Eighteen years and eight films later, has the Fast & Furious franchise finally taken a break from its predictable and stereotypical plot? With Luke Hobbs and Deckard Shaw taking the lead in Universal Pictures’ spin off film, this just may be the case.
Hobbs & Shaw, directed by David Leitch, sees the Californian lawman, Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), and British criminal, Shaw (Jason Statham), join forces to stop the cyber-genetically enhanced super soldier, Brixton (Idris Elba), from acquiring a deadly biological weapon embedded in the system of rogue MI6 agent, Hattie (Vanessa Kirby), who’s also Shaw’s sister.
Much like the previous Fast & Furious films, the narrative of the film was predictable, though with a slight twist. Instead of a crew working together to overcome a ‘baddie’, this film featured a mismatched duo that, though were awkward in their attempt at team-work in the beginning, managed to overcome their differences and save the world. When it comes to predictable film tropes, Hobbs & Shaw had it all, but this wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Though the narrative was similar and predictable, Hobbs & Shaw, surprisingly wasn’t all about racing cars, bikini babes, money and the like. Instead the film used traditional action film tropes, as well as the typical Dwayne Johnson style of comedy to produce an entertaining film that audiences could feel engaged in throughout its duration.
The focus on Hobbs’ Samoan roots was a great move in terms of adding more diversity and ‘flavour’ to the very generic Westernised genre. The portrayal of the Polynesian way of life was intriguing, as was the way in which the film highlighted the Islander’s style of battle. The use of traditional weaponry to combat technologically advanced weapons was refreshing, and the showcase of a Haka, lead by Hobbs, was fantastic. As Kiwis, the Samoan scenes and illustration of family felt like home, and one that would resonate with Kiwi audiences.
However, in my personal opinion, Johnson’s portrayal of a man born and raised in Samoa felt rather forced. The word “uso” (brother in Samoan), was overused which felt unnatural, almost as if it was an act to convince audiences of Hobbs’ heritage. Similarly, Shaw’s constant dialogue reminding us of the notion of ‘family’ in the Fast & Furious franchise felt somewhat like a broken record considering Vin Diesel’s use of the word throughout the franchise. In a way, Shaw’s character was also rather different to what Fast & Furious fans expected. That’s not to say, though, that there wasn’t chemistry between Hobbs and Shaw. Having Hattie in between them felt like a much needed bridge to help them overcome their differences.
Being a film about advanced genetic technology, the action and combat style used by Brixton and his crew were a delight to witness. The way in which these enhanced soldiers fought was ‘cool’ and dissimilar to the way in which typical Fast & Furious thugs fought.
As for romance, which almost every action flick tends to overuse? It was very much downplayed in Hobbs & Shaw, much to my satisfaction. Hattie was a woman who held her own, often much better than her male counterparts, with her own intelligence and fighting style. The fact that she wasn’t done up to be overly feminine was a welcome sight.
Though predictable in terms of narrative, there were several surprises in the film that would delight audiences, including some rather special cameos that made for a few laughs.
Overall, Hobbs & Shaw was an entertaining watch for action film fans. Though a film without much substance, there was enough of a story, action, visuals and humour to satisfy viewers wanting a mindless film to sit back and relax with. Judging from the fact that the Fast & Furious franchise isn’t slowing down anytime soon, there’s no doubt that Hobbs & Shaw will be back for more.