Fast & Furious: Hobbs & Shaw review – A high-speed London spin-off

Let’s be clear, this is not Fast & Furious 9. It’s a spin-off featuring franchise regulars Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham, an attempt to “fly solo” that has caused grief within the Fast Family. So furious are some of the old gang that they’ve vented their feelings on social media, while Vin Diesel, the series’s linchpin and self-styled big daddy, has long had issues with Johnson and isn’t even pretending to wish the new project well.

The set-up: Samoan super-spy and single dad Luke Hobbs (Johnson, a joy) is sent to London, where, against his will, he’s forced to work with grumpy Brit and former baddie Deckard Shaw (Statham). The mission impossible for these bickering tough guys: to defeat a mysterious zillionaire with a tentacle-like grip on the media who wants to wipe out most of the world’s population with a deadly virus (a liquid sample that resembles apple-flavoured bubble tea, because it’s an unwritten rule of blockbusters that killer viruses are always brightly coloured). Cue glorious chases through the capital with characters abseiling down skyscrapers and curling their arms balletically while attached to motorcycles.

As ever, we have our noses rubbed in swanky logos (Shaw’s car is a McLaren), but we also get a glimpse of Greggs. Welcome to a different side of London. Note, too, that the zillionaire’s second-in-command is an augmented, Terminator-style footsoldier (Idris Elba, reliably cool) whose name is Brixton.

Shame Brixton doesn’t have a sidekick called Bromley. Or Barking. Still, point taken: there’s more to our fair city than Buckingham Palace and the Gherkin.


Fast & Furious films – In pictures


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Jason Statham and Dwayne Johnson in The Fast & The Furious 8

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The Fast & The Furious (2001)

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Devon Aoki and Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges in 2 Fast 2 Furious (2003)

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Paul Walker with Vin Diesel in The Fast & The Furious 5: Fast Five (2011)

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Vin Diesel and Michelle Rodriguez in The Fast & The Furious (2001)

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Tyrese Gibson in 2 Fast 2 Furious, (2003)

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The Fast & The Furious : Tokyo Drift (2006) with Lucas Black as Sean Boswell and Shad Moss as Bow Wow

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Michelle Rodriguez with Vin Diesel The Fast & The Furious 4 (2009)

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Vin Diesel as Dominic Toretto and Dwayne Johnson as Luke Hobbs in The Fast & The Furious 5: Fast Five (2011)

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The Fast & The Furious 7

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The Fast & The Furious 7

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Vin Diesel in Fast and Furious 8

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Jason Statham and Dwayne Johnson in The Fast & The Furious 8

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The Fast & The Furious (2001)

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Devon Aoki and Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges in 2 Fast 2 Furious (2003)

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Paul Walker with Vin Diesel in The Fast & The Furious 5: Fast Five (2011)

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Vin Diesel and Michelle Rodriguez in The Fast & The Furious (2001)

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Tyrese Gibson in 2 Fast 2 Furious, (2003)

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The Fast & The Furious : Tokyo Drift (2006) with Lucas Black as Sean Boswell and Shad Moss as Bow Wow

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Michelle Rodriguez with Vin Diesel The Fast & The Furious 4 (2009)

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Vin Diesel as Dominic Toretto and Dwayne Johnson as Luke Hobbs in The Fast & The Furious 5: Fast Five (2011)

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The Fast & The Furious 6

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Vin Diesel in Fast and Furious 8

What about the chemistry between Johnson and Statham?

I have a confession to make. Where most people look at Statham and see comedy gold, I see a cyborg whose programmers forgot to install either acting skills or the potential for upgrades. Only one other Hollywood star is quite as resistible and when said star pops up midway through, I did wonder if I’d fallen asleep into my own personal nightmare.

Trapped on a plane with “the Stath” and Kevin Hart. Aaaargh! Thank goodness for an uncredited Ryan Reynolds, who pops up as Lock, Hobbs’s giddy handler.

He has a crush on Hobbs and says: “You wash my back. I mean, watch my back.” He gets several neat lines (he riffs on the Game of Thrones finale). But his energy is as important as the script. “I’m in the diner,” Lock explains, “I think it’s closed!” Words that, coming from Reynolds’ lips, sound sweet.

Given even more room is Vanessa Kirby (The Crown, Mission: Impossible — Fallout) as Shaw’s sister, Hattie, who also happens to be an MI6 agent. Whether grimly injecting herself with the virus, bantering with Hobbs or hanging onto a truck like a thrilled kid on a roundabout, Hattie is dynamite. I took a 10-year-old boy to the screening and she was his favourite character.

Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham as Luke Hobbs and Deckard Shaw (Daniel Smith/Universal Pictures)

Hattie’s mother, of course, is played by Helen Mirren.

Now languishing in prison, Queenie Shaw (who made such an impression in F&F8) is as cheeky as ever, the big-screen equivalent of Peggy Mitchell, wanting her two boys and youngest daughter to get along. Except that Queenie seems to have forgotten she has two sons (amnesia is a hell of a problem in this franchise). Those who’ve seen F&F7 and 8 know that Shaw has a younger brother, Owen, a one-time international terrorist who tangled with Dom Toretto’s crew and was left comatose as a result.

Deckard — in order to avenge his bed-bound sibling — killed the lovely Han, only for Owen, in F&F8, to get out of bed, help save the day and live to tell the tale. But does Queenie inquire after her lad? Is his name mentioned even once?

For reasons known only to scriptwriter Chris Morgan (and possibly Luke Evans’s agent) the answer is no. Family is everything in this series. Until it isn’t.

Which brings us back to the feud between Johnson and Diesel. Maybe there’s a coded message in a speech Hobbs gives, regarding his abusive dad, who he was forced to disown. Is Johnson suggesting that certain family ties need to be severed?

Either way, neither he nor Statham will be in F&F9, which is scheduled for May next year. If Hobbs & Shaw doesn’t do as well as expected, producers will probably blame the lack of lechery. Strong women are crucial to the F&F formula, but so are shots in which the camera approaches random female butts like a pig in search of truffles.

There’s one shot like that here, and one international criminal who dresses like a poledancer, but otherwise director David Leitch (Deadpool 2) is pretty restrained.

We’ll have to wait and see if that costs him.


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