GREG'S GRADE: B
Spun off from a movie series that preaches the importance of its characters' found family, "Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw" focuses on its heroes' fractured relationships with their biological kin.
It also features Dwayne Johnson's musclebound federal agent Luke Hobbs standing on the back of a moving truck, grasping — with one hand — a chain attached to an airborne helicopter, preventing the cyber-genetically enhanced bad guy (Idris Elba) from flying away with a biological weapon that could take out the majority of the world's population in a matter of days.
Sounds about right for a franchise that began with illegal street racing and escalated quickly to international espionage and preventing nuclear war.
But like the "Fast & Furious" films, "Hobbs & Shaw," directed by David Leitch ("John Wick," "Deadpool 2") and written by longtime "Fast" scribe Chris Morgan and Drew Pearce, recognizes and revels in its own absurdity. If you buy into the characters — and at this point, audiences clearly have done that — you'll accept and expect action set pieces as ridiculously over the top as they are here. Running 2¼ hours, the movie may linger a bit too long, but excess is the name of the game here.
The biological weapon is contained in capsules that have been injected into Hattie (Vanessa Kirby), a rogue MI6 agent who also happens to be the estranged sister of Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), the adversary-turned-ally of the "Fast & Furious" crew. Hattie's introduction and some serious retconning of Shaw's past actions completes his transition from villain to antihero to hero. One thing remains consistent, though: Shaw's hatred for Hobbs and vice versa. So naturally, when Brixton (Elba), with whom Shaw also has a violent past, frames Hattie for the murder of her entire MI6 team and she goes on the run, the CIA enlists exactly two people to track her down — Hobbs and Shaw.
The movie hinges on the adversarial chemistry of Johnson and Statham, Hobbs and Shaw relentlessly sniping at each other even amid life-and-death situations. It's a well-worn formula, but it works, generating laughs and making the moments between explosions about more than moving the characters from point A to point B. Two charismatic movie stars bouncing off each other, clearly enjoying themselves, can be a special thing.
Kirby, seen in last year's "Mission: Impossible — Fallout," is a welcome addition to the cast. It's refreshing to see Hattie is capable and resourceful, with no need to rely on Hobbs or her brother to save her, and Kirby could be a major star in the making.
As the super soldier Brixton, who's more machine than man, Elba is a formidable foil for Johnson and Statham, while Ryan Reynolds appears in a glorified cameo that's just enough to make me want to see him and Johnson do a whole picture together.
The movie's climax brings Hobbs back home to Samoa, where he hasn't been in 25 years, to a family he purposefully has kept from his young daughter (Eliana Su'a). He only returns because he needs help from his brother (Cliff Curtis), a brilliant engineer, and his presence puts his entire extended family at risk when Brixton and his soldiers arrive, but there is a sweet sincerity about the reconciliation that occurs. Nothing brings a family — or former mortal enemies — together like killing a bunch of bad guys and saving the world.
Rated PG-13 for prolonged sequences of action and violence, suggestive material and some strong language. 135 minutes.
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