If one franchise could safely secure the title of most unexpected longevity in film history, it would most likely be the “Fast & Furious” series. The original film, titled exactly that in 2001, was a moderate success. It did well with audiences, but to critics it was essentially a “Point Break” (1991) remake if you replace surfing and bank robbing with car racing and truck hijackings. The movie did what it was intended to do: produce a handful of cool-looking car chase sequences, go to #1 at the box office, and double its budget at said box office. And that’s all you need to green-light a sequel or two in Hollywood. It’s now two decades later and we’re getting the ninth addition of “Fast & Furious.” What started off as simple big budget car flick is now one of the most profitable titles in cinema.
There have been some duds (“Tokyo Drift” (2006)), some pleasant surprises (“Fast Five” (2011)), and now in 2019, we’re officially onto spin-offs. After noticing the chemistry and popularity of the side characters in “The Fate of the Furious” (2017), played by Dwayne ‘the Rock’ Johnson and Jason Statham, Universal Pictures began planning a full-length feature starring the two. “Hobbs and Shaw” is in the same vein as the typical “two authority figures who are paired up despite disliking each other” trope, seen previously in “48 Hrs.” (1982), “Lethal Weapon” (1987), “The Other Guys” (2010) and “The Nice Guys” (2016). Here, Luke Hobbs (Johnson) and Deckard Shaw (Statham) are assigned to be partners in tracking down an evil, super powerful agent called Brixton (Idris Elba), who is on the hunt for a deadly virus that could wipe out the planet. But Shaw’s sister Hattie (Vanessa Kirby) gets it first and dramatically injects it into herself before Brixton can grab it. Now both the leads and the villain are racing to find her first before the virus becomes contagious, which has a ticking clock of three days.
This is where we are with “Fast & Furious.” Going from car-centric heist flicks to super-villains with globally devastating viruses. But don’t worry, we still have plenty of cars on screen. (By the way, if this plot sounds familiar, it’s because it’s basically a rehash of the worst “Mission: Impossible” movie (“M:I2” (2000).)
The main reason this franchise has lasted so long is because after “Fast Five,” the creators stopped taking the tone and theme seriously and just full-on embraced the schlock. There’s over-the-top action, disaster sequences, cornball comic relief, a cliché love subplot, ridiculously unrealistic plot logic and character armor, and so on. “Hobbs and Shaw” might be the schlockiest of them all (so far).
There is also particularly perplexing editing, especially during the second half. The new feature is directed by David Leitch, whose forte appears to be this brand of glossy blockbuster, already proven with “John Wick” (2014) and “Atomic Blonde” (2017). He has a good chance of being this generation’s director-for-hire, similar to how Tony Scott or John Woo were in the 1980s and 1990s.
There’s plenty of need to suspend your disbelief for the mindless fun with “Hobbs and Shaw” that audiences should be bored with by now. But as the past 18 years have proven, there’s always been a market for this sort of thing, and it won’t be going away any time soon.