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Is Luke Hobbs Good at His Job?

Before you watch Dwayne Johnson’s ‘Fast & Furious’ character in his own spinoff this weekend, it’s worth considering if this swole federal agent is even qualified to save the world

Universal Pictures/Ringer illustration

As Fast & Furious has pivoted from street racing to Dominic Toretto and his crew—nay, FAMILY—saving the world from international terrorists under some vague pretext of driving muscle cars really good, the franchise’s evolution has been best embodied by Dwayne Johnson’s Luke Hobbs. Hobbs’s introduction in Fast Five as a swole Diplomatic Security Service agent tasked with bringing down Toretto in Brazil was when this enterprise jumped the shark, by way of attaching two cars to an indestructible bank vault that single-handedly decimated Rio de Janeiro.

With Hobbs came a fresh adversary turned brother for Toretto, an unconscionable amount of baby oil, and, eventually, a “candy ass” feud between Johnson and Vin Diesel (and Tyrese Gibson). But despite simmering tensions between the Fast & Furious’s two biggest stars, Hobbs has been compelling enough to warrant the franchise’s first spinoff film, Hobbs & Shaw, which will pit Johnson’s Hobbs and Jason Statham’s Deckard Shaw against Idris Elba’s genetically modified—in the film he legit calls himself “Black Superman”—terrorist Brixton Lore, in another high-stakes story that is extremely not about street racing.

Arguably, with those DSS bonafides, Hobbs is more qualified to save the world than the Toretto famiglia, and the Hobbs & Shaw plot doesn’t appear as far-fetched as some of the story lines in the main Fast & Furious franchise. (This warrants mention: It is possible that a future F&F movie could end up in space.)

But just because Hobbs has the better résumé doesn’t necessarily mean he’s up for the task. For the sake of our dying planet, we have to wonder whether Johnson’s mountainous biceps and all that baby oil has obscured an uncomfortable truth: Is Luke Hobbs is actually bad at his job? Crack open a Corona and join us as we revisit the characters’ decision-making from the last four Fast & Furious entries to determine whether daddy’s really gotta go to work, or whether he’s better off staying at home.

Fast Five

Status: DSS agent sent to Brazil to capture Toretto and the gang.

Signature scene: An oily, visceral brawl with Dom that registers a 6.4 on the Richter scale and threatens to tear much of Rio’s infrastructure apart:

Rundown: Hobbs is tasked with hunting down Dom after the Toretto crew executes a train heist—an epic setpiece that, respectfully, should have killed Dom and Brian when they fell off a giant bridge— and sees a handful of DEA agents killed by goons working for Brazilian kingpin Hernan Reyes. That means Hobbs follows Dom and his fam to Rio, where he demonstrates how ill-equipped he is to operate within a foreign country.

Granted, Hobbs is smart enough not to trust local law enforcement—wisely surmising that many of the officers are likely on Reyes’ payroll—but he also walks straight into an ambush when he confronts Dom before the start of a street race. “This is BRAHZIWL [Brazil]!” Dom boasts in a patented Diesel Mumble, as the locals brandish their guns, forcing Hobbs and his men to retreat and take the L.

While Hobbs is able to track Dom’s cars and follow the crew back to their hideout, he forgoes arresting Dom on the spot in favor of the aforementioned fist fight. The sequence is glorious, homoerotic cinema, but it’s definitely not [extremely federal agent voice] by the book. Hobbs’s hubris gets the better of him—he sees a challenge in Dom, who looks like a jacked human thumb and wants the satisfaction of subduing him in a primal showdown. But he definitely loses the fight, even though technically he doesn’t because that’s not contractually allowed.

Alas, the victory of arresting Dom’s family is short-lived, as Reyes’s men ambush the convoy, killing Hobbs’s team in the process. Dom and Hobbs are united against a common enemy, and use their wits, muscle cars, and brawn to steal Reyes’s money by literally dragging the vault through the city. After killing Reyes in undeniably badass fashion, Hobbs decides he’ll give Dom and his team a 24-hour head start to escape authorities; I’m not an expert in federal law enforcement, but that seems like an offense that would usually not just cause Hobbs to lose his job, but also to put the dude in prison for aiding and abetting fugitives. Dom also swapped out Reyes’s bank vault with a replica so that he could take the money for himself, something that simply causes Hobbs to grin. Sorry, but I can’t help but think what that money could’ve done to Rio’s floundering economy, especially after that vault tore through several city structures and generally turned the place into a war zone.

Verdict: Lacks empathy for the citizens of Rio de Janeiro, doesn’t play by the rules. Not good at his job; good at applying baby oil to his body.

Fast & Furious 6

Status: Hobbs enlists the help of Dom’s crew to stop Owen Shaw, who keeps pulling off audacious heists with his crew, which includes Dom’s presumed-dead girlfriend, Letty.

Signature scene: An improvised line about Tyrese’s “big-ass forehead” that causes Ludacris to snort out his beer, potentially instigating the bizarre Tyrese-Rock rivalry:

Rundown: Credit where it’s due: Hobbs doesn’t let pride get the better of him and asks for help when he needs it. (That’s a low bar to clear, but he did eschew arresting Dom in favor of rolling around a warehouse floor with him in the last film.) With Owen and his crew repeatedly escaping authorities with their high-tech supercars, Hobbs turns to Dom—an expert on the matter—for help. Plus, he’s got a trump card: Letty is actually alive and working with Owen. Hobbs promises full pardons to Dom and his gang if they’re able to apprehend Owen.

But that’s pretty much where the professionalism ends. While interrogating one of Owen’s lackeys named Oakes, Hobbs tosses the dude around the room like a rag doll and looks like he’s two steps away from giving him the People’s Elbow. It’s yet another impressive show of strength, but Oakes’s case could be thrown out of court because, you know, a federal agent threw him against a wall and beat the ever-living shit out of him. “Is that legal?” a guard asks. “No,” fellow DSS agent Riley Hicks responds with a smirk. Um … I rest my case?

Unfortunately, things go even more downhill from there. After Owen and a couple of his men are captured and held at a Spanish NATO base, the villain reveals that Mia’s been kidnapped, and unless Dom hands over a computer chip for some vaguely defined device that could do some bad stuff, she’ll be killed. Now, it’s great that Hobbs forces the troops at the NATO base to give up the chip to Owen to save Mia’s life, but also, YOU ARE GIVING A TERRORIST SOME VAGUELY SINISTER THING THAT COULD KILL MILLIONS OF PEOPLE WITH ZERO HESITATION! If that wasn’t bad enough, it’s then revealed that Hicks—the person he confided in the entire movie—was a double-agent the whole time.

I don’t totally blame Hobbs for not knowing Hicks was betraying the DSS—someone else probably should’ve done a thorough background check—but the optics aren’t great for him. Thankfully, the gang’s able to stop Owen on an impossibly long runway before his plane takes off; Hobbs also stays true to his word and grants full pardons for Dom and his family.

Back in these happier times, Vin and Dwayne team up to obliterate Owen’s swole-est henchman on the plane, and it rules:

Verdict: Should probably leave the interrogating to a coworker; you also aren’t supposed to negotiate with terrorists. Not good at his job.

Furious 7

Status: Hospitalized early in the film after an encounter with Deckard Shaw.

Signature scene: Telling his daughter “Daddy’s gotta go to work” before flexing out of his arm cast and leaving the hospital:

(Hobbs is so jacked for action he’s got his tactical gear beside him at all times.)

Rundown: Don’t you hate it when a renowned international terrorist has an equally sinister brother? Hobbs encounters the man who would be his spinoff costar early in the movie, after Deckard breaks into the DSS headquarters in Los Angeles to get intel on Dom’s crew. The Hobbs-Shaw fight is a fun contrast of styles—Hobbs all physical fury; Deckard speedy and agile—but it ends prematurely when Hobbs jumps out of a window to grab Elena and break her fall after Deckard tosses a grenade in her direction. (Don’t question how Hobbs survived the fall. The man has creatine coursing through his veins.)

I’m not sure where “preventing an explosive from detonating in front of a coworker” falls in the federal agent employee handbook, but that was commendable stuff from Hobbs, who’s hospitalized for his Herculean efforts. Hobbs continues to chill in that hospital bed until Furious 7’s final act, when he pops a few painkillers, steals an ambulance, and destroys a goddamn aerial drone by ramming into it.

Not all heroes wear capes; most of them are lathered in baby oil.

Verdict: He went off-book, but in doing so prevented L.A. from getting totally wrecked by terrorists. Good at his job by going above and beyond the line of DSS duty.

The Fate of the Furious

Status: Captured by German authorities after Dom betrays the famiglia and steals an EMP for the cyberterrorist known as Cipher; offscreen feud with Vin Diesel begins.

Signature scene: When he alters the trajectory of a submarine torpedo with his bare hands (I’m not kidding):

Rundown: Hobbs is asked by his superiors to steal that EMP in Berlin, so you can’t really fault him for getting arrested during a shady operation in a foreign country—nor would anyone expect Dom to turn his back on family (and Hobbs, whom he literally rams off the road). That incarceration reunites Hobbs with Deckard Shaw, as the two inmates stare longingly (lustily?) at one another before Kurt Russell’s mysterious government operative Mr. Nobody unlocks Hobbs’s cell, which incites a huge prison riot that leads to both men escaping.

By this point, Hobbs is operating completely off-grid with Mr. Nobody, Shaw, and Toretto’s crew against Cipher and Dom. And since he’s no longer working as a federal agent, he doesn’t have to worry about anything his superiors might say about his actions. (Not that it’s ever stopped him from doing fun yet highly questionable shit like throwing suspects against walls and giving up dangerous technology to terrorists who kidnap Jordana Brewster.)

Freed from the bonds of his duties as a federal agent, the Hobbs we get in The Fate of the Furious is … pretty much the same guy? He flirts—sorry, argues—with Deckard over who’d win in a straight-up fight, helps the gang prevent Cipher from capturing a Russian nuclear submarine, and continues to demonstrate impeccable feats of strength (see: moving a torpedo with his hands) that would lead you to believe that he, not Brixton, is the first genetically modified character in the Fast & Furious universe.

At the end of the film, Mr. Nobody offers Hobbs the opportunity to be reinstated with the DSS, which he declines to spend more time with his daughter, Sam. Between saving the world and breaking countless laws, he also coaches his daughter’s soccer team—although, through four movies, we still have no idea what the deal is with Sam’s mom, and whether she’s even in the picture/alive. Perhaps we’ll get some clarity on that front in Hobbs & Shaw, but one thing’s for sure: He can’t sit on the sidelines any longer.

Verdict: Hobbs did his best work when he wasn’t a federal agent. Isn’t that interesting?! As an outlaw, did not have a job to do.

The Fast & Furious universe—at least in the back half of the franchise’s catalog—is one of unrepentant chaos. Global powers are constantly at the mercy of powerful terrorists with a penchant for muscle cars and questionable dreadlocks; half of the time, they’re from the same British family. In a world without order, then, the heroes we require aren’t the ones who play by the rules. As Vin Diesel told Vanity Fair, the family is effectively made up of “proletariat superheroes,” and even if he refuses to be anywhere near Dwayne Johnson, that ethos also applies to his character.

Luke Hobbs might be a really bad Diplomatic Security Service agent who should be fired and possibly imprisoned for his actions over the course of four films. But as a man with the strength of a herd of bisons and enough baby oil dripping from his body that it’s probably a safety hazard, he’s the type of (super)hero the Fast & Furious needs.