Tuesday, May 1, 2012

2 Fast 2 Furious (2003) Review

2 Fast 2 Furious
2 Dumb 2 Dull

Oh, how much we miss you, Vin Diesel. Although Paul Walker's character, Brian O'Conner, was the true protagonist story wise in The Fast and The Furious, it was Diesel as Dominic Toretto that stole the show. He was aggressive, he was charismatic, but most of all, he had a presence that his costars lacked. Ok, so he didn't exactly display first rate acting, but for a summer popcorn movie that merely wanted to entertain its audience, he was great. However, the screenwriters have hit a stop gap with 2 Fast 2 Furious. Without being able to foretell that Vin would become so popular in the role, Dom was written out of the story and is on the run from the cops. So now the filmmakers had to find a replacement character to compliment O'Conner. Enter Tyrese Gibson.

Plot Synopsis: After being on the run for aiding Dom in his escape, Brian has migrated from Los Angeles to Miami and is now fully integrated into the underground racing leagues.  After winning a race though, the cops show up on the scene and take Brian into custody. Rather than putting him in jail, the cops reveal that they have been trying to take down a crime boss, Carter Verone, who recruits underground racers so that they can smuggle drugs for him in their cars. Brian agrees to go undercover in Verone's organization, but under one condition; he gets to pick his own partner. He meets up with his old friend Roman Pearce, who, although he’s bitter towards Brian for getting him sent to jail for two years, reluctantly agrees. Also helping out Brian and Roman is Monica, another mole in Verone's organization who can get them inside.


One of the problems I have with 2 Fast 2 Furious, which you can probably guess from the plot, is that the car culture built up in the first movie has been sidelined to focus on the crime elements in the sequel. Rather than being a car movie with a crime thread, this is a crime movie with a car thread. There's still plenty of races and chases to be had here, but they only seem to serve the story rather than actually be the story (usually that would be a good thing, but it doesn't work here). Another issue is with the races themselves. Although director John Singleton (Boyz 'n the Hood) employs many of the same visual tricks that Rob Cohen used in the original, the races lack the kinetic energy and punch that would have given them impact. The main culprit for this is Singleton's habit of focusing on the drivers and the shifting gears, rather than the actual cars, especially during the opening race. Another reason for this is that the movie tends to rely on CGI for many of the more dangerous and outlandish stunts, creating more of a cartoon than a legitimate, grounded feeling.

So Paul Walker is back as Brian O'Connor, and if you have seen any of his other roles then you know what to expect. Walker is bland, incredibly stiff with his dialogue, and rarely shows any form of emotion or excitement. And since he's now "officially" the main protagonist, the results are disastrous. Tyrese Gibson is surprisingly good as Roman. He is funny and alive, while Walker seems dead and dull. Tyrese may not have the presence of Diesel, but the character is an adequate replacement. Speaking of a lack of presence, Cole Hauser as Carter might be one of the least intimidating villains in recent memory. One area where there does seem to be improvement though is in the casting of the female roles. Although Devon Aoki feels thrown in as one of Brian's racing friends, it's Eva Mendes as Monica that takes the cake. I would take her over Michelle Rodriguez and Jordana Brewster any day.

2 Fast 2 Furious may have some of the same ingredients that made the original such a guilty pleasure, but it doesn't handle them well enough to elevate the material from being mediocre to being passable entertainment.


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