If you can ever be too fast or too furious, too banter-y or too bald, that’s a vanishing point that goes unrecognized in Hobbs & Shaw — a testosterone motherlode so relentlessly, ridiculously adrenalized, it doesn’t so much unfold as steadily defibrillate you.
Helicopters are lassoed like runaway Holsteins and dragged down from the sky; Kevlar vests outlast both a nuclear warhead and a double-decker bus. Bodies crumple; metal clangs; and anything that doesn’t get punched or shot or stabbed on sight just stands by patiently, waiting to explode. When it’s not all completely brain-numbing, it’s actually pretty fun.
Some of the wildest stunts are already showcased in the trailer (if you don’t gasp for one trick involving a motorcycle, two Mack trucks, and a kind of physics-defying Tokyo drift, maybe you do need that defibrillator).
But what makes the movie feel like more than a series of increasingly unlikely X Games challenges, mostly, is the loopy man-child chemistry between its two leads, Dwayne Johnson’s Hobbs and Jason Statham’s Shaw. With their square-cut jawlines and glowering brows, they look like a pair of Easter Island statues viewed from slightly different distances; and they badger and bicker, in scene after scene, as if they have nowhere else in the world to be — even though the world is more or less exactly what they’re there to save.
The deadly earth-ending pathogen they’re looking for — and hence the slim but just-functional-enough thread by which the whole plot hangs — is a mystery virus self-injected in the first scene by an MI6 agent named Hattie (The Crown’s waspishly cool Vanessa Kirby). She’s trying to keep it out of the hands of Brixton (Idris Elba), a bionically enhanced villain so sure of his place in the script that when a confounded, soon-to-be-deceased soldier asks who he is, he just deadpans, “Bad guy.”
Hattie, it turns out, is also Shaw’s estranged sister (his mother, in one too-brief scene, is Dame Helen Mirren, who still looks great in a prison jumpsuit). The brainy, throat-punching Hattie is also Hobbs’ dream girl — which gives the plot at least a little shot of romance, and may give the already tightly-wound Shaw a coronary before the last scene.
As the action careens from Los Angeles to London, Moscow to Ukraine, and lands, for one final epic and (relatively) analog battle in Samoa, there are several surprise cameos too good to ruin here, untold acts of pandemonium, and many, many references to what is or is not in Hobbs’ and Shaw’s collective pants.
The screenplay, by Chris Morgan, is necessary nonsense, but it makes more basic sense than most of the diesel-fumed logic in the rest of the Furious franchise. And director David Leitch (Atomic Blonde, Deadpool 2) seems to know how to set up his outrageous set pieces, then get out of the way often enough to let his stars do what they need to do: Joke, chokehold, kiss, and smash until the helicopters come home. B–
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