(CNN) — “Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw” is an awfully long-winded title for a movie with roughly the same plot as the 1989 squabbling buddy vehicle “Tango & Cash,” only with bigger — well, pretty much everything — and better special effects.
Having left the “Fast & Furious” template in the rear-view mirror ages ago, this spinoff revels in its super-spy trappings and playfulness, relying on the individual and combined charms of Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham, facing a technologically enhanced super-villain — the term cyborg is never used — in the equally impressive form of Idris Elba.
The rest, frankly, is pretty much incidental, as Johnson’s Hobbs and Statham’s Shaw, after a brief introduction showcasing their special skills and clashing styles — one prefers pickup trucks, the other sports cars — are reluctantly thrown together to neutralize a bio-weapon with the potential to destroy humanity. The plot includes a third key player in the form of Shaw’s sister (Vanessa Kirby, a veteran of “The Crown” and “Mission: Impossible — Fallout”), a formidable MI6 operative who is central to stopping the threat.
Director David Leitch (“Deadpool 2”) approaches the movie with a sense of irreverence, which includes strategic cameos that enliven the film and augment its comedic quotient.
Those scenes serve as a welcome relief from the relentless bickering between the leads, who spend a little too much time hurling creative insults at each other, such as Shaw calling Hobbs “She-Hulk” (see, he’s big) and Hobbs returning the favor by dubbing him “Frodo” (he’s smaller). The macho posturing ventures into more specific comparisons, with dialogue seemingly written for (if not by) teenage boys.
The action sequences are abundant, including several breakneck chases, dazzling explosions and opportunities for Johnson and Statham to brawl. Those scenes are shot in a quick, kinetic fashion, though there’s a somewhat numbing repetitive quality to many of them, the principal exception being a jaw-dropping skirmish that involves pursuing bad guys down the sheer side of a skyscraper.
When taking a breath from its pyrotechnics, “Hobbs & Shaw” also squeezes in an overt message about the importance of family and healing old rifts, providing a detour that lets Johnson incorporate celebrating his Samoan heritage.
The generally appealing if in-no-way-surprising mix of elements reflects what amounts to an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach. That’s because the filmmakers and studio Universal appear determined not only to please an audience but lay the groundwork for additional entries under what has become a hugely lucrative “Fast & Furious” banner, beginning with an inevitable sequel to this adventure.
In that respect, the aforementioned precursor to this movie is illustrative. Tasked with saving the world, “Hobbs & Shaw” demonstrates that it takes two to tango, and makes clear from start to finish that its goal is to rake in plenty of cash.
“Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw” premieres Aug. 2 in the US. It’s rated PG-13.
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