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Idris Elba Buckles Up to Play the Villain in ‘Fast and Furious’ Spinoff

Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham must team-up to fight this mutual enemy in ‘Hobbs and Shaw.’
The Losers Idris Elba
By  · Published on July 6th, 2018

Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham must team-up to fight this mutual enemy in ‘Hobbs and Shaw.’

The Fast and Furious spinoff Hobbs and Shaw is really upping the ante with each casting announcement, and the movie is shaping up to be something genuinely exciting. Don’t get me wrong, Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham are absolute gems. However, when it comes to the Fast family, the “soap opera with cars” angle made the series feel fresh and worth following thanks to the immense chemistry constantly brewing among all its stars.

Transitioning from the relatively tight-knit street racing premise of the series’ early days to the indulgently explosive international heist dramatics that we all know and love today wasn’t actually a bad move. But deep down, I miss the nostalgic spirit of the original ragtag crew to the point that the concept of seeing how a couple of ex-antagonists fare in their own movie always felt superfluous. Nevertheless, Hobbs and Shaw is determined to keep us invested anyway with a bunch of high-stakes promises. This happens to include finding an antagonist in Idris Elba.

Variety dropped the news that Elba will join the extended Fast family as an unnamed foe in Hobbs and Shaw. The erstwhile antagonism between Johnson’s former Diplomatic Security Service agent Luke Hobbs and Statham’s criminal mercenary Deckard Shaw will seemingly evolve into a begrudging partnership in the spinoff. The duo now have to face off with Elba for reasons undisclosed at the moment.

As Hobbs and Shaw continues to shape up, the film seems primed to invite some welcome changes into the traditional framework of the Fast series. With the casting of Vanessa Kirby as Shaw’s sister earlier this week, the film may be able to rectify the persistent problem of representation afflicting the women of the franchise. David Leitch, director of Atomic Blonde and Deadpool 2, is also a solid choice to bring the dynamite Johnson/Statham relationship to life, especially after confirming that Hobbs and Shaw will approach its characters in a more down-to-earth manner, which contrasts the high-flying antics of its predecessors.

According to Leitch in an interview with MovieWeb:

“We’re starting a franchise. So we want it to be a little bit more grounded, a little bit more character-centric. We’re going to set up the stakes for these guys and their relationship, but we’re also going to have some great set pieces and some action that you’d expect from that type of franchise.”

This idea of going back to basics is especially exciting knowing that regular Fast and Furious scribe Chris Morgan will be on board to write Hobbs and Shaw. There is no better writer up to the task of creating a brand-new pseudo-origin story for both the tenacious Hobbs and cutthroat Shaw, than the one responsible for initially bringing these characters to life in the first place. And lest we forget, Hobbs and Shaw entered the franchise as antagonists themselves and were compelling or at least ruthless enough to make their mark. This bodes well for Elba’s upcoming big bad for sure.

Elba has demonstrated fantastic malleability as an actor, with a chameleonic quality in his abilities that allows him to occupy both heroic and antagonistic roles seamlessly. From Heimdall in the MCU to Roque in The Losers, Elba’s presence in blockbuster films is undeniable and importantly, varied.

Nevertheless, it is definitely a shame that Elba has been underused as an all-out baddie in the past. Take Star Trek Beyond for instance, which is a fantastic movie with a subpar, generic villain who did nothing to raise the stakes of its protagonist’s internal dilemmas. This isn’t due to Elba at all; he does manage to lend nuance to the material he was given. The character simply shouldn’t have been so thinly written.

At least Elba’s turn as Shere Khan in Jon Favreau’s live-action adaptation of The Jungle Book was worthier of the actor’s dualistic talents. The menace that exudes from Elba’s voice work and the conflicted characterization of Shere Khan’s villainy combine into something truly compelling.

Furthermore, we can even look to Elba’s especially confronting roles, such as the commandant in Cary Fukunaga’s Beasts of No Nation, for a glimpse into the layered nature of his performances. He has the innate presence and charisma to entice just about anyone before turning on them completely. Elba takes on the role of an abhorrent war criminal with fearless gusto and although this is of a different league compared to the cut-and-dry characters of any blockbuster, it is one of the prime examples of his sheer talent in an illustrious career that’s worth a mention.

As skeptical as I was about Hobbs and Shaw, all signs point to the fact that this could be much more than an average spinoff. Yeah, it exists purely to make big bucks, especially with such massive action stars attached to the slate. Regardless, the talent involved both behind and in front of the camera continues to inspire confidence that the Fast family is better off with a film like this.

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Sheryl Oh often finds herself fascinated (and let's be real, a little obsessed) with actors and their onscreen accomplishments, developing Film School Rejects' Filmographies column as a passion project. She's not very good at Twitter but find her at @sherhorowitz anyway. (She/Her)