Mark Reviews Movies


2  Stars (out of 4)

Director: John Singleton

Cast: Paul Walker, Tyrese Gibson, Eva Mendes, Cole Hauser, Chris "Ludacris" Bridges, Thom Barry, James Remar

MPAA Rating:  (for street racing, violence, language and some sensuality)

Running Time: 1:43

Release Date: 6/6/03

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Review by Mark Dujsik

Of the string of sequels making their way into theaters this year, I think it's safe to venture even at this point that I will be most surprised by 2 Fast 2 Furious. With its terrible title that follows the new trend of trying to do more than simply adding a number to the end of the original title (and doing more bad than good in the process), an opening scene that reminds us of the original's flawed visual effects and incoherent editing, and at least two or three overall steps down in the acting department, 2 Fast 2 Furious seemed destined early on to go the tried and true way of the dinosaurs, but color me surprised to find its story, effects, and particularly action to have a much great effect than its predecessor. 2 Fast 2 Furious trims down and tightens the elements where The Fast and the Furious failed miserably and in doing so makes its flaws so much easier to overlook. It's still not a good movie or a consistently solid action flick, but it is a big step up. I guess that's not much of a compliment considering what it is an improvement over, but take it for what it's worth.

It's been an undisclosed and indiscriminate amount of time since we last left Brian O'Conner (Paul Walker). Since then he's moved from undercover cop working within the Los Angeles world of street racing to becoming a street racer himself in Miami, looking for any chance to earn a few grand here and there. He's good, too, but that doesn't stop the cops from disabling his car's electronics with a neat little grappling device. Down at the station, the police discover his past, but an old friend comes to help him out. Agent Bilkins (Thom Barry) comes down and recruits him to infiltrate a drug kingpin's operation and help aid in his arrest. O'Conner's condition: He gets to pick his partner. There's only one man he can think of: Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson), an old friend from his early days as a cop. The only problem is that Roman, an ex-con on house arrest, thinks O'Conner kept information from him that would have prevented his arrest and subsequent hard time. He's able to overlook their past enough to tag along and consequently have his record cleared. The man they're after is Carter Verone (Cole Hauser) and their in is Monica Clemente (Eva Mendes), an undercover cop who may or may not have gotten too deep undercover.

The story is far more tolerable this time around, possibly because there's a lot less of it. Screenwriters Michael Brandt and Derek Haas (neither of whom had anything to do with the original) don't waste time in getting to the action, a virtue (in this case) absent from the first time around. The plot involves double and possible triple crosses, lots of suspicion on Roman's part, and lots of races and chases. The stakes seem much higher this time around. During a test set up by Verone to see who the best driver of the bunch is, one participant gets flattened by a semi truck. There's no walking away from that. Maybe it's also because there is a villain this time around and not just a faceless gang of thugs who only exist to advance the plot. There's nothing too special about Verone, but then again, he does have a bit of imagination, as demonstrated by a somewhat elaborate, slightly unnerving, and darkly funny torture scene. The relationship between O'Conner and Roman works too, although I wonder why Paul Walker is still allowed to make movies. Although watching Tyrese Gibson, it's obvious he's having a great time.

That's not to say the movie is without its noticeable and detrimental flaws. Even beyond Walker, the majority of the cast doesn't find its strength in acting. The cops here are more inept than seems humanly possible, and a federal agent played by James Remar clearly exists only to make problems for our heroes. There's also a scene where Clemente comes to tell O'Conner and Roman that Verone plans on killing them that seems entirely random because the plot is so condensed. That the scene is topped off with an arbitrary kiss between O'Conner and Clemente is only too fitting. But why focus on that when there's so much driving action to be had? The opening race is, as I said before, poorly edited and without decent visual effects. It's impressive, though, that the racers speed through the streets, make tight turns, intensely try to pass the driver ahead of them, and jump a bridge without breaking a sweat. And when these cars break out the nitrous oxide, they don't just go fast; they go into hyper-drive. Things improve a lot from then on out, and the movie ends with a chase through the streets of Miami that surpasses anything before it (meaning this movie and the original).

2 Fast 2 Furious is better than its predecessor, and even though it's only a few minutes shorter than the first movie, it seems much more so. It expands on the elements of the original that worked and improves upon the many things that didn't. I'm still not recommending the movie, but I doubt many will care; the original has its loyal fans (including a few major critics). For them, it's more beautiful women, more tough guys, and more fast cars, but now I know what was missing from the first: a blow torch, a metal bucket, and a rat.

Copyright 2003 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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