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Back in the driving seat

Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham team up in Fast & Furious: Hobbs & Shaw.

Trish Lee

Charlie Masters

trish.lee@newburynews.co.uk

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01635 886663

Fast&Furious

Hobbs & Shaw

Fast & Furious: Hobbs & Shaw (12A)
Running time 2hr 17mins
Rating: ***

WHILE the series has dramatically shifted gear over the past two decades – going from a full-fat street-racing extravaganza to a no-frills action-adventure saga – the Fast and the Furious franchise has always maintained a finger on the pulse of its audience, a factor that does much to set it apart from the competition. Even 2017’s Fate of the Furious, which otherwise marked a total break with the family recipe, managed to sneak in some purely automotive thrills for the fans to nibble on. Following in this tradition, Hobbs & Shaw (no less than the ninth entry in the series) takes arguably the best thing about the prior two movies – that is, the quip-heavy interplay between Dwayne Johnson’s Luke Hobbs and Jason Statham’s Deckard Shaw – and stretches it into a 135-minute spectacular. While
it’s not enough of a consistent standout to merit this critic’s generosity, the film is slick, zany and remarkably energetic – Fast devotees will love it and even the uninitiated will find much to relish here.
Hobbs & Shaw is a David Leitch project; one would, therefore, expect it to be infused with the
bone-crunching DIY sensibility the John Wick creator is known for. Unfortunately, the strictures of the studio system are in evidence throughout – while the action is notably more human-focused this time round, it’s about as CG-heavy an effort as its predecessors. Whereas Fate boasted one or two genuinely electrifying sequences, the vehicular stunts feel oddly sanitised this time round; they’re reliably ‘big’ and explosive, sure, but we’re definitely retreading old ground here and there’s a certain flatness about them. The physical fisticuffs give Leitch a better opportunity to strut his stuff, and he directs them with ingenuity, throwing everything and the toaster (ha-ha) at a succession of interchangeable baddies. A detour to Hobbs’ ancestral homeland of Samoa packs in an epic, when-worlds-collide showdown that’s easily among the most involving set-pieces of the series thus far; paradoxically, it feels out of place here, like something that was smuggled in from an unrelated Leitch vehicle.

The plot – a glorified MacGuffin hunt involving a cybernetic Mr Big – is trite and utterly expendable, but that’s really beside the point. Where the film finds its mojo is in its dabbling with character drama. It has very little time for the po-faced pseudo-sincerity this franchise is notorious for; instead, the screenplay cuts straight to the point, exploiting the central duo’s love-fight relationship to raucous effect. The protagonists are gruffly charismatic bully-boys with something to prove; when their dynamic is lent a more focused treatment than the expansive scope of this franchise has previously allowed, sparks fly. While it’s a mediocre Fast feature, Hobbs & Shaw is a relentlessly entertaining buddy comedy – come at it with the right attitude and it’s unlikely to disappoint.

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