The Fast and the Furious franchise is an increasingly strange beast. On one hand, it’s the dumbest and most outdated franchise we have today. On the other hand, it’s undeniably entertaining in how it always manages to out-bonkers what’s come before. Yes, the male characters are ultra-macho, the women are usually an after-thought, and the plots are laughably ridiculous, but there’s still a mild, summer-blockbuster charm to them.

When director David Leitch (John Wick, Atomic Blonde, Deadpool 2) was announced for the franchise’s first spinoff featuring the best characters in the series, Luke Hobbs & Deckard Shaw, I was extremely interested to see what he’d make of the film. I’m a big fan of all of his directorial efforts, as he has a real eye for action that’s tied to character. I thought perhaps he’d tone down the outrageous and corny parts while bringing the franchise into the modern-day.  The movie actually does start out that way. Sadly, with returning writer, Chris Morgan (writer of the Fast and the Furious franchise since Tokyo Drift), it’s safe to say to dumb, corny bits are here to stay, increasingly so as the movie goes on. Regardless, with charismatic stars like Jason Statham and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson to carry the film, some epic cameos, and some creatively implausible action, Hobbs & Shaw manages to still be one of the better films in the franchise.

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Not that plot matters much in these movies, as it’s blatantly a vehicle for action scenes, but, if you must have a brief synopsis, Hobbs & Shaw follows our beloved heroes as they’re forced to reluctantly work together to save the world from a superhuman enemy (Idris Elba) and a new super-virus, and, in turn, rediscover the things that truly matter in life….spoiler alert, as with all Fast and Furious films, it’s family.

What I will say about Hobbs & Shaw is that it’s by far the funniest film in the Fast franchise. Part of that is thanks to the chemistry and banter between Johnson and Statham, and part of it is due to some film-elevating cameos from two particularly big stars that manage to inject some truly hilarious moments at multiple points in the movie. I won’t say who those two big names are, but, rest assured, you won’t miss them.

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I’d be remiss to not mention Vanessa Kirby, who manages to take her roll as Hattie Shaw, Deckard’s sister, and make it work despite the writing working against her. The script does treat her slightly better than the other women of the Fast and Furious franchise, but, really, Kirby lifts her scenes with straight-up charisma and style, making her role just as interesting as the titular characters.

Then there’s Idris Elba’s Brixton – the big-bad of the film. I’d love to say this movie fully utilizes Idris’ charisma, as well. Sadly, yet again, he’s wasted in this movie. Yes, he does manage to make the role slightly watchable, but, by and large, he’s just a poor, underwritten supervillain placed into the wrong franchise. It’s even sadder that he’s largely just a mouthpiece for a bigger, faceless villain.

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As far as the action goes, this is a Fast and Furious flick – it’s what you really came for, and, with Hobbs & Shaw, director David Leitch does not disappoint. He starts with smaller scale hand-to-hand pieces and builds to all-out F&F physics-defying ridiculousness that plays like a live-action cartoon. While the writing and exposition are most certainly groan inducing, the action comes so….fast and furious (sorry)… that you barely have time to groan before either the next action bit comes or the next thing to groan at interrupts your previous groan.

In the end, Hobbs & Shaw does not reinvent the Fast and Furious wheel, but it does refine and enhance it by leaning into the funny and outrageous nature of the series.  It’s a movie that’s about 20 minutes too long, but it’s charming enough to let that slide. We already knew the Rock and Statham pair nicely with each other – this movie just furthers the point that, for better or worse, they’re the best this franchise has to offer.

OVERALL RATING: 3.5/5 Stars