For all the very familiar plot points, the simplistic writing, and the predictable barbs, Hobbs and Shaw, a brutish action spinoff of the Fast and Furious franchise, has a rare combination of being both exceedingly sincere and breathtakingly dumb.
It tries so hard to be likeable. Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham play their typical action movie versions of themselves. The former has heart and a beaming smile, the latter has the style and the sarcasm. The former uses strength and size, the latter strength and finesse. The movie goes to great lengths to try to show how they’re particularly different, which doesn’t really work. They are reluctant partners in a quest to save the world, among other things, and of course bicker all the way through. There are wild action set pieces, Idris Elba as a villainous cyborg, and a terrific female character who shares the screen with the men and carries her own with her fighting and her words.
And yet, it doesn’t quite add up to what it should be. This films definitely needs to be way more fun for how weighed down by idiocy it is. And it certainly doesn’t need to be as jam-packed with every common action movie cliché. Muscled tracker Hobbs (Johnson) and antisocial fighter Shaw (Statham) are tasked to find a woman who has a deadly virus, because they’re the only ones who can, I suppose. The convolution starts quickly and swiftly. The woman in question is a British agent and happens to be Shaw’s sister. She injected herself with a containment to stop it from getting into the hands of some evil machine-man hybrid and the nefarious company that props him up. Because she managed to escape the clutches of this bulletproof killer, she was framed for going rogue.
So Elba’s cyborg, named Brixton, mobilizes his team to find her, and puts him in the path of Hobbs and Shaw, and lots of bullets and punches fly. The mostly satisfying set pieces are ruined by sudden, convenient act conclusions and then lengthy, incredibly stupid dialogue and needless backstory. Not only is there an evil tech company, who sort of controls and fuels Brixton, but they want the deadly virus so they can kill the weaker humans in the world in order to save humanity. Also, they can control the news for some reason. And of course, Brixton and Shaw have a history. And the faceless puppeteers of said Evil Tech Company may know Hobbs. And of course Shaw and his sister Hattie (Vanessa Kirby, who comes out on top in all of this) are estranged. And Hobbs and Hattie flirt a bunch. And Hobbs also has an estranged brother and hasn’t been to his homeland in a long time. There sure is a lot of story. A lot of stupid, pointless, trite story.
Anyways, the movie moves along with any conveniences it can think of to get the characters in the positions it wants them in. In one moment Brixton is a merciless killer with random cool tech, and then next he gives up. The trio of heroes seem to be able to get their hands on anything they need; Hattie is a super hacker apparently, and Hobbs has an island full of family and friends who are ready to go to war for some reason. Shaw knows a group of mercenaries in Moscow who give him all the gear he needs. Again, for some reason.
The constant poking and prodding to the two men does get pretty tiring, although once in a while there is a good joke. Hobbs and Shaw certainly isn’t joyless, it’s just wants so badly to be liked and charming and entertaining that they will try to do everything you’ve ever seen before in any action movie to please you. There is a lot of talk about heart, but it doesn’t have the emotional connection that its franchise base has. It doesn’t look as pretty either. That the best scenes are those that feature two great cameos from two particularly funny people doesn’t bode well.
The action is rightfully ridiculous; audiences are easy to forgive physics and science and time and space when it comes to fun set pieces, but Hobbs and Shaw seems to change the rules within the scene to serve its end goal. What’s funny is that the writing, such that it is, makes a lot of Game of Thrones references, including poking fun at the ending. That show was bashed for putting plot ahead of characters, of setting up scenes to put them in. That’s what happens here, and it would be frustrating if we cared about these characters at all. Instead, it’s just disappointing and very, very exhausting.