REVIEW: Hobbs and Shaw is exactly the hyper-masculine anti-heroes vs. cyborgs action/buddy comedy cartoon of a film you never knew you needed.


In which a movie where Dwayne Johnson holds a helicopter piloted by a cyborg from taking off with the sheer force of his biceps and a chain is somehow still maddeningly watchable in a non-ironic way.

Last year, we had Jason Statham star in The Meg, where I called Statham punching out a giant prehistoric shark one of the most amazingly ridiculous things you would ever see in a film. Despite an international co-financier which filled the film with endless pandering to an international audience almost to the point of unwatchability, The Meg was still somehow so cheesy it was endearing in the way that a film like Sylvester Stallone’s Cobra is. You know, Cobra, a film where Stallone’s character eats a cold pizza impaled on a giant military knife as he cleans a gun while watching a Toys R Us Christmas TV ad. It’s ridiculous but so cheesy and implausible that the wink at the crowd is there to say, we’re gonna show you cool yet ridiculous stuff, just eat your popcorn and don’t try to think too hard. Cobra delivers in this regard in spades. Stallone fights a cult of Satanic murderers who clang axes together as he delivers some of the corniest one-liners ever committed to film. By that same token and spirit, Hobbs and Shaw aspires to live in the same kind of buddy-cop film universe as films like Cobra, 48 Hours, and Lethal Weapon 3; all films which this film heavily lifts from, but which are also referenced by posters in the film. Director David Leitch (John Wick, Atomic Blonde, and Deadpool 2) injects this film with the kind of crazy action stunt bravado you’d see in a late 80’s Bond film while keeping the kind of insane vehicle stunt work he pioneered in Atomic Blonde and Deadpool 2 in full view.

In this installment, Hobbs and Shaw are clearly painted as the yin to the other’s yang – the Tango to the other’s Cash. We see them both go through their day when we first meet them; a day where Johnson’s Hobbs busts up a tattoo parlor as Statham’s Shaw busts up a fashion show. One is class, the other a street tough. The two are recruited by the CIA (represented by Deadpool 2’s Ryan Reynolds and Rob Delaney) to recover a programmable virus stolen by Brixton (Idris Elba), a former partner of Shaw’s – now a cyborg regenerated by Etreon, a big bad multinational whose goal is world domination through technological evolution. It turns out that Shaw’s sister Hattie (Vanessa Kirby) stole the virus from Brixton during a failed M-I6 raid for which she is blamed. Brixton’s crew likewise gets Hobbs and Shaw and Hattie framed collectively as terrorists, so the trio sets out to save Hattie from the virus in her system while taking down Brixton, all with only 72 hours to spare before the virus in her system metastasizes and becomes airborne – killing everyone in the world. Along the way, Hobbs has to learn the value of family, while both he and Shaw learn the only way they can win is by working together.

This is not a film where subtlety is used in laying out plot points. It’s a loud, brash take on a ridiculous spy movie. It’s likely akin to what Vin Diesel was trying to do with the xXx franchise; make an in your face version of what a Bond movie’s main ticks are — cool gadgets, fast cars, crazy escapes — and ramp them up to 11. That’s not to say the movie is bad or unwatchable. Statham and Johnson infuse this film with all the comic charisma they can muster and it shows. Their banter and shared screentime are among the best elements of the film. Similarly, Vanessa Kirby is great in this film and is given much more to do here than she was in Mission Impossible: Fallout; she has movie star charisma written all over her and I look forward to seeing here in more films. Idris Elba and Ryan Reynolds are both having a blast with this film and they chew the scenery with aplomb. The film also has some great surprise cameos. That being said, the film’s big bad leaves a lot to be desired and seems set up to be a recurring nemesis. Also, there’s a bit of a sense of diminishing returns on the stunts in the film. In the Will Smith/Mark Wahlberg film, The Good Guys, there’s a joke scene where Dwayne Johnson and Samuel L. Jackson see the bad guys on the ground and jump off a building to catch them and very obviously die. Here, that exact same scenario happens to a very similar degree and Johnson still crashes to the ground but only has a few pieces of glass on his arm. The film just expects you to accept that the same way you’ll accept a multi-million dollar F1 Mclaren being chased down by a transforming motorcycle. It’s silly. But at the same time, the kind of silly that makes you laugh versus roll your eyes.

Hobbs and Shaw is an over the top stylized action buddy/cop comedy that throws it back to the kind of unbelievable plots to which fans of the latter-day Fast and Furious films have grown accustomed. If you’re a fan of The Rock and films like Central Intelligence and Rampage and Statham films like Spy, this is right up your alley. If you’re looking for something a little more grounded, this might not be for you. That all being said, be sure to stay through to the end of the film as the film has 3 mid/post credits scenes.