Directed by John Singleton
Written by Michael Brandt & Derek Haas
What!? Seriously!? The producers watched The Fast and the Furious and seriously thought to themselves, “That Paul Walker, he’s the star, let’s build the next movie around him and leave Vin Diesel out of it completely.” Unbelievable! Well, at least we know eventually Dom will make his return, but I can’t say I’m a little perplexed by his absence in the sequel after how much he owned the first movie. To their credit, the producers did seem to manage to realize that the grounded crime/thriller aspect of the first film was also a large indicator of its success, and works to rework the formula slightly here for the follow up, while also bringing in a solid filmmaker in John Singleton to direct.
Brian O’Connor (Paul Walker), after letting Toretto go at the end of the previous film, has relocated to Miami, where he has struck up a friendship with garage owner Tej (Ludacris), and occasionally races the streets. When US Customs comes calling with an offer to expunge his lack of action against Toretto, O’Connor calls on his childhood friend Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson) to help him infiltrate a drug lord named Verone (Cole Hauser), in tandem with already embedded Customs agent Monica (Eva Mendes). The cars are back, the cool is back, but can Paul Walker carry it all himself this time?
In short, no. Paul Walker cannot. Two reviews in and you probably think I hate Paul Walker, but the reality is Paul Walker is fine, he’s just not a great actor, nor is he a leading man capable of carrying a film, which thankfully John Singleton seems to realize as well, calling on a rather impressive ensemble to help carry the load in 2. Principly, Tyrese, who himself is certainly not a great actor, but his charisma can be compared to that of Vin Diesel in filling the screen in addition to his mouth, as there is likely not a scene he isn’t found eating something, which is the type of silly gag that makes me laugh. The rest, Luda, Eva Mendes, Devon Aoki, are all fine as well, rounding out a nice ensemble that works better together than it does as any actor on their own.
In terms of plotting, 2 Fast 2 Furious is a little stale and unexciting. And while The Fast and the Furious wasn’t creative either, borrowing a lot from a film like Point Break for instance, something feels much more mediocre and flat in 2. I truly think the lack of the Toretto family dynamic, the dramatic heft of Brian’s tentative relationship with Dom and Mia helped the original where the sequel seriously lacks that connection. It’s just another joyride action movie instead of being something more. The characters are all there to serve Brian being the hero, and as mentioned, Walker is not capable of doing that on his own. He needs the anti-hero of Dom, not a sidekick like Tyrese, as entertaining as Tyrese may be.
That gap is never filled, leaving a rather empty, pretty little thing with fast cars, slick rides, hot girls, and a complete lack of focus or stakes. I like characters from this movie, and I will be glad to see them return in later episodes, but I will not likely return to 2 Fast 2 Furious often if at all. The one thing I noticed in terms of the evolution of the series was that this film does go a little more over the top in the action than the original, which was largely grounded in some semblance of reality (save the cars driving under the semis, that’s not how that works). Specifically, I’m thinking of when they jump the car off the dock and onto the boat, or jumping the draw bridge in the first race. Other than that, there is nothing too crazy and out of the ordinary that I know will be on the horizon. So the movie is good for a few good thrills, but overall, the direction the franchise takes with the sequel is not a shining light of what’s to come.