The Movie:

I keep telling myself I’m going to sit down and marathon my way through the Fast & Furious franchise from start to finish, as I’ve never actually watched any of them. Coming into Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs and Shaw, I just had the basic background that the trailers shared. Hobbs and Shaw are opposites who don’t get along, but each kick ass in their own way. I thought Shaw was a villain, but eh, who cares? When you’ve got Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham insulting each other and beating the shit out of bad guys, what’s a little gray area morality between frenemies? Plus, you could cut the sexual tension with a knife!

Throw the sexiest man in the world, Idris Elba into the mix as a cybernetically-enhanced post-human superman out to kill off a huge chunk of the world’s population who are too weak to be included in his Utopian fantasy, and you pretty much have a license to print money (although the film didn’t reach the worldwide box office heights of the previous four films in the series, it was still the biggest non-Disney/non-Joker film of the year so far).

The story goes like this: Shaw’s sister Hattie (Vanessa Kirby) is MI-6 and hot on the heels of a dangerous programmable virus that could wipe out the entire world’s population if it fell into the wrong hands. Enter Black Superman, Brixton (Elba) who wants it just for that reason. With her entire squad murdered by Brixton, Hattie injects herself with the virus and hightails it out of there, only to be framed for the murders and find herself on the run.

CIA agent, Luke Hobbs (Johnson) and whatever the hell Deckard Shaw (Statham) is, are both recruited to team up and track her down and bring her to justice… or safety… or something. Together, they try to take down Brixton’s backers, an Illuminati-like organization with control over the media, massive underground science labs in Ukraine, and an army of soldiers waiting for the opportunity to upgrade themselves into superhumans.

The action is, um, fast and furious. Which is a good thing, because whenever the film slows down long enough for you to catch your breath, you might find yourself realizing just what a load of ridiculously silly nonsense the entire thing really is. I’d call it more like a comic book than anything, but comics have more grounded senses of physics. Luckily, all the performers are at the top of their game and practically oozing charisma.

Seriously, I had to wipe down my TV when this thing was over.

The film concludes with a massive battle in Samoa as Hobbs reunites with his estranged family of giant, musclebound brothers and thanks to some clever plotting, go toe-to-toe with Brixton’s mercenary army in hand-to-hand combat rather than an orgy of gunplay. While there was a lot to like about the crazy stunts and car chases throughout the film, it’s the Samoa action that really seals the deal on this one for me. The action is brutal, the car chases are fucking insane, and the final battle between Hobbs, Shaw, and Brixton in a torrential downpour, is visceral and stunning.

Hobbs and Shaw has a pretty standard comic-book movie ending, with an open-ended threat, secrets teased out for future films to explore, an expansion of the Fast & Furious world that not only brings in more science fiction elements but allows for guest-spots from people like Ryan Reynolds and Kevin Hart.  And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that without a doubt, Kirby earns her action bonafides, holding her own alongside the established action superstars on set.

Director David Leitch has a firm handle on things, bringing every bit of experience and insight gleaned from twenty-plus years in the stunt business. As the co-director of John Wick (2014) and director of Atomic Blonde (2017) and Deadpool 2 (2018), Leitch has also shown that he has a fantastic eye for storytelling that pushes the boundaries of realism without going so far over the top that he loses sight of the narrative (yes, even in Deadpool 2). Even more impressive is the fact that he’s helmed three massive action films over the past three consecutive years with no discernible drop-off in quality.

I hope he doesn’t burn himself out, because I want more of his brand of action as he keeps pace with his John Wick co-pilot Chad Stahelski (who’s cranked out John Wick Chapters One, Two, and Three).

The Extras:

There are over 80 minutes of bonus features included on this disc, with the largest chunk of that runtime being the Alternate Opening and the Deleted/Extended/Alternate Scenes, which really break down to replaying a huge chunk of the movie over again. As with most things Fast & Furious-related, your mileage may vary…

Alternate Opening: This is really almost the exact same footage from the theatrical opening, just recut to open with the Hobbs and Shaw face-off insult battle that ended up featuring later in the film, then jumping back to the day before, recutting the split screen opening as Hobbs and Shaw begin their days, then jumping back to earlier that evening as Brixton attacks Hattie and tries to steal the virus. It’s literally the same scenes shuffled around into confusing time jumps and then included as 10 minutes or so of “Extras.”

Deleted/Extended/Alternate Scenes: There are literally twenty-two scenes included here, the vast majority of which are extended takes that were then cut down to maintain the correct tone for the scenes or that just allowed the actors to riff. If you can make it through them all, you’re made of heartier stock than me.

The majority of the rest of the extras are prepackaged publicity featurettes that just blow smoke up everybody’s asses while sharing tidbits about the plot that you already know if you watched the movie. Or even the trailer, usually. However, once we get to the pieces that allow Johnson to just be himself and goof around with other actors (or his dog), they’re much more enjoyable.

Johnson and Statham – Hobbs and Shaw: Short introduction to the characters Hobbs and Shaw and their relationship. Lots of emphasis on the chemistry of the pair. This won’t be the first time you hear how funny it is when they insult each other. They should just get a room, for Pete’s sake.

Progress of a Fight Scene with Director David Leitch: The first of the actual worthwhile featurettes. Leitch discusses how the fight scenes are crafted from the ground up with special emphasis on the final battle.

Practical Action: Leitch’s background in stunt work and fight coordinating really comes through here as he emphasizes how the action expresses character development as much as dialogue does.

The Bad Guy: Short look at Idris Elba’s post-human villain, Brixton.

The Sister: Another short look, this time at Hattie. We get a little more meat here, but just barely.

Hobbs’ Family Tree: Short take about the importance of family with a roll call sound-off of all of Hobbs’ on-screen family.

The Matriarch: A far, far, far too short glimpse of Helen Mirren’s performance as Queenie.

New Friends: Short piece about bringing Ryan Reynolds and Kevin Hart into the franchise.

Elevator Action: Another short look at one of the early action set-pieces, without too much actual detail.

Stunt Show and Tell:  Best featurette on the disc. Leitch takes us behind the scenes of a few of the film’s most impressive stunt sequences, from pre-viz to practical effects to the big screen. As with the earlier featurette about the stuntwork, this is where Leitch shines, discussing all aspects of the sequences as well as name-dropping the stunt performers he’s known for most of his professional life.

Keeping it in the Family – A Conversation with Roman and Dwayne: If you love wrestling, this is a treat, as Dwayne Johnson and Roman Reigns cut up, sharing tales of their wrestling past and discuss the responsibilities they feel carrying on the tradition of Samoan wrestlers. Johnson opens up about his family’s history in professional wrestling.

Blind Fury: A short story from Johnson about his wrestler grandfather, Peter Maivia, who once bit a guy’s eye out in a bar brawl in Tokyo. Sweet! He pays homage to this in the big Samoa fight scene and it made his mom cry. I kind of love that a touching tribute to his grandfather that brought up the big emotions in his mom, was literally pretending to bite someone in the face.

Dwayne and Hobbs – Love at First Bite: Johnson’s dog, Hobbs, is in the film and this short bit is all about sharing the puppers love. He’s a cute little bulldog with nearly as much charisma as his poppa.

Feature Commentary with Director David Leitch: This is pretty good commentary track. Leitch provides a ton of background information about all aspects of the film, from the pre-viz work to the set and lighting design to working with the actors and refining the script on the fly. There was a lot of improv and multiple takes that sometimes had to be cut in order to get the prized PG-13 rating (Leitch is used to working on R-rated films). There’s also a lot of emphasis on the international market and what appeals stunt-wise and story-wise around the world.

All in all, Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs and Shaw is the epitome of a popcorn movie. It’s big, loud, and dumb as fuck, but charming. It rarely slows down long enough to let you catch your breath, much less think about the ridiculous shit that’s being thrown at the screen every few minutes. Personally, the action-boner that I got every time the trailer played before the film was released wasn’t really satisfied as I often couldn’t suspend my disbelief enough. Having never seen any other Fast & Furious movies, it probably wasn’t a great idea to jump right into this one without at least acclimatizing myself to the crazy stunts and absurd plots.

However, if you’re already a fan of this franchise, or at least of the later, wilder, less-grounded installments, Hobbs and Shaw goes full-on superhero movie, pitting our titular heroes against Black Superman and it’s extremely entertaining for what it is: Ridiculous nonsense.

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