“Fast & Furious,” as a franchise, has long prided itself on just how seriously it takes its soapy storylines and character dynamics without being overly self-serious as a whole. In an era when so many superhero movies are snark-fests and tentpoles are rife with meta-humor, the central “Fast” movies refuse to crack wise. The closest they’ve come so far was Roman (Tyrese Gibson) marveling at the “Fast” Fam’s apparent invincibility in “F9” — and even that thread culminated in Roman delivering a heartfelt speech (in outer space, no less).
This is part of what makes “Hobbs & Shaw” director David Leitch an unwieldy addition to the property. As a longtime stunt performer/coordinator who made his uncredited co-directing debut on “John Wick,” Leitch knows his way around an action scene and that serves the spinoff well. However, his specialty is action-comedies about antiheroes constantly quipping in between fighting the bad guys, like “Deadpool 2” and “Bullet Train.” That’s very different from “Fast & Furious,” a movie series where the characters always take the situations they’re in at face value, outlandish as they tend to be. (That and Leitch’s cooler visual style doesn’t fit the aesthetic of one of the sunniest and generally well-lit tentpole properties in Hollywood.)
Leitch, to his credit, tempers his acerbic tendencies for “Hobbs & Shaw,” yet it still ends up being easily the sassiest “Fast & Furious” movie ever. Put simply, the central entries in the series work because they refuse to indulge in irony and are as emotionally naked as blockbusters come in their dramatic moments. It’s a very subtle and precise alchemy, being wholesomely earnest and utterly ridiculous at the same time — and without the necessary core character relationships, “Hobbs & Shaw” is just too darn cheeky, to its downfall.
“Fast X” charges into theaters on May 19, 2023.