by David Cornelius
The best thing about “The Fast and the Furious” was its title, which to me sounded kinda like a Roger Corman drive-in biker flick or a punk rock documentary. (In fact, it shares its title - but nothing else - with a 1954 John Ireland B picture about criminals and fast cars.) Everything else might have been crap, but at least it had a nifty title.Not so with its sequel, which somebody in some marketing department somewhere has decided to call “2 Fast 2 Furious.” It’s a title of unfathomable badness, and trying to wrap my brain around how anyone anywhere could have thought that to be a good title simply gives me a headache. I never thought I’d see a lamer sequel title than, say, “Teen Wolf Too” (or the many other “Too” titles of the late 1980s). But here it is.
"Never title a movie the same way a junior high girl signs her yearbook."
As for the film itself, it’s surprisingly not as awful as the original, despite the return of vapid pretty boy Paul Walker in the lead role. I mainly credit the mild increase in quality to director John Singleton, inexplicably slumming his way into the shoes of “Furious” hack Rob Cohen (who went on instead to make the crapfest “XXX”). I’m not sure why Singleton, a naturally gifted filmmaker, would opt to make a lameass sequel to a lameass actioner, but I’m grateful for his presence. The action sequences zing more than they did last time out, and there’s a looser feel to the goings-on. Singleton does what Cohen failed to do: he makes the racing sequences exciting.
Still, there’s nothing Singleton can do about the horrid screenplay (by Michael Brandt, Derek Haas, and Gary Scott Thompson, for those keeping score). The story, as much as there is of one, opens with our old pal Brian O’Conner (Walker) cleaning up at a street race in Miami, where he’s apparently been laying low the past few years since he left the police force. But he’s soon captured by the feds, who hand him a deal. They’ll clean his record if he helps bring down drug lord Carter Verone (Cole Hauser). (Don’t ask who cast the extremely Caucasian Hauser as a ruthless baddie who I think is supposed to be either Latino or Italian, and don’t ask why he’s doing what appears to be a Tom Beringer impersonation.)
Anyway, O’Conner - also now known as “Bullet” by street folks who realize “Brian” isn’t too tough a name - agrees to the job, as long as he can bring along childhood buddy/ex-con Roman “Rome” Pearce (Tyrese) for the ride. The feds, being as stupid as they are, agree.
With the help of undercover agent Monica Fuentes (Eva Mendes), the boys work their way into the employ of Verone. And how does one get in the employ of a notorious kingpin? Why, compete in a makeshift race across town, of course. It seems Verone’s planning on leaving town, but first he needs two very fast, very furious drivers who can pick up a load of drug money and deliver it within, say, fifteen minutes. (Why he doesn’t just have it delivered earlier by his own men is a question for another day.)
That’s all there is to the plot, really. It’s a thirty minute story padded out with a while lot of driving around. It was somewhere in the middle of the final car chase that I realized that these “Furious” movies are nothing more than the modern equivalent of “Smokey and the Bandit,” or maybe “Cannonball Run II,” minus Jamie Farr. There’s zero logic, hundreds of fast cars (many of them the kind with neon lights underneath, which they tell me is “cool,” although my gut says otherwise), and plenty of cop cars that crash into each other. All that’s missing from these movies is an uptight southern sheriff. Maybe Clifton James is available for the next one. Or G.W. Bailey.
All these car chase shenanigans are just fine, I suppose. I enjoyed the kinetic glee of some of those chase scenes, especially a predictable-yet-fun moment where O’Conner and company loses the feds among a jumble of equally tacky race cars. I also had a good time watching some of the supporting cast (including spelling bee loser/rap star “Ludacris” as a slick garage owner) goof around in breezy, good-time bit parts.But good gravy, the script is a sink hole for shaky logic, cheap action clichés, and horrid dialogue (a scene where Verone threatens a hapless victim with a hungry rat is downright laughable), and Walker’s such a waste of screen time, with his blank stare and clumsy acting, that he literally ruins every frame of film he’s in. Singleton, working on the same giddy anything-for-a-thrill level as his excellent “Shaft” remake, was almost able to make “2 Fast” the dumb fun number the original failed to be; Walker, however, drags everything back down to the unenjoyable level of the first movie. “2 Fast 2 Furious” isn’t quite as bad as its title, but it’s not much better, either.
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originally posted: 02/27/05 17:07:14