2 Fast 2 Furious — and 2 hours of my life I won’t get back.
I sustained hope for this sequel to the immensely popular The Fast and the Furious when I learned it had been directed by John Singleton. But from the moment the Universal Pictures globe transformed into a wheel being changed on a car — complete with pneumatic-tool sound effects — I knew we were in for it.
Upon seeing this, my viewing companion wisely remarked, “That’s it. I’m out of here.” Not so wisely, he failed to carry out his threat.
It was an all-too-accurate barometer of the level of creativity at work here — something like a cross between a trip to Goodyear and watching teenage boys with manhood issues popping wheelies in a parking lot. It’s clearly a movie designed for people who think driving consists of changing gears as often as possible in order to help provide a living wage for Amoco employees everywhere.
Oh, yes, there’s a plot — a plot with the soul of a TV movie. Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) has been summarily drummed out of the LAPD mostly because he let his quarry — the never-named Dominic Toretto (played in the first film by Vin Diesel) — escape. This seems to have resulted in a mile-long rap sheet probably put together by hapless reviewers who had to slog their way through Mr. Diesel’s A Man Apart and blame O’Conner for not putting the fellow behind bars.
For reasons that hardly matter, O’Conner is now living in Miami and picking up spare change by street racing. Then the feds move in on him and threaten to put him away if he doesn’t go undercover and help them nail the ultra-villainous Carter Verone (Cole Hauser, Tears of the Sun). Cocky O’Conner, however, cuts his own deal, demanding the partner of his choice — old buddy Roman Pearce (Tyrese, Baby Boy), who did time and now ekes out a bare living under very improbable house arrest on the demolition-derby circuit. The question then becomes whether or not they can pull this off and have their records expunged.
There’s not a lot of tension to be had from this. Naturally, the vacuously pretty O’Conner — has anyone in the history of film spent more time looking like he’s waiting for the director to tell him what to do than Paul Walker? — and the wise-cracking Pearce are going to come out on top.
Realizing this, the script has opted to cook up a half-assed sub-plot involving Pearce blaming O’Conner for his unfortunate incarceration. There’s not much more tension here, unfortunately. Not only is it all by-the-numbers, cop-buddy, sub-genre stuff, but the film drops the premise pretty early when Pearce suddenly admits he was responsible for his own fate.
There’s also the requisite love interest in the guise of another undercover agent, Monica Clemente (Eva Mendes, All About the Benjamins), who may or may not be on the square, plus much over-the-top villainy from Hauser’s Verone, who isn’t above a little rat-induced torture to get his way. (Somehow Bela Lugosi seemed more convincing by just sending a hapless victim off with the line, “Perhaps a few hours with the rats will loosen his tongue,” back in 1935’s Mysterious Mr. Wong.)
Of course, this is all merely an excuse for a lot of flashy driving in rather uninteresting cars. Is it professionally handled? Yes — though there’s some process work that wouldn’t look too out of place in the deliberately phony Down with Love. And this is such a science by now that it’s hard to be impressed by it. Plus, all of it looks tame after the absurd freeway business in The Matrix Reloaded — or even the multi-car accident that opened Final Destination 2.
It’s certainly noisy and silly and apparently shot by Singleton so that even the dimmest bulb in the audience “gets it.” The audience I shared it with actually broke into chuckles when Singleton decided it was necessary to tell us the money was in the trunk of O’Conner’s car via a trick shot through the keyhole.
No one expects high art from this kind of silly summer movie, but it’s not unreasonable to expect a higher quotient of junk fun than this souped-up bore.