A few weeks back I eulogized the buddy-cop movie after enduring the painful comedy and uninspired action that is “Stuber.” The once energetic formula that spawned so many great movies has started to feel a little dated and dusty. The blend of crackup comedy and beautifully choreographed violence was a sure-fire success for some brainless thrills. It’s been years since I’ve seen a good buddy-cop movie, which led me to the conclusion the genre is no longer relevant. “Hobbs & Shaw” is making me think I might have been a little hasty to judge.
There’s so many things this big, stupid, beautiful piece of B-movie brutality gets right—like a fundamental understanding that a good buddy-cop picture is more about having fun than grounding things in reality. It requires two likable leads who can turn flint and stone into fire. In this case, our flint is Jason Statham and our stone is Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. These two are pure, unrefined silver-screen sensations and an absolute joy to watch. It’s a weird, perfect blend of testosterone and charisma. It’s easy to think two super-macho action stars might be overkill, but it works remarkably well.
The main reason is because the plot forgoes logic, reason and earthbound physics in favor of spectacle. Hobbs and Shaw are both searching for a beautiful British MI6 agent carrying a designer virus that can kill anyone. The British government and the CIA both want to get their hands on the deadly superweapon, as does a nefarious group of killers led by Brixton (Idris Elba). As far as villains go, Brixton is a perfectly ridiculous creation. He’s a genetically modified super-soldier with superhuman powers and the ability to chew scenery with the power of a nuclear-powered woodchuck.
Our bromantic brothers in arms are now on the run from Black Superman, as they try to save Hatte (Vanessa Kirby) from a growing number of assassins. This gives our main characters plenty of opportunities to get in a variety of globe-spanning situations that can only be resolved with bullets, beatings and big explosions. Much like the “Fast & Furious” franchise that spawned this bastard buddy-cop movie, the film is far more interested in slickness than storytelling. The cartoon-inspired world they exist in feels like it’s populated by pro wrestlers and supermodels.
Lots of bloodless violence, pithy one-liners and grinning through an endless parade of life-threatening situations. And, damn it all, it’s really entertaining.
There’s really no difference between “Hobbs & Shaw” and every other gigantic summer blockbuster, in terms of story and spectacle, except it gets one thing right that so many other popcorn movies get wrong: It’s fun. I’ve sat through many blockbusters this year that tried way too hard to be taken seriously: the $200 million, two-hour “Godzilla” that was utterly joyless. Not to mention numerous uninspired comic-book adaptations that can make the most devoted geek listless. When it comes to big-budget blockbusters, seriousness is vastly overrated.
Mad props to everyone involved with “Hobbs & Shaw” for cutting the tether and letting this light, airy confection take flight and ascend into cotton-candy clouds of enjoyable cinema.
“Hobbs & Shaw” feels more closely related to the insane “Crank” movies than the “Fast & Furious” franchise. In fact, it might be one of the few spinoffs that manages to be better than the movie series from which it was inspired.
One of my complaints with “Stuber” was that WWE wrestler Dave Bautista struggled to portray an actual human being. He’d do well to jump into a franchise like this one where The Rock and Jason Statham can crank their personalities to 11 and mug for the camera like the chiseled scene-stealers they were born to play.
The good news is that Hobbs & Shaw have restored my faith in the buddy cop genre. The action is spectacular and the comedy works because of two leads who work overtime to sell the film one scene at a time. This was a pleasant surprise that exceeded my minimal expectations to deliver one of the most entertaining blockbusters of 2019. I doubt it’s going to raise your IQ. In fact, it’s loud enough to possibly destroy a few brain cells. But you’ll walk out of the theater feeling like you got your money’s worth.