Let’s be clear right up front: this movie, in which Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham reprise their roles from the “Fast & Furious” franchise, is ridiculous.
And by that I mean ridiculous by “Fast & Furious” standards, which are different from other movie standards (this is the franchise, let us recall, in which cars are parachuted off planes, stolen from speeding trains and driven from the top of one skyscraper to another). “Hobbs & Shaw,” whose title sounds like an old-timey British haberdashery establishment, is over-the-top absurd, like a “Mission: Impossible” movie if Tom Cruise were much, much larger and wore really tight T-shirts. But if over-the-top absurdity involving insane stunts and charismatic actors lobbing insults at each other is your thing — it’s definitely mine, particularly if the popcorn’s fresh — get in line.
To get those stunts out of the way: yowza. A car and a motorcycle drive under a truck, at top speed; said motorcycle neatly punctures a double-decker bus; a crew casually rappels down the side of a skyscraper; and something happens near the end involving Johnson and a helicopter that will make you wonder why the hell he isn’t wearing a cape. It’s all breathless and roller-coastery, which is more than I can say for the plot. Wait, what plot? Never mind; it doesn’t matter.
Anyway, the purpose of this movie is to reunite Hobbs (Johnson, in a role always described in press materials as a Hulking Lawman, which would be an excellent name for a band) and Shaw (Statham, whose character was once an arch-villain but never mind). They hate each other, but reluctantly join forces to save the world. (As Hobbs puts it, he’s saving the world for the fourth time, “because I’m really good at it.” No argument here.) The villain is Brixton Lorr (Idris Elba), a cyber-genetically enhanced anarchist (hey, I don’t make this up) who’s trying to recover a lethal pathogen that could destroy the world, but he can’t get it because rogue M16 agent Hattie (Vanessa Kirby) has injected herself with it (!!!), and … oh, just drive the damn cars already.
All of this silliness is actually great fun, particularly the bantering chemistry between Johnson and Statham, who spend much of the movie squabbling and calling each other names. (Guess which one is a “giant tattooed baby” and which one has a “measly prepubescent Harry Potter voice”?) Kirby, who between this and “Mission: Impossible — Fallout” is becoming the go-to badass woman in action movies, does some excellent ass-whupping (in heels and a fabulous tearaway dress, no less) and gives a nice spin to lines like “You look like you could pick up a building.” And Helen Mirren turns up, for way too short a time, to rock a red prison jumpsuit, call Shaw a “cheeky bugger” (she’s playing his mum) and signal that she will clearly own “Hobbs & Shaw 2,” which I can’t wait to watch. Bring it on.
★★★ “Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw,” with Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Vanessa Kirby, Idris Elba, Cliff Curtis, Helen Mirren. Directed by David Leitch, from a screenplay by Chris Morgan and Drew Pearce. 135 minutes. Rated PG-13 for prolonged sequences of action and violence, suggestive material and some strong language. Opens Aug. 2 at multiple theaters.