One sharp critic correctly foresaw the premise of Hobbs & Shaw a decade before the film was actually released. From the franchise's humble beginnings in 2001, The Fast and The Furious now comprises 8 main films, with two new Vin Diesel-fronted entries and a female-led venture currently in the pipeline. Earlier this month, however, the first spinoff in the Fast and Furious' canon was released in the shape of Hobbs & Shaw, starring Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and Jason Statham as the titular duo.
While Fast and Furious movies have never been shy about their intentions - fast cars, big set pieces and larger than life characters in a string of never ending sequels - there has been a gradual shift in emphasis away from the franchise's roots. Originally focused on car chases and street racing, later Fast and Furious offerings have morphed to encompass a more typical action movie approach, with fight scenes, gun fights and power-hungry British villains. Hobbs & Shaw represents the final stage of this transformation, as Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham's characters team up to prevent the release of a world-threatening virus by a man with super-strength.
It now seems that at least one critic saw this transformation coming as early as 2009. That year saw the release of the more snappily-titled Fast & Furious, the fourth movie in the series, which garnered a 2-star review from film critic, Kim Newman. As pointed out by Nick de Semlyen, however, Newman praised Fast & Furious' car chases and action, while taking a grimmer view of the plot, exposition and character relationships. Newman ended with the half-joking line, "It's clearly time for Fast & Furious vs. The Transporter."
Two movies later, The Transporter star, Jason Statham, made his Fast and Furious debut as Deckard Shaw and, coincidentally or otherwise, Fast & Furious 6 was a clear departure from the franchise's street racing origins, amping up the action and espionage elements considerably. Fast forward to 2019 and Hobbs & Shaw is perhaps the closest thing to "Fast and Furious vs. The Transporter" the world is ever likely to see, mixing the latter's no-nonsense butt-kicking and ridiculous action sequences with the established world and fast cars of the former.
Initially appearing to be an incredible moment of foresight on Newman's part, the resurfaced review is perhaps more an example of a film critic correctly identifying the route Fast & Furious needed to take in order to survive as a franchise in the long term. Audiences payed their money to see adrenaline-fueled vehicular fun, not, as Newman puts it, sob-you-were-my-best-friend moments, and the box office takings responded accordingly as this approach was adopted.
Despite being the culmination of the "Fast and Furious vs. The Transporter" ethos, Hobbs & Shaw hasn't performed strongly, ironically posting the franchise's lowest figures since 2009's Fast & Furious. Does this prove that the action elements finally pushed the boundaries of reality a little too far? Or was it the spinoff format fans weren't willing to accept? The answer will no doubt become apparent as the franchise heads rapidly towards double digits.
Source: Nick de Semlyen
- Fast & Furious 9 (2020) release date: May 22, 2020