Let me tell you about spinoffs.
Some, “U.S. Marshals,” have been terrific, eclipsing even their antecedents. Others, like “American Pie Presents Band Camp,” not so much. “Hobbs & Shaw,” a one-off from the “Fast and Furious” franchise, I would put in the middle – somewhere between “The Scorpion King” and “Minions.”
Little from the wildly successful Vin Diesel/Paul Walker series comes forward here, save for the acrimony between popular breakout characters Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham). The pair is called to save the world (it’s always “save the world,” never just “save our neighborhood library”) from global terrorist Brixton Lore (Idris Elba), who is intent on co-opting a deadly, programmable virus.
The thing is, Deckard’s little sister Hattie (Vanessa Kirby), herself an MI6 agent, got to it first and to keep it from enemy hands, injected herself with this so-called Snowflake virus. So it’s a race for Hobbs and Shaw to get to her and safely extract it before Brixton does. The resulting two-plus-hour non-stop action only nominally adheres to the laws of physics and pauses just long enough to occasionally revisit the plot.
Scribe Chris Morgan, who also penned several of the “Fast and Furious” films, tries to ground this one in family. Deckard dutifully visits Helen Mirren in prison, proving that real men care about their mums, they just don’t get “all-Oprah” about it, and Luke laments the shallow family roots he’s left his daughter. But the forced family vibe feels superficial and insincere compared to the poignant scenes on the Toretto front porch.
Great film-saving cameos by Ryan Reynolds, as Hobbs’ CIA handler, and Kevin Hart, as a bored Federal Air Marshal, add much-needed humor – though my loudest LOL moment came when Hobbs turns to another passenger on a flight to the Ukraine and deadpans, “I love your babushka.”
It’s not a great “Fast and Furious” tangential, but with plenty of amazing effects and lots of “Oooo, that’s gonna leave a mark” moments, “Hobbs & Shaw” is a solid action film in its own right.
Rating: 2 ½ Honks