If you’re new to the “Fast & Furious” franchise, all you need to know about the titular leads of the series’ new spinoff, “Hobbs & Shaw,” is that they really, really don’t get along.
Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), a hulking federal agent living in Los Angeles, and Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), a suave former assassin for the British Special Forces, are both informed of the introduction of a man-made virus with the power to wipe out a sizeable chunk of the world’s population — because, of course. Its only living host is Shaw’s sister, MI6 field agent Hattie (Vanessa Kirby), who is on the run after a mission to recover the virus goes haywire.
The CIA commissions the two men to work together to track down the virus, but even with the fate of Hattie and the world at large on the line, it’ll take a miracle for them to overcome their virulent personal history.
It doesn’t take a superfan of the “Fast & Furious” series to know that these movies have the market cornered on unabashed, big-budget ridiculousness. Aside from car chases that defy the laws of physics, recent entries in the franchise have included set-pieces involving jumping a Ferrari between two skyscrapers and detonating a nuclear submarine beneath the Arctic tundra, just to name a couple.
“Hobbs & Shaw” goes above and beyond in keeping up the tradition: Between a pair of characters surviving an essential freefall from a London high-rise, the explosive destruction of a factory in Ukraine and the presence of a villain who is essentially a superhuman cyborg (Idris Elba), this movie has no shortage of theatrics that defy death and logic. A number of these are impressively staged by director David Leitch (“John Wick,” “Atomic Blonde”), with well-coordinated stunts and camerawork that aims to eschew the choppiness and shakiness of lesser action movies.
Just as testosterone-fueled is the petulant dynamic between Johnson and Statham — perhaps the two biggest action stars of their generation. They spend nearly every scene they share trading insult after insult, sour look after sour look, constantly competing to see who can accomplish each task in greater rock-star fashion.
The quippiness and explosiveness of “Hobbs & Shaw” is the perfect balance to sustain a breezy, 90-minute summer flick. Unfortunately, this movie is nearly 45 minutes longer than that, and even its ultra-charming lead duo can’t keep the back half of the film from feeling repetitive, then predictable, then downright boring.
Somewhere between what feels like the 14th and 15th time our heroes get into trouble and narrowly evade certain doom, the events on screen start to feel as stale as the leftover popcorn flakes at the bottom of your bag, which should’ve easily lasted through the credits. The verbal and physical sparring go from gut-busting and jaw-dropping to eye-rolling and watch-checking, and you can’t help but think, “What else you got?”
Co-screenwriter Chris Morgan — joined here by Drew Pearce — penned the majority of previous “Fast & Furious” films, so what keeps this one from offering the lasting excitement and memorability of the others is a mystery. The duo fail to create a compelling character outside of the titular two: by the end, even a genetically engineered Idris Elba isn’t that fun to watch. Not to mention, we witness a smattering of poorly timed and ineffective cameos that seldom add anything of substance to the already thin story.
“Hobbs & Shaw” will give fans of the series exactly what it promises: some witty banter and well-choreographed thrills. But it’s forced by its overlong runtime to up the dosage on these two key features, which proves this movie’s tipping point between invigorating and exhausting, leaving viewers with empty tanks and desperate for a refill.
John Battiston is a Times-Mirror reporter and a founder of the Reel Underdogs podcast. Contact him at email@example.com. Reel Underdogs is not affiliated with the Times-Mirror.