Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw

Year: 2019
Studio: Universal
Director: David Leitch
Writer: Chris Morgan/Drew Pearce
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Idris Elba, Vanessa Kirby, Helen Mirren, Cliff Curtis, Ryan Reynolds, Eddie Marsan

I've made reference in more than one review of a Fast & Furious movie to the fact that it started as a gang of bozos stealing DVD players and ended up a team of superhuman freedom fighters saving the world.

This first pairing of secondary characters from the franchise dives into that with both feet, leaning so far into over-the-top superspy action tropes it borders on sci-fi.

Not only do the characters of bickering secret agents Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and Shaw (Jason Statham) talk about how many times they've saved the world, their antagonist Brixton (Idris Elba) has so many bionic performance enhancements he's part human, part killer robot. We're a long way from Vin Diesel and Paul Walker boosting delivery trucks...

Instead, the FF name is now like an alternate-universe James Bond franchise where Bond is brash, swears like a trooper and has tattoos. Everything from the megalomaniac bad guy with a high tech private army to the globe-trotting between Moscow, London and Samoa will evoke memories of your favourite Moore or Connery outing.

We meet Shaw's sister Hattie (Vanessa Kirby) – as much of a badass as her older brother in her role as an elite MI6 agent – as she secures a supervirus in London sting before the bad guy descends and kills her entire team to get his hands on it. Hattie manages to inject it into herself and narrowly escapes, but when Brixton frames her for the killing of her team she has to go underground.

On opposite sides of the Atlantic, both Hobbs and Shaw are separately recruited by the CIA to find Hattie and bring the supervirus in, only finding out when they arrive in London that they're supposed to work together.

So it's actually an oily musclebound Bond meets the Odd Couple as human sledgehammer Hobbs and the suave cockney Shaw have to overcome their constant bickering, find Hattie, track Brixton down and save the world once again.

And their quest will take them from the streets of London to an abandoned power plant in the Ukraine to the jungles of Samoa (in reality Hawaii, starring a New Zealander in Cliff Curtis – wonder how that jibes with Johnson's constant crowing on social media about representing his culture).

When a helicopter lifts four souped-up muscle trucks into the air on a tether as they speed down a dirt road on the edge of a cliff towards a thunderstorm with Hobbs holding onto one end of the wire to keep the whole chain together is business as usual, you know exactly what kind of movie this is.

If it's not the Johnsonesque arms-like-tree-trunks stunts and action, it's the love hate bromance between the charismatic leads, no quip too low to stoop to. It's big, dumb, billion-dollar, junk food fun full of laughs, special effects and Meccano-set plotting, the kind of fantasy Hollywood was built on a century ago.

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