The summer movie season began with a bang. It’s only fitting that it end on a similar trajectory, and “Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw" is a double-bang for the buck.
The pairing of Dwayne Johnson (American intelligence operative Luke Hobbs) and Jason Statham (former British intelligence guy Deckard Shaw) proved to be a no-brainer after their unlikely but tremendous chemistry in two previous “Fast & Furious” films.
The characters couldn’t stand one another, which provided for some genuine animosity and comedic moments. The question was, could that sustain an entire film? The good news: It didn’t need to.
“Hobbs & Shaw,” which contains plenty of its predecessor’s cinematic DNA, is big, dumb summer fun, although 15 minutes could have been easily excised. It provides pure summer escapism, something audiences can appreciate in today’s world.
Thankfully, director David Leitch (“Deadpool 2,” “John Wick”) understands what, or in this case who, the strengths of the film are as Hobbs and Shaw, characters so polar opposite it often requires suspension of disbelief to believe they would ever work together and interact as personal combustibility takes center stage.
After all, they have to collaborate to save the world once again. This time around, they’re called upon by a liaison from the CIA (enjoy the cameo of the actor in that role) to track down a lethal virus that Etreon, a nefarious organization with dreams of crafting a hybrid human-machine-ultimate-race, wants to use to weed out the wimps of the world.
Britain’s MI6 intelligence agency managed to intercept the virus with a team led by Shaw’s sister, Hattie (Vanessa Kirby), but were nearly thwarted in their mission by Brixton (Idris Elba of “Luther” and “The Wire”), an agent for the bad guys. Etreon does, however, successfully frame Hattie for killing her entire MI6 team, sending her on the run with the virus.
Hobbs and Shaw come to the conclusion, rather reluctantly, that collaboration represents their only option in saving Hattie and the world. With that comes the requisite one-liners, mayhem and, yes, sexual tension between the two hyper alpha males. All of that generates its share of laughs, and Johnson and Statham are certainly up to the task, delivering the comedic indignation and insults with skill.
They, however, are action stars and they certainly know how to work within the genre, understanding that in films of this scope the special effects and stunts will get near equal attention. They should, as some of the stunt work proves jaw-dropping.
More importantly, Leitch balances the drama, however far-fetched it might be, and those stunts rather skillfully. Never do any of the loud moments overpower the film. For action fans who appreciate Leitch's previous efforts — including co-helming “John Wick” — no disappointment will be found.
The cast, which includes other hilarious cameos (look for Helen Mirren as Shaw’s mum), do little more than romp from scene to scene having a good time. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Ultimately, any doubt some may have had about a “Fast & Furious” spinoff franchise is erased with this outing. Yes, summer will be going out with a bang.
George M. Thomas dabbles in movies and television for the Beacon Journal. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @ByGeorgeThomas.