plus, the fact that Shaw is now portrayed as more of a hero than the violent anti-hero/ex-villain he was might be too abrupt and sudden. Perhaps the filmmakers hoped that audiences would already have forgotten that Shaw straight-up murdered people in previous movies (Han in Fast & Furious 6, etc).

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The movie tries to sell Shaw’s ongoing path of redemption by introducing viewers to his sister, Hattie (Vanessa Kirby). She delivers a serviceable performance, kicking some ass of her own, but ultimately doesn’t do much to rein in the testosterone overload.

But who cares about plot and worldbuilding in Fast & Furious movies, right? This movie screams unadulterated popcorn flick, and it knows that. Expecting anything more would be nonsensical, just like the movie itself. If you can accept that, you’ll enjoy this movie for what it is.

Hobbs & Shaw would have been better off as a subtler buddy cop movie, instead of the explosive action superhero movie it turned out to be. This is evident in the many scenes that both Hobbs and Shaw banter with each other, which personally are some of the funniest scenes in the movie.

They trade insults, pull out witty comebacks, and pull pranks on each other. That sounds an ideal setup for a buddy cop movie, besides the fact that they’re actually just two brawny dudes with a penchant for punching, shooting and driving fast vehicles.

Fast Cars And Pop Culture Overload

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Speaking of fast vehicles, fans of the franchise need not worry; there are still several car chase setpieces to look forward. Unfortunately, they look less like the realistic kinetic action of the Mission Impossible movies, and more like the dumb bits from the Michael Bay-directed Transformers movies.

What I mean by that is the car stunts blatantly use CGI, as they are often used to perform crazy acts that defy the known laws of physics (which probably doesn’t exist in the FFCU). The antagonist even rides a shapeshifting bike, which even emits sound effects like a freaking Transformer.

These are probably deliberate easter eggs that were meant to be fun callbacks to other movies. Sure, it’s amusing to hear my thoughts being spoken aloud by Hobbs when he described Brixton as a Terminator. It rings true, due to the similar visual scanning interface as seen from the perspective of Brixton’s eyes.

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Catching each pop culture reference in Hobbs & Shaw is fun, but ultimately distracting. Do we really need more than one Game Of Thrones reference in the same movie? The writers clearly need to practice some measure of self-control, this isn’t a parody (though it sometimes feels like it).

However, I do appreciate the various cameos that popped up throughout Hobbs & Shaw. I won’t spoil who the actors are, but they’re pleasant and welcome additions in a movie like this. They’re clearly included as potential candidates for future sequels, but in the brief amount of time that they appeared, I definitely wanted to see more of them.

The filmmakers must have brokered a deal with the tourism folks from Samoa because the movie takes a hilarious but equally fun left turn when the climax takes place in the island nation. The script and picturesque shots feel like the movie is trying to help the island’s tourism board, but it does add a certain diversity.

Fun But Mindless

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Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw is best for existing fans of the franchise, and those looking to spend their free time with some fun but mindless entertainment. If you’re the sort of person who tends to nitpick details or someone who actually cares about the plot, it’s best to avoid this movie.

FINAL RATING: 50/100

We received a special preview screening courtesy of United International Pictures. Fast & Furious Presents Hobbs & Shaw premieres in Malaysian cinemas today.


 

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