Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham – the Rock and the Stathe – go baldly at each other like angry, scowling eggs in an international action scramble that doesn’t ever come together as it wants to.
Despite the best efforts of Vanessa Kirby who impresses as Cockney action girl Hattie Shaw (the Stathe’s younger sister, much younger), the spin-off from the hugely lucrative F&F franchise loses what breakneck charm the road-racing movies had accrued in recent block-busting entries.
Hobbs is a LA enforcer recruited by the FBI; Shaw is a London ex-army type I think enlisted by MI6. They both have to bring down a bionic, charmless Idris Elba, who plays a baddie called Brixton working for a nasty company who invented a super-virus that can destroy the world to so create a new breed of superhuman. “Genocide, Schmenocide” is actually a phrase he utters.
The plot is that Hattie has the virus inside her and she’s only got 72 hours before it destroys her and the planet. This is a typical Stathe race-against-thep-clock action trope, like when he had to plug himself in Crank or in Cellular or Transporter.
There’s still time for insults and boys banter and fights and chases, though the ticking clock aspect becomes vague and fudged to suit the location hops and car chases. Some of these are ok, on a stunt level: there’s a nice abseil chase down the Cheese Grater – real name: The Leadenhall Building, 122 Leadenhall Street – and a McLaren and bike screech through the City; there’s a whole set-piece in a Ukranian factory involving a truck and a drone and a super bike; and there’s a climax in Samoa with a heap of old trucks trying to bring down a helicopter.
Look, it’s decent enough for what it it, but there’s a grimness in the air instead of a silly lightness, as if neither Rock nor Stathe wanted to crack first. They’re both capable of more charm – this looks more of an effort. And while there are loads of cameos from famous people showing off the main stars’ Hollywood muscle but not really adding anything to the overall picture.