I laughed a great deal at the bad-boy banter during Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw. I also thought the action stood up alongside anything else in the franchise. But the thing I enjoyed the most about this riotously ridiculous movie is that way it functions as a near-brilliant exercise in cinematic parallelism.
From its ampersand-aligned title to an early split-screen sequence that contrasts the strikingly different morning routines of Fast & Furious supporting players Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), Hobbs & Shaw cleverly embraces parallel structure as its guiding aesthetic. Consider the first time the two reluctantly paired super spies meet face to face, each anchoring a separate half of the screen as they hurl very funny (and physiognomically focused) insults at each other. Or the standout action sequence in which Hobbs pursues a bad guy (Idris Elba, who amusingly identifies himself as “bad guy”) rappelling down the front of a skyscraper by leaping into the air after him, while Shaw takes the exterior elevator that’s running right alongside. Or a later scene in which the two of them are infiltrating the bad guy’s lair and come upon two doors; of course they each choose one, resulting in a comic parallel sequence cutting back and forth between the adversaries they each encounter (a glass wall between them allows them to monitor each other’s progress). Even a perfunctory scene on a commercial airline is framed by director David Leitch (co-director of John Wick) with parallels in mind, as the aisle nicely divides the screen, with one star in a seat on each side.
If geometry isn’t what you go to the movies for, Hobbs & Shaw has plenty else to offer. Johnson and Statham’s comedic timing is as precise as their action choreography. Elba makes for a stirring, cybernetic threat, a war machine whose motorcycle functions as if it’s an extension of his body (I won’t even try to describe what he does with it in a spectacular London car chase). To balance out the throbbing forehead veins, the movie also brings in Vanessa Kirby as Hattie, a British agent who proves to be equal to Hobbs and Shaw in every way (OK, in an early showdown with Hobbs, he does get the literal upper hand). Still, Kirby brings her own physical command to the many fight scenes and nicely deflates the machismo on display, as when she tells the two squabbling men at one point: “You clearly can’t work together so you’re absolultely useless to me.”
Things do sag a bit in this two-hour-plus film, especially during the final third, set in Samoa, which spends a lot of time sincerely extolling the virtues of family ties (this is a Fast & Furious movie after all). But Hobbs & Shaw recovers for a gonzo climactic action sequence with multiple tow trucks and a helicopter, as well as a final bit of fisticuffs involving Hobbs, Shaw, and Elba’s bad guy. If it’s corny that the two leads pause at one point to acknowledge that they will have to work as a team, that bothered me less than what their unity meant geometrically: the parallelism had come to an end.