2 Fast 2 Furious (2003)
Written by Michael Brandt & Derek Haas
Directed by John Singleton
Former LAPD Brian O’Conner is on the run since he let Dominic Toretto escape at the conclusion of the first film. He’s living in Miami (using his given name instead of an alias bizarrely) and makes a living participating in illegal street racing. Tej Parker (Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges) is the local organizer of all things racing and has a relationship in good standing with Brian. Brian’s life on the run comes to a quick end when the FBI brings him and offers a deal: they will drop all charges against the rogue cop if he helps them take down Argentine drug lord Carter Verone. Brian agrees, but on one condition, he gets to bring in his childhood friend Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson). The two are paired with undercover agent Monica Fuentes (Eva Mendes) and begin their mission to take down Verone.
Before watching this film, I tracked down the six-minute “Turbo Charged Prelude” that is a glorified music video with shit editing that seems to consist of scene after scene of Paul Walker shaking people’s hands. This is all done to only show us that he is in Miami now, not Los Angeles.
I began to feel a sinking feeling while watching the credits of this movie and noticing Vin Diesel was billed neither first or second. Then there was the quick realization that he wasn’t going to be in this film, that I was stuck with another vehicle (pun intended) for Paul Walker, the worst part of the first movie. I guess Vin Diesel thought he was above the franchise at the time or scheduling didn’t permit him to participate. Well, his absence was painfully noted. Instead, we get Tyrese Gibson for Walker to play off of who, while not as charismatic as Diesel was at this time, is still much better than the “star” of the movie.
The first race gave me shades of the first race in The F & The F with its reliance on lots of green screen and CG. It reached a point that I started having memories of The Wachowskis’ Speed Racer, a film I really love but not the sort of aesthetics I expected out of a movie in this franchise. The first race also consists of some one-dimensional supporting characters, Suki (Devon Aoki) being the main one who will act as a supporting cast member for the rest of the film. Aoki is to her role what Walker is to his, very flat and dull. Chris Bridges is a little more entertaining as Tej, but none of the background players actually sing in this picture. They are better than the three white dudes in Toretto’s crew from the first movie, but that ain’t saying much.
Also, was no one else really put off by a racing sequence where a blonde white dude with little street racing experience just schools three people of color in a competition it’s implied they have grown up participating in? There’s sort of an awkward message of “white people are just great at everything” buried in the subtext that’s a bit upsetting.
Character actor James Remar pops up as an FBI agent. You probably know him from Dexter or Sex and The City. He is fine, but still nothing outstanding. I was happy to see Thom Barry as Agent Bilkins return in this film. He has the best scene in the movie. Brian enters the room and sees Bilkins wearing a pretty gaudy Hawaiian style shirt. He proceeds to sarcastically say, “Nice shirt” to which Bilkins delivers the most nonchalant and unphased, “It’s my day off.” The scene continues with no further comment. It’s such an odd aside in the middle of this film that is taking itself way too seriously. You can imagine my dismay when search “Agent Bilkins” to see how many more of these films he will pop up in and I found this was it. The first two. No more. Talk about a missed opportunity. I did notice he started on CBS’ Cold Case around this time and was in a total of 156 episodes till 2010 so maybe he was just unavailable.
The villain of the film is such a non-threat I started to forget he was in the movie. Cole Hauser is one of those generically attractive enough people that get cast in B or C tier films, and no one ever remembers him. With the Miami setting and the fact that this was 2003, I got the sense they were trying to cash in on the Scarface nostalgia that was pretty big in the hip-hop community at the time. There’s a scene where a dirty copy on Verone’s payroll (played by career dirty cop actor Mark Boone Junior) has a rat place on his chest, covered with a metal pail, which in turn is heated up with a blowtorch. The hook here is that the rat will burrow through his chest if he doesn’t answer questions. With the movie being rated PG-13 nothing actually happens.
There’s a ton of Miami PD cars that crash in the big finale, and that reminded me of Smokey & The Bandit and Live and Let Die. The overall plot of the film and generic villain reeked of Cannon Films from the 1980s. It felt like a bad guy Robert Davi would have played better and more menacingly. When Verone threatens Monica about ever talking to another man again, there was zero guile in the delivery. Even Eva Mendes looked underwhelmed.
My limited knowledge tells me that Roman Pearce and Tej are going to become part of the eventual Avengers-style racing crew in future films. I can’t recall seeing Eva Mendes associated with these films later but who knows. I really hope Devon Aoki bowed out after this one. I also wished the series had gone on without Paul Walker, but well…
My predictions for the next film:
Well, I think I know a little more about this one. It’s Tokyo Drift, and I remember seeing this trailer in the theater at the time. It stars Lucas Black who I knew from his role as a kid on American Gothic, a very short-lived Southern Fried Twin Peaks…but not really. I think…Tej is Tokyo Drift? And maybe Roman Pearce. For some reason, I think Johnny Tran from the first film pops up? All I know is this kid comes to Tokyo and learns how to drift race. And now there are hundreds of video games, Mario Kart included, where you have to drift all the damn time. I know Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, and Jordana Brewster return at some point…maybe in the fourth film? See you next time with The Fast & The Furious: Tokyo Drift.