In the opening moments of Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw, a team of MI6 operatives infiltrate a warehouse where a deadly super-virus is being held. They make short work of the people guarding the warehouse, and one operative, Hattie Shaw (Vanessa Kirby), begins breaking into the virus’s container. Everything is going to plan until a mysterious man calmly approaches.
The man we will come to know as Brixton Lore (Idris Elba) compliments the team on their work with a smile before methodically murdering every person present — except Hattie. He dispatches of his enemies with such precision and power that Hattie is (rightly) terrified. As he begins to approach, she injects herself with the virus, contained in caplets that will keep it from dissolving in her system… for now.
She narrowly escapes Brixton’s grasp only to find herself hunted by the authorities, having been framed for the murder of her team by Brixton and Eteon, the technological death cult that created both Brixton and the virus.
From there, the film follows Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) as they help Hattie, who it turns out is Deckard’s younger sister, evade Brixton and remove the virus before it kills her. While this unlikely trio of heroes is fun to root for, it is Brixton who steals the show. I mean, how often do you run into a super-soldier and self-proclaimed Black Superman who can manipulate the entire world into thinking you’re actually the bad guy?
Hobbs & Shaw lives up to the Fast and the Furious franchise of which it is a spin-off —with the added benefit of leaning into its heightened genre elements in interesting ways. Now, listen, the franchise has always been fantasy (it’s also always been homoerotic, but that’s a conversation for another day.) It takes place in a world where cars have an infinite number of gears they can shift through, where large vehicles like semis and planes can be suddenly weightless, where the very laws of physics that dictate our reality no longer apply, and where Vin Diesel could in any way hold his own with Johnson in a baby-oil-fueled fight.
Hobbs & Shaw is laugh-out-loud funny — often because of the pure disregard for physics — and refreshingly devoid of many toxic action film tropes. There are some issues with the film, varying from female characters having underdeveloped motivations to unnecessary celebrity cameos extending the length of the film. At two hours and 16 minutes, it could have benefited from some editing. By and large, however, Hobbs & Shaw manages to deliver a fun, action-filled exploration of two beloved Fast and the Furious characters.
The film is at its strongest when its genre tropes are allowed to fully blossom, which is probably illustrated best by Brixton. By incorporating familiar sci-fi conceits around Brixton’s creation and his singular focus on serving Eteon, the film is able to communicate with viewers in the subconscious register. But, also, like, fun go boom.
But the person Shaw thought was dead turns out to be very much alive and very much capable of kicking Shaw’s ass — and Hobbs’ ass, which honestly, is a lot more impressive (I’m sorry Mr. Statham, but like, have you seen those biceps?!) With characters who have both been established as total powerhouses, as Hobbs and Shaw are, one of the biggest difficulties is in creating a villain who presents a legitimate challenge, but Elba’s Brixton is up to snuff.
Using his unexplained interface that seems to be implanted in his retinas, Brixton can assess how hard and where someone is going to strike, which makes it virtually impossible for Hobbs or either Shaw individually to land more than a single punch. He also has super strength, agility, and stamina, making him effectively unstoppable for most of the film.
While Brixton likens himself to Superman, it would be more accurate, given his technological enhancements, to compare him to Cyborg or maybe Marvel’s Cable, at least in terms of how he’s built and what he can do (for instance, flight doesn’t seem to be one of his abilities.) Regardless of the comparison, the breathtakingly gorgeous Elba portrays a kind of empathetic Bad Robot, a recurring character type most sci-fi fans will recognize, one who sees a world in decay and simply wants to prepare for the next phase of humanity’s evolution. He’s also being manipulated like a pawn by Eteon and the unidentified, all-knowing voice, so maybe a little fervent devotion can be forgiven.
Most importantly, though, it seems that Brixton has some sort of command over the technology he uses since he can recall his motorcycle to him and it will conform to his body. I mean, it’s either that or he’s so damn sexy that his crotch has a magnetic pull on even motorcycles. Who’s to say?
In the end, the only way to defeat Brixton is for Hobbs and Shaw to work together. D’aww. It turns out that Brixton can’t predict the trajectory of a two-sided onslaught of haymakers as well as he can a one-sided attack, so the two reluctant friends throw punch after punch, absorbing a hit here and there to make a window for their counterpart to do some damage. Eventually, they are able to overwhelm Brixton.
As Brixton stands on a cliff, defeated, Eteon betrays him, turning off his interface — and seemingly killing the cyborg who falls into the ocean. Obviously, we will never hear from Brixton again. His body and his very expensive technological enhancements will be lost forever. JK JK. There’s definitely going to be a Hobbs & Shaw 2 and bringing Brixton back as part of the ongoing story should be a no-brainer.
Brixton and all the other genre aspects of the film give credence to the imaginative and hyperbolic nature of action films like Hobbs & Shaw and actually make the worlds more believable. If there’s a super-strong cyborg who can throw a truck and come back from the dead, then maybe it’s not that much of a stretch to think Hobbs could pull a flying helicopter toward a truck with his bare arms? By embracing the fantastical, Hobbs & Shaw improves on its predecessors and sets the stage for a genre-filled future for The Fast and the Furious franchise.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author's, and do not necessarily reflect those of SYFY WIRE, SYFY, or NBC Universal.