Some movies, like 1962's Dr. No with its soon to become iconic hero James Bond, beg for sequels.
The Fast and The Furious should have been left alone.
While the follow up 2 Fast 2 Furious isn't a disaster, it makes you wonder if this trip was really necessary.
The previous film made a star out of Vin Diesel, but he reportedly found his compensation for the sequel too puny. Similarly, director Rob Cohen also found something he'd rather do.
The original star of the film, however, Paul Walker is back as the undercover cop-street racer Brian O'Conner, but he doesn't project enough of a personality to make the movie interesting once the street racing stops.
The hokey script credited to Michael Brandt and Derek Haas does him no favors. This time around Brian has lost his badge and relocated to Florida, where he can still speed past any of his racing competitors. He can't, however, outrun the authorities, who cooerce him into helping them bust an especially mean dope merchant named Carter Verone (Cole Hauser).
Conveniently for the plot, Verone enlists street racers to carry his merchandise and his cash. Despite having an agent on the inside of his operation (played by the lovely but rather blank Eva Mendes), Verone still operates with impunity.
To help Brian maintain his cover, he and his mentor Agent Bilkins (Thom Barry, the only other actor reprising a role from the first movie) recruit a bitter demolition derby driver named Roman Pearce (Tyrese). Roman's cranky behavior might be due to the fact that he blames Brian for getting him arrested.
The case seems less like a case and more like a peel out version of a porn film. Most of the women do wear revealing outfits, but nobody gets naked here. Instead, any excuse, no matter how lame, is used to add a street drag.
When Brian and Roman need to counteract the Global Positioning Systems in the cops have put in their vehicles, the two bet their rides against two of Verone's henchmen.
This might be a wise move on director John Singleton's part because nobody comes to these films to see the story (which borrows heavily from recycled TV cop show plots) or the acting. Vin Diesel was a suitably intimidating figure in the first film, but Hauser has no menace to speak of. I've got bills that scare me more than this guy does.
Tyrese, who starred in Singleton's Baby Boy, is about the only performer who does anything interesting. I found his spoiled brat act annoying in that film, but here he's often quite funny because Roman, unlike the other characters in the film, appears to be having fun. After having eaten nothing but prison food and having been pushed around during his confinement, Roman eats everything in sight and revels in his newfound, if temporary, freedom. His is the only character that Brandt and Haas adequately develop, so when Tyrese stops clowning around, the film drags.
Some might accuse Singleton of selling out by making a popcorn flick instead of dealing with social issues like he did with Boyz N the Hood and Rosewood. My beef with this film is that Singleton wants to lighten up but really doesn't know how.
Singleton uses fewer computer-generated images (CGIs) to enhance the races than Cohen did in the first movie. While it makes some of the action look more believable, it also saps some of the giddy energy of the first flick.
With the CGIs, Cohen was able to set up some unique shots where the camera zooms from one driver's seat to the next. These shots are difficult, if not impossible, with conventional dollies and lenses. Some of these effects were a lot more convincing that others, but using them gave the first movie an "I haven't seen that before" quality its successor desperately needs.
Addicts to peel out flicks who have already seen the far more entertaining remake of The Italian Job 6 times probably won't be let down by this film. It's a shame that they couldn't have used those nitrous oxide tanks to soup up the narrative.
© 2003 Dan Lybarger
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