Movie review by Greg Carlson
In a way, it’s too bad that Vin Diesel, whose nearly instant stardom was based in large part on his performance in the original “The Fast and the Furious,” decided to opt out of the inevitable sequel. “A Man Apart,” which Diesel selected instead of “2 Fast 2 Furious” laid an egg critically and commercially, and the once touted “thespian” is quickly losing some of his box office luster. Yep, Diesel could have used “2 Fast 2 Furious,” and the movie sure could have used him. As it is, though, the follow-up manages to get by on the appeal of its pedal-to-the-metal driving sequences and the candy-colored rainbow of hot rods showcased attractively in its sunny Florida setting.
If one were to scrutinize the “2 Fast 2 Furious” story, by Michael Brandt, Derek Haas, and Gary Scott Thompson – and it is not advisable to do so – you might discover that the screenwriters have developed something that resembles a video game more than it does a movie. Characters spit out clipped one-liners in tidy sentences that seem like a bother amidst all the rocket-paced car chases. When the plot occasionally requires behavior approximating other films and television shows, “2 Fast 2 Furious” cribs more from “Miami Vice,” and “Smokey and the Bandit” than from “Bullitt” and “The French Connection.”
Very few of the original personnel returned for the second lap, but wooden Paul Walker (who must be genuinely glad just to be in any movie) picks up where he left off as former LAPD undercover officer Brian O’Connor. For those who kept score on the first film, O’Connor upheld the code of honor in buddy movies instead of his sworn duties as a cop, letting Vin Diesel’s Dominic Toretto escape following about a hundred minutes of some serious homo-erotic bonding. Now O’Connor whiles away his time in the Sunshine State, street-racing a silver and blue Nissan Skyline GTR with enough power to make hyperspace with the flip of a switch.
Apparently, the FBI doesn’t mind that O’Connor engages in a highly illegal and dangerous hobby, or that he was bounced off the force for aiding and abetting his one-time target. The feds just want him to saddle up for a tour of duty designed to bring down a powerful gangster named Carter Verone (ably, sleazily played by Cole Hauser – who has a real future if he sticks with this kind of role). Natch, our hero agrees, and insists on working with childhood pal and ex-con Roman Pearce (Tyrese, having a grand old time) in order to get the job done.
The rest of the movie essentially takes care of itself, with monster smash-ups and dizzying, 120 mph sprints consuming the majority of the running time. Leftover moments are devoted to O’Connor’s dangerous infatuation with gorgeous undercover agent Monica Fuentes (Eva Mendes), who has infiltrated Verone’s operation. Curiously, director John Singleton (a long way from “Boyz N the Hood”) chooses to downplay the sexuality virtually to the point of banishing it altogether. If you didn’t know any better, you might think that O’Connor was still carrying a torch for Toretto.
This review was originally published in the High Plains Reader the week of 6/9/03.