June 15, 2003 -- “2 Fast 2 Furious” is the highly successful follow-up to the surprise hit “The Fast and the Furious.” While the first film had more interesting characters (primarily the outlaw racer played by Vin Diesel and his tough girlfriend, played by Michelle Rodriguez), the second film has more action and more interesting races. Both films are about the same in terms of quality and the plots are almost identical.
The sequel finds the main character from the first film, Brian O'Connor (played by Paul Walker), doing illegal street races in Miami after losing his job as an undercover cop for letting a crook (played by Vin Diesel) get away in the first film. Police nab O'Connor and make him an offer he can't refuse. The cops will drop all charges against O'Connor if he will go undercover to nab a nasty Miami crime boss named Carter Verone (Cole Hauser of “Tears of the Sun”). Since the cops don't have anyone who really knows the street racing scene, O'Connor gets to pick his own partner, an ex-con racer named Roman Pearce (played by singer-actor Tyrese of “Baby Boy”). O'Connor and Pearce have bad blood between them and their relationship is tense.
O'Connor and Pearce are hired as high-speed delivery drivers for Verone by Verone's assistant, Monica Fuentes (Eva Mendes of “Training Day”), who is really an undercover cop. It kinda makes you wonder how the cops could have somebody that close to Verone for a year and still not have the goods on him. Pearce suspects that Fuentes may have switched sides. The rest of the cast of characters is pretty stock, the good cop and bad cop supervisors, Verone's muscle, colorful characters in the street racing scene and lots of pretty cars.
The street racing scenes are exciting. For one thing, they are real road races this time, not just short drag races in a straight line. These races are more like short Grand Prix races with some actual turns, requiring braking and cornering skills. There are some interesting high speed runs on freeways, and an interesting “tag team” race involving four cars. There is also a James Bond-like flying car stunt (I swear I heard some music very much like the James Bond theme playing in the background during this stunt). All in all, this film has a lot more action in it than the first one had, and there are more of those American heavy metal muscle cars this time around.
The cars in the film include the following: the Nissan Skyline GTR, Mitsubishi EVO 7, 1970 Hemi Dodge Challenger, 1969 Yenko Camaro, 1998 BMW M3, 2003 Dodge Viper, Chevy Corvette, 1994 Toyata Supra, 1994 Mazda RX7, 2001 Honda S2000 (Suki's pink car) and a 1993 Acura NSX. The Nissan Skyline R-34 seen in the film is not available in the U.S. (for one thing, the driver's seat is on the wrong side), so some of these cars are fairly exotic. About 150 cars can be seen in this film. Some of them use cool neon StreetGlow® running lights. A number of the cars were repainted for the film using “House of Color” Kandy colors.
Although this film did not use the highly effective “red hot” inside-the-engine effects of the first film, it did use some similar effects to show electrical problems inside some of the cars. The film also uses some interesting camera tricks to make it appear as if the cars are going faster than they really are. These effects include creative use of zoom lenses and using altered camera speeds. There are some stunning camera movements, including some eye-popping horizonal camera pivots. The cinematographer, Matthew F. Leonetti (“Rush Hour 2”), did a fine job on this film. Some of the scenes of cars flying through the air were ridiculous, but this is a movie which doesn't take itself seriously. The flying cars, like the ones in James Bond movies, are just part of the fun. Director John Singleton (“Baby Boy,” “Shaft”) has the good sense not to make this a serious movie, which posed a fatal credibility problem in the first film. This film is much lighter in tone, with its tongue firmly planted in its cheek. With a wink and a smile, the film lets you know that no one is really in danger in this film.
Another smart move was not to make O'Connor's character a cop this time. Walker was not convincing as a cop in the “The Fast and the Furious,” and it was smart not to repeat that mistake in the second film. Walker, who looks like a young Kevin Costner, has a certain screen presence, but his acting skills are very limited. He's only got two expressions, a smile, and a stern look. He appears to have trouble deciding which one he should use in any given scene. Of course, a lot of action heroes have gotten by with just one facial expression, the stern look. By the way, Walker's name in the first film, Brian Spilner, was an alias he used to disguise his real identity of Brian O'Connor, in order to carry on his undercover work. Tyrese is a good actor and he dominates most of the scenes he is in. Unlike Walker, he doesn't have to underact just to cover his dramatic weaknesses. The other characters are thin. It is unfortunate that Vin Diesel does not appear in this film, since he was the dominant character in the first film. While the acting, on the whole, is not that great, at least the main characters are attractive, since most of them are models, including Devon Aoki, who plays Suki, a lovely woman who drives a hot pink Honda S2000. In addition to Tyrese, there is another singer in the cast, Ludacris, who plays Tej. Both he and Tyrese have songs on the film soundtrack.
The script in this film is not bad, it even manages to patch one of the plot holes in the first film. Namely, it explains why O'Connor let the crook go at the end of “The Fast and the Furious.” It even has a few clever twists. This film has its flaws, of course. The plot doesn't make much sense. The street racing scenes are absurdly exaggerated with cars doing impossible flying stunts (like one car passing over another while both cars are in the air). The acting (with the exception of Tyrese) was weak. Eva Mendes was not believable as an undercover cop and the supposed romantic link between her character and that of Walker's was limp. Despite all that, it is fun to watch, in part because the stunts are so spectacular, it has plenty of action, and it doesn't take itself seriously. Action is really the only reason to see this film. It is only a popcorn movie, but there is nothing wrong with that. This film rates a C+.
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