At first, Hobbs and Shaw make a terrible team, constantly insulting each other's appearance and making references to the size of their… you know. The banter is terrible, and unfortunately there's A LOT of it. I lost track of how many times male genitalia was discussed over the course of this movie's two-hour-plus runtime. Shaw calls Hobbs fat, which he obviously is not, and Hobbs retaliates by making fun of Shaw's "short" stature (Statham is a very normal 5'10"). Barely any of it is intentionally funny, and a lot of it is saved for a few bizarre and distracting secret cameos from other A-list stars. Is it the writing? Is it them? The Rock has consistently been better as a beefy, scowling action hero than a comedian (name one good comedy of his, I dare you), but Statham has proven to be a genuinely funny dude in the right circumstances -- please just watch this clip from Spy, the best scene ever filmed.
It's not until the duo gets to Hobbs' home island of Samoa (of course) that they realize the only way to take Brixton and his army of evil geneticists down is by working as a team to defeat them, enlisting Hobbs' estranged family members, each more muscly than the last, to form an army of cars and scary-looking wooden weapons. (Johnson's fellow WWE star Roman Reigns, perplexingly, barely gets anything to do besides Look Large.) The action sequences, especially the fights, are really good, and that's thanks to David Leitch, who was one half of the duo that brought John Wick to life. Vanessa Kirby in particular is incredible, throwing punches and jabbing elbows with the best of them -- though, I'll just say, my kingdom for an action movie without a tough, attractive heroine reduced to choking bad guys out with her thighs.
If you have the patience to stick out the first two-thirds of the movie, the big car chase finale, during which Hobbs and his "usos" chain a bunch of cars to a helicopter in a preposterously long crazy train of kitted-out trucks, may make it all worthwhile. These movies like to remind us that they're all about the power of family, but we all know they're really about cars. All we want out of a Fast & Furious movie is the increasingly over-the-top chases featuring a bunch of sweet whips. During this one, my whole theater "OOOOOH"-ed despite ourselves at a moment when Brixton skids his motorcycle, sideways, underneath the bellies of two giant 18-wheelers. Hobbs & Shaw is at its best when it's not trying to give each of its leads dueling tight fives, and instead leaning into the ridiculous corniness of the concept. Elba's villain is the only character who consistently accomplishes this, constantly giving himself monikers like "Black Superman" and at one point growling, "have a day off" after tossing a goon out of a helicopter in flight.