I grew up in the 80’s. When I say grew up, I mean LITERALLY growing. I was a little kid. More specifically, a little boy. And as little boys often do, I found a thing to obsess about and that thing was CARS. Lots and lots of cars. I loved regular cars, but they were a bit inaccessible at the time, so I focused on small die-cast toy cars instead. I had gallon buckets full of Hot Wheels brand cars (Matchbox cars were nicer, but had a smaller selection of models and were just a little too big when compared to Hot Wheels.). When I wasn’t playing with my cars, I was watching TV shows. As much as possible, they had to be related to cars: Knight Rider, The Dukes of Hazzard, The A-Team. Scooby-Doo counted too because they drove around in a van solving mysteries. I couldn’t get enough. Interestingly enough, the shows that I was so fond of watching regularly weren’t the only place to get my fix of cars. Crazy car hi-jinks were everywhere on TV in the late 70’s and early 80’s.
In the early to mid 80’s, network television was chock full of car stunts. Cars falling off cliffs in soap operas. Cars flying through the air and landing in chicken coops or manure trucks in comedies. Cars careening through guard rails and plunging into the ocean because of a sabotaged break-fluid line in a murder mystery. You didn’t have to look far to see cars doing exciting things. (It must have been great being a stunt driver back then.)
A side effect of being exposed to so many car stunts that consisted of 100% practical special effects means that I’m a bit of a connoisseur when it comes to car action sequences and stunts today. Seeing the massive amount of planning and attention to detail it took to successfully pull off a stunt in the 80’s leaves me thoroughly unimpressed with the car action sequences in Hobbs & Shaw. It’s not that they’re bad, I just KNOW that they aren’t real.
In the commentary track for the movie Ronin, there’s a particular awesome stunt sequence (there's actually tons of them, it's a great movie) that required one of the professional drivers to come barreling down a narrow, crowded European street and whip around the corner in a slide. For various reasons, they had to shoot this particular seen multiple times, and EVERY time the driver whipped the car around that tiny corner, he was only inches away from hitting a brick wall. That’s an amazingly consistent demonstration of skill. Compare that to the innumerable CG shots of Shaw (played by Jason Statham) sliding a computer modeled McLaren underneath a semi truck. Not quite as exhilarating as watching a skilled stunt driver ACTUALLY risking a $300,000 car. The way it would have been done out of necessity n the 80’s is much riskier, but in my opinion, orders of magnitude more interesting and impressive.
In order to compensate for the fact that there was no real risk involved in many of the stunts we see in Hobbs & Shaw the stunt sequences just get more and more elaborate and extreme. Fire, explosions, slow motion, precision car karate. I’m afraid I’ve gotten numb to the whole thing now. This isn't a new thing by the way, it's been rampant in the Fast and Furious series and other action movies over the last decade or so.
The cars aren’t the only super heroes in this film. Hobbs (played by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) is practically a “Samoan Superman”. At one point he literally falls over 100ft through a glass awning, onto the roof of a car that gets destroyed, gets up and wipes the glass off of himself. No cuts, no broken bones, no internal bleeding. I don’t think he even gets dirty. That’s only overshadowed by the time he literally prevents a helicopter from flying away by holding on to it with a giant chain.
I don’t want to give the wrong impression though, this movie is pretty good for what it is: a brain dead action fest. If you're in the mood to turn your brain off and watch a bunch of people beat the stuffing out of each other in between car chases, then this movie will do you right. I actually enjoyed the fight sequences which were choreographed pretty well and although I complained a bit about the stunt sequences, (they weren’t groundbreaking or impressive in any way), they were nonetheless entertaining. As a side note, I have to say that it was really nice to have a "minority" brown dude be the big star in an action movie (Dwayne Johnson) where the primary bad guy, Brixton, is also played by a "minority" (Idris Elba). Everyone in this film turned in great performances, but Johnson and Elba really carried the movie well.
Overall, I’d recommend the movie if you enjoy action-fight movies. I knew what I was in for going into this and I was entertained and not disappointed at all. I’ll probably check out the inevitable sequel as well.