First off I think it is important to state that I have been largely on board with the increasingly ridiculous and over-the-top nature of the Fast & Furious franchise. While Fate of the Furious had its rough elements, I have largely enjoyed the pure bonkers fun that these films deliver. It is important to say this because of how much I disliked Hobbs & Shaw, the first spin-off from the franchise.
There is a natural levity that is missing from this outing. Director David Leitch, of the Deadpool films, tries too hard to impress the audience by having the film be all things. It wants to be cool yet silly and full of tough guys yet sweet. This isn't out of line given that the other Furious films often are these things. Yet Hobbs & Shaw only works on occasion and since we know that Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham can pull this off, the blame goes to Leitch. Leitch has always seemed full of promise that never fully materializes in his films. His action scenes are unmemorable here and his tone management is all over the place.
Johnson and Statham act like a bitter, married couple. They bicker to the point of exhaustion early on and the film doesn't have anything else for them to do. Fate of the Furious toyed a bit with their actual bromance, suggesting that their hatred for one another was masking deep professional respect. Hobbs and Shaw disposes of this undercurrent. A few one-liners land a good laugh but much of the screenplay doesn't land.
Hobbs and Shaw toys with the superhero craze by having its villain be a technology modified superhuman. Played by Idris Elba, Brixton feels at odds with the villains from previous Furious films. He is out of a sci-fi film and while Elba brings a certain amount of verve to the role, the character feels out of place and not a part of the world the films have created.
The best part of Hobbs & Shaw is Vanessa Kirby. She plays Shaw's sister and an MI6 agent here. Kirby shined last year in MI: Fallout but fully comes into her own here as an action star. I hope she gets to star in her own action franchise in the future.
The clunky screenplay tries to add an emotional element late into the film that doesn't work at all. Combine this with tired bickering and bland action set pieces and you have one of the dullest franchise films of the summer.