These two probably just need to shag and bloody get it over with.
As MI6 operative Hattie (Vanessa Kirby) recovers of a volatile designer virus, an overpowered assailant (Idris Elba) wipes out her entire team, giving her only one option to escape with the prize: self-infection. With the clock ticking on a possible global pandemic and the attack pinned on Hattie herself, two capable rivals named Hobbs and Shaw (Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham) are called in to find the girl, stop the virus, and save the day… if they don’t kill each other first.
In a post-superhero summer with no new Tom Cruise Mission: Impossible movie — yet hilariously cribbing almost the same plot as M:I-2 — it was only a matter of time before this pair of broad-shouldered box office beefcakes teamed up. Sure, they both make physics-defying movies for the sake of spectacle, but they haven’t made one together as the main stars yet, right? Born from a criminals-with-cars franchise before evolving into live-action Spy vs. Spy, will Hobbs and Shaw crutch onto the earlier Vin Diesel trappings or evolve into something all its own?
There’s a reason Johnson and Statham keep making movies: their big-budget action movies keep making money. With their previously established characters, a team-up spin-off sounds like a sure thing. What audiences may be surprised about is Vanessa Kirby not only holding her own but making her co-stars look better for it. Brains, beauty, beat-down capable and game for it, the real question is why Kirby keeps showing up as a supporting actor but not the lead. Her brief appearance as The White Widow in Mission: Impossible – Fallout was noteworthy and yet (now clearly) underutilized. Between Kirby, sci-fi comic-book villainy, and just enough self-awareness to let viewers in on the joke, this is how you spin-off an intellectual property… assuming you choose to at all.
This is where the money problem comes in. The rule used to be sequels don’t make more money than the films that inspired them; a solid rule was spending more to make less until it was no longer cost effective to continue a franchise. With a reported production budget of $200 million and able to top just $300 million worldwide in 11 days, it’s good money… but not yet let’s-do-this-again money. Ambitious, but considering where Fast and Furious began its franchise to build up a following, maybe too much so. Idris Elba, Eddie Marsan, Ryan Reynolds, and Eiza González all contribute to the fun, but a replay for everyone is looking tentative at best with this price tag.
While clearly a setup for a continuing independent series, it’s a fun romp that leans on tropes too familiar to be seen as mere parody, but it pushes past that for the sake of entertainment. The unseen and secretive “master villain” spews a lot of sheeple talk and boasts manipulative power over media, but after all the times the main guys have already been “seen on television,” shouldn’t everyone in their world already recognize these characters on sight? “Oh — it’s YOU TWO again!” It strains what little suspension of disbelief there is if you continue to use plot devices like this, but was that the point? Unless the MacGuffin is a mind-wiping device that erases memories of the heroes from existence, you can’t keep putting the genie back in the bottle when a stray bullet will do. That said, you can still count on Statham’s McClaren 720S to happily distract.
Fast and Furious Presents: Hobbs and Shaw is rated PG-13 for prolonged sequences of action and violence, suggestive material, some strong language, and three (count ’em) mid and after-credit sequences.
Three skull recommendation out of four