The Fast & the Furious series has become one of Hollywood’s most financially successful film franchises, which is a surprise since at times it’s less realistic than a typical superhero film. Despite that, it’s popular enough that two supporting characters, Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), now have their own film. Obviously, despite being bit players in the F&F series, Johnson and Statham are major film stars, so it seemed inevitable a spin-off franchise would arise. It helps that the actors are Hollywood superstars, but their characters share great chemistry that’s oddly based on their mutual dislike for one another.

For this possible franchise starter, Hobbs and Shaw are forced to team up to stop an evil organization from unleashing a deadly virus that can infect the entire world within days. The bad guys are represented by Brixton Lore (Idris Elba) a self-proclaimed “Black Superman” who has a wealth of superhuman strength and resources to aid in his attempt to evolve the human race (because that’s the gospel he’s spitting to those who care to listen). Most of the film is a loud and destruction-filled game of cat and mouse, as the virus is housed inside the body of Hattie Shaw (Vanessa Kirby), an MI6 field agent framed by Brixton when he tried to steal the virus. Hattie also happens to be Deckard’s kid sister, so there’s an obvious family element akin to F&F. So as Hobbs, Shaw and Hattie run from Brixton in order to buy time to extract the virus and get it to someplace safe, they leave a path of destruction that’s both massive and comical.

In keeping with the F&F series, Hobbs & Shaw stresses the importance of family. What’s interesting is that both men have strained relationships with their respective families – we learn Hobbs hasn’t spoken with his family in Samoa in years; Deckard and Hattie haven’t been close since Deckard, a former MI6 agent himself, went rogue. Besides trying to save the world, director David Leitch (Atomic Blonde, Deadpool 2) takes time to resolve his stars’ family problems, a move that kills much of the momentum generated from its nonstop action. F&F’s Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) hyped the importance of family so much that what was once a moving gesture is now incessant nagging. So to include that in a spin-off is just a futile attempt to provide a positive theme in a movie that lacks themes and depth. In all honesty, Hobbs & Shaw is better when it focuses on the mindless, unrealistic action. Because in the film world, I find it better to go all in on something, even if that something is terrible, because it confirms everyone is in on the joke.

That leads us to its best aspects. Hobbs & Shaw operates best when its heroes are in action. There is no shortage of chase and fight scenes and all of it are as believable as flying pigs. Hobbs and Shaw “chase” Brixton and his henchman early on by leaping out of a high rise and following them down (Hobbs slides down a rope with no harness and tackles baddies on his way down), then they are chased by Brixton while Shaw’s driving a McLaren, driving all over the place like he’s in a video game. Later on, Shaw is able to drive a buggy through a window, manages to get it to do a barrel roll in midair, and then land it on all four wheels without batting an eyelid. Not to be outdone, Hobbs, while driving a huge rig, hangs out the side, after he crashed the truck into another vehicle to remove the door, and catches Hattie with one arm, after she’s jumped from Shaw’s buggy, then still has the strength and focus to pull her in the truck safely. All of it makes for easily the craziest action sequences all year, and I haven’t even mentioned the stuff that goes on during the final act. As ridiculous as all of that is, it’s still very entertaining and is the embodiment of the F&F series.

Hobbs & Shaw certainly isn’t high art, but it is a great getaway from the daily grind as it provides an abundance of thrilling action and (mostly) snide jokes. Three cameos are provided, which add to the fun, and there are enough mid-credit and post-credit scenes to make Marvel execs raise an eyebrow. It’s a bit too long (135-minute running time – really???) and all of it is ultimately pointless, but I can’t deny the film's charm. Plus, with three badasses kicking ass (and two of them being siblings), this looks like a slicker, more expensive update to Tango & Cash with Sylvester Stallone, Kurt Russell and Teri Hatcher. If you’re a fan of that 1989 action-comedy you’ll probably like Hobbs & Shaw. Despite its obvious drawbacks, this is a good way to end a lackluster summer movie season.

2.5 stars out of 5

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