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Dustin Putman

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2 Fast 2 Furious (2003)
2 Stars

Directed by John Singleton
Cast: Paul Walker, Tyrese, Eva Mendes, Cole Hauser, Devon Aoki, Chris 'Ludacris' Bridges, Thom Barry, James Remar, Mark Boone Junior, Edward Finlay, Amaury Nolasco, Michael Ealy, Jin Auyeung, Matt Gallini, Roberto 'Sanz' Sanchez
2003 – 103 minutes
Rated: Rated PG-13 (for violence, language, and some sensuality).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, June 7, 2003.

"The Fast and the Furious," a surprise hit in 2001 that made over $140-million, was a pure B-movie through and through that happened to have an A-movie's budget and production values. It was cheerfully trashy, intermittently exciting and plodding, and didn't have much of a brain in its head. As the summer of 2003 is quickly making abundantly clear, where there's money to be made there's a sequel waiting in the wings.

"2 Fast 2 Furious"—a hideous, nonsensical title that one cannot keep a straight face while saying—doesn't just not have much of a brain; it lacks any apparent signs of a single brain cell. The screenplay, disquietingly credited to Michael Brandt and Derek Haas, is unintentionally laughable. In fact, the film may break the cinema record for the amount of times "bro" is uttered within its 103-minute running time, and that is one of its more intellectual choices in vocabulary. The plot is preposterous, making just enough sense to carry the narrative from one car racing/chasing sequences to another. The acting is often pitiful, some of the most embarrassingly amateurish to grace a studio picture since 1997's "Batman and Robin." And yet, the bread and butter of "2 Fast 2 Furious"—indeed, the sole reason for its existence outside of mere Hollywood greed—are the car scenes, and they are occasionally so pulse-pounding and professionally conceived they almost make everything else worth wading through. Almost, but as with the more coherent "The Fast and the Furious," not quite.

Paul Walker, the only major cast member to return for the sequel, reprises his role of Brian O'Connor. Once a law-abiding LAPD cop, Brian now lives in Miami, where he delights in being a part of Florida city's illegal car racing circuit. When he is arrested, the officers take a look at his colorful background and make him an offer he can't refuse: if he aids in taking down infamous, snarling drug czar Carter Verone (Cole Hauser), his record will be expunged. The same goes for Brian's ex-con friend Roman Pearce (Tyrese), whom he chooses as his partner.

It's all rather silly, which you would expect from a motion picture called "2 Fast 2 Furious," but not so much from acclaimed director John Singleton (1991's "Boyz N the Hood," 2000's "Shaft," 2001's "Baby Boy"), who has certainly seen better days. Singleton has either lost his edge in the last dozen years, or he came onboard the project merely as a way of making loads of cash. The latter is more likely, but still does not excuse his sloppiness in directing his stranded actors.

As Brian O'Connor, Paul Walker was bland, but passable in this film's predecessor. He was surprisingly effective in 2001's "Joy Ride," proving that he was more than just a blank-faced pretty-boy. Here, Walker has seemingly lost all semblance of acting talent, doing little more than spouting off awkwardly delivered slang phrases and looking as if he's forgotten his next line of dialogue. Musician-turned-actor Tyrese (2001's "Baby Boy") is a little better as Brian's disgruntled old buddy, Roman, if only because he gives off a few random sparks of charisma. Ultimately, he is still no match for the sorely missed Vin Diesel, the best thing about the original. Eva Mendes (2002's "All About the Benjamins") plays Agent Monica Clemente, working undercover as Carter's trophy girlfriend. Mendes probably fares best of all, which is to say that she isn't glaringly bad.

What "2 Fast 2 Furious" does have going for it are three exhilarating action sequences, spaced out in the first, middle, and last act. Director John Singleton, along with editors Bruce Cannon and Dallas Puett and cinematographer Matthew F. Leonetti (2001's "Rush Hour 2"), very successfully convey the dangerous, invigorating feeling of being in a car going 180mph, putting the viewer squarely in the driver's seat. Some of the stunts, including a death-defying leap over a partially raised drawbridge and another in which Brian drives in reverse through a sea of highway traffic, are awesome to look at and experience. For nothing more than a few jolts of excitement, "2 Fast 2 Furious" surpasses the cumulative visceral effect of "The Fast and the Furious."

Anyone going into "2 Fast 2 Furious" does not have any right to ask for a high-IQ screenplay and three-dimensional characters. It isn't that kind of movie, nor should it be. What audiences do deserve, however, is a story that at least attempts to be plausible and dialogue exchanges that feel natural and snappy. "2 Fast 2 Furious" must have spent its clearly large budget completely on stunts, pyrotechnics, special effects, and Paul Walker's paycheck, because the screenplay in mindnumbingly stupid and cliched. The outcome of such negligence is a summer movie that offers sporadic thrills and spills with nothing but dead air surrounding them.
© 2003 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman