Hobbs & Shaw, the Fast & Furious spin-off film starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Jason Statham, comes to theaters this weekend, promising a healthy dose car chases, quippy banter, and, of course, a whole lot of ass-kicking. But while the movie unquestionably delivers a healthy dose of muscled men punching the hell out of each other in increasingly creative ways, you may find yourself feeling a bit underwhelmed by the actual fighting. Not because of a lack of spectacle or impressive choreography but rather, the stakes feel oddly low due to the fact that no matter how many times Hobbs and Shaw get hit, they seem to bounce right back without any real acknowledgment of what just happened.
It turns out, there may be a reason for the strange fighting that has nothing to do with plot and everything to do with the protecting the egos of the two leads. A report from the Wall Street Journal says that Statham and Johnson both have deals in place that ensure how much of a beating they can take on-screen, with Johnson reportedly making sure that he always inflicts as much damage on his opponent as they inflict on him (this explains the scene in Fast Five where Johnson and Vin Diesel literally take turns throwing each other through walls).
The idea that Johnson and Statham are unwilling to get their asses kicked is funny but it also makes the movie feel even less grounded than watching superheroes fight in the MCU. When Bucky and Captain America took on Iron Man in Civil War, you could see that both sides were really hurting and, in the end, Robert Downey Jr., the face of the franchise, was left on the brink of death by his opponents. You can see the pain the characters are experiencing and that raises the intensity of the fight. With each punch, you are nervous about what will happen to these beloved heroes despite their superpowers.
Contrast that with the fighting in Hobbs & Shaw, where the two leads still feel invincible even as they are fighting against Brixton (played by Idris Elba), a man equipped with a suit that borderline gives him superpowers. They get hit a lot and struggle to beat him but considering that this guy is literally shown to be on the level of Iron Man in terms of his powers, the fact that he doesn’t seem to be doing any real damage to Hobbs or Shaw is bizarre to watch. The sequences are impressive but they don’t feel like they are rooting in reality.
The end result is unquestionably badass but keeps the fighting from reaching the highs of other action franchises, such as John Wick. Hopefully, in the future, Statham and Johnson will set their egos aside and let their characters sometimes be on the losing side of a beatdown. Otherwise, these annoying contract stipulations will keep the action from reaching its full badass potential, which is something that absolutely nobody wants.