‘Fast and Furious’ spin-off shifts into next gear

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Hobbs and Shaw aren’t all that fast, but make up for it with a whole lot of furious. Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham join forces in the very first “Fast & Furious” spin-off, “Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs and Shaw,” while Vin Diesel must be spinning donuts in an Uber. Diesel had been the heart and soul of the franchise, but this action flick seamlessly shifts into the next gear without him.

They say the best sci-fi stories are imaginative creations based on actual scientific theory. Now, director and former stuntman David Leitch (“Atomic Blonde”) expands on action sequences with his artistic take on bombastic and preposterous live-action stunts and gags. Fortunately, the F&F fans have already parked their brains and logic in neutral prior to entering the theater and just want mindless entertainment and dumb fun.

Although not required, the script by Chris Morgan (F&F franchise) and Drew Pearce (“Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation”) is energetic, witty and somehow even outshines the non-stop visual spectacle. Lawman Luke Hobbs (Johnson) and MI6 outcast Deckard Shaw (Statham) join forces when Brixton (Idris Elba), a cyber-generated villain, threatens the future of humanity. Shaw notes, “Oh great, we’re being chased by the Terminator.” When asked who he is, Brixton responds, “Bad guy.”

The banter between Hobbs and Statham is incessant, authentic and hilarious. Each is an action superstar in his own right, but together, they light up the screen with old-fashioned machismo. But, who knew these mooks could be a riotous slapstick comedy team. Their one-liners hit harder than their punches. They are laugh-out-loud funny.

Sure, this movie glorifies violence, the same way television’s Batman superimposed “Pow!” and “Bam!” on the screen during their bouts. These bloodless beat downs were audacious, buffoonish and even cartoonish when the actors defy gravity, human endurance and thresholds for pain. But hey, that’s entertainment!

The plot has something to do with recovering the UT17 Virus (no, not testosterone) before it is unleashed upon humanity. Shaw explains why Hobbs is not right for the job, “This job requires stealth, look at you!” Hobbs reminds Shaw, “I’m trying to save the world, which for the record, will by my fourth time, cause I’m really good at it.”

Shaw’s sister Hattie (Vanessa Kirby, TV’s “The Crown”) is carrying the virus. In her feature-length breakout role, Kirby carries her own, next to charismatic action stars Johnson and Statham, and then some. Kirby is quick-witted, athletic and attractive enough to generate sparks between her and The Rock.

There are no overt calls to Diesel’s family mantra, but the schmaltz returns as Shaw displays a softer side for his sister and mother (Helen Mirren). Meanwhile, Hobbs realizes they must to reunite with his family and fight on his home turf in Samoa. WWE wrestler Roman Reigns (Joe Anoa’i) plays Hobbs’ brother. In real life they are cousins.

Just when we didn’t think the story could get more outrageous, the final battle reminded us of the “Three Amigos” (1986) battle of Santo Poco. Spoiler alert: These reluctant partners eventually realize they need each other. What the entire cast does is never take themselves too seriously. They balance a semi-intriguing story with ridiculous action and exhilaration.

“Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs and Shaw” is 135 minutes and rated PG-13 for sequences of action and violence, suggestive material and strong language. Technically speaking, this movie is too long and breaks every rule of the cinematic and thespian arts. However, the spectacle is raw escapism, so we do recommend the larger bucket of popcorn.

This franchise initially appealed mostly to gearheads, but that same audience is hanging around as the demolition derby negotiates a fork in the road. Even more so, this team is entitled to a victory lap as Johnson, Statham and even Elba show us all why some superheroes don’t need to wear capes.

Ron’s Rating: A Leigh’s Rating: B

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Ron & Leigh