Immediately after hitting the cinema halls, the 9th instalment of the Fast and Furious franchise, a standalone film, Hobbs and Shaw has sparked animated discussions among the fans and followers of this famous series. So far it has received mixed reviews from critics and viewers based on its extravagant action and overly buoyant dialogues which are sometimes witty and sometimes not so much. The story deals with how the two titular characters reluctantly team up despite their obvious differences in order to track down and retrieve a biologically engineered weapon, a mass-destructive virus, Snowflake, which got stolen by Hattie (co-incidentally Shaw’s sister) to prevent it from going into the hands of Lore (starring Idris Elba) an operative of the terrorist organization called Eteon.
The film revolves around the unlikely pair of Hobbs and Shaw, characters who were introduced previously in Furious 7 and The Fate of the Furious, then working on opposite sides, are now forced to join hands and become allies for this mission. In the opening scene, director David Leitch carefully presents the sharp contrasts between these two by using a split screen technique to demonstrate their daily morning routine. Hobbs played by Dwayne Johnson is a hunky tough guy, a loyal federal agent of the DSS while Jason Statham acting as Shaw is a sleek lawless outcast, a former British Special Forces agent. Their continuous banter and bickering is amusing, almost reminiscent of old school teenage rivalry providing the audience with a necessary dose of comic relief.
The use of contemporary rap songs and hip-hop music helps to lighten the mood of the film while also enhancing the scenes where tension is building up or suspense is created. Thoroughly choreographed movements give these actors their characteristic flexibility and strength. In the span of 2 hours and 16 minutes, there is lot to be told, emotions to be felt and blows to be dealt. Careful editing has made this possible even though it appears to drag a bit because of the unnecessary convolutions in the plot. What is sad to observe is that throughout the movie, the only female character Hattie (starring Vanessa Kirby) lacks character growth or agency. She is an object needed to move the plot forward, a dormant carrier of the virus, her sole significance in being Shaw’s sister.
In terms of action, the film does not disappoint the viewers if we were to forget the laws of gravity and keep aside logic. This is a movie that is all about entertainment. Bikes flying over double-decker buses, a string of cars hanging mid-air attached to the wings of a helicopter by chains, The Rock pulling the chains and dragging the aircraft down with his bare muscles. There are face punches, gun shots, explosions and there is street car racing. Only the racing scene where the trio drive around the city in Shaw’s car with Lore in hot pursuit rekindles that old flame of the thrill of watching a Fast and Furious. It is unfortunate that in spite of Johnson and Stathom’s stunning performance, the screenwriting is quite mediocre and the actions unrealistic.
However, the movie upholds the reputation of the franchise by remaining true to its main emphasis on family and home. It’s heart-warming and at the same time comical how our highly muscular Hobbs is treated as a baby with nothing but “bones and skin” by his mother. And no matter how busy he is, he never forgets to pick up his call from his daughter and share some endearing eye-brow curling moments with her. In a similar tone, Shaw is both protective and proud of his sister. At a moment when she feels hopeless and wants to give up, he reminds her of their childhood and urges her to never give up. Even the relationship between the two protagonists who are constantly at each other’s throats can be interpreted as a somewhat sibling rivalry.
Towards the beginning of the film, we notice that Hobbs’ daughter is curious about her father’s family. She draws an almost isolated family tree as her school homework with only her father at the top of it, mirroring her inner void and desire to be a part of a larger family. In the post-credit scene, we see Hobbs taking her to Samoa to reunite with their entire joint family. On the other hand, the Shaw brother and sister bust their mother out from jail. Thus, this is a romantic comedy which ends on a happy note with the harmonious union between family and friends. It is a film that essentially believes in the overall significance of humans over technology. At the core of the film, despite its flaws, lies the message that machines can be replaceable but human beings cannot.