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2 FAST 2 FURIOUS

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Paul Walker, Tyrese Gibson, Eva Mendes, Cole Hauser, Ludacris, James Remar
Director: John Singleton
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: Universal
Features: See Review
Length: 108 Minutes
Release Date: September 30, 2003

“So what up, man? You ready for this?"

“Come on, man. Guns, murders and crooked cops? I was made for this, brah!”

Film **

If there was any movie of the last few years that was yearning for a sequel, it was The Fast and the Furious. The movie was perhaps the breakout hit of 2001, and its two stars, Paul Walker and Vin Diesel, had soared to immediate stardom. The movie was clearly a guilty pleasure if there ever was one, mixing in an action-formula plotline with some audacious sequences of street racing.

Now comes the sequel, 2 Fast 2 Furious, which despite its even more elaborate car chases and action set pieces, turns out to be something of a letdown in the wake of its highly successful predecessor. The two major elements missing from the sequel are, of course, Vin Diesel and director Rob Cohen, who were tied up in the shooting of XXX. I’m unsure as to whether their presence would’ve made any absolute difference, unless either had an opinion of, well, if the entire script should’ve been rewritten entirely.

The sequel switches settings from L.A. to Miami. Returning to the scene is Brian O’Connor (Paul Walker), who is no longer with the LAPD. It is suggested that Brian fled to his home town of Miami after letting Vin Diesel’s character elude authorities in the first movie. So stripped of his badge, Brian now engages in nightly illegal street racing for quick cash. That is, until he is confronted by Miami PD on charges leading all the way back to the events in L.A.

However, Brian is given one last shot to clean up his record, which is to do some heavy, and all-too elaborate undercover work. He is assigned to go in, along with the assistance of undercover agent Fuentes (Eva Mendes), to do some work for vicious drug lord Carter Verone (Cole Hauser), by accepting a job to do some heavy-duty transporting of a certain item from Miami to the keys.

Needless to say, Brian will need a partner for this endeavor, and he suggests looking up Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson), a childhood friend who has since grown to dislike Brian for becoming a cop. A big reason for this is the fact that Roman blames Brian for not being there for him when he got sent to jail for three years. Roman has also been granted his record being cleared for participating, and before long, the two go to work.

Of the countless chase scenes, the best one comes early in the movie when Brian and Roman, on their first undercover assignment, are first ordered to carry out a test in order to win their jobs. They, along with several other candidates, are required to race to an auto pound to recover a package in no more than 20 minutes. During this particular race, Brian and Roman, in separate cars, engage in a brief showoff contest on the freeway, while at the same time their opponents engage in crashing into other cars and getting severely crushed by way of a big rig truck. With scenes like these, you know the makers only had two words in mind; mindless trash.

It’s too bad that so many other moments couldn’t have been better developed. There’s no question that the fundamental problem with 2 Fast 2 Furious is the bland excuse for a credible story. Now it’s true that for an action movie, your plot doesn’t need to require so much as long as it’s got some things going for it in other areas. The way that this movie is set up is by way of chase scene, bad dialogue, chase scene, bad dialogue, and so on and so forth.

Look at Bad Boys II, a movie that I loved and all the critics eagerly loathed more than this movie. It had a basic action movie plot, which also happens to be set in Miami, involving a prolonged battle with a drug lord, and yet it boasted some of the most original and outstanding action sequences to ever blast onto the screen. It also had uproarious comedy on the side, something that this movie could’ve used a whole lot. True, this film does have plentiful car racing scenes, but not a single such scene can begin to compare with the jaw-dropping scene in Bad Boys II where a car carrier truck commandeered by thugs dumps various cars onto a freeway to take out Will Smith and Martin Lawrence in a speeding Ferrari. But then again, I still find Michael Bay to be the reigning king of action movies.

It seems a bit foolish to even begin to judge the acting in 2 Fast 2 Furious, since it’s clear no one is competing for Oscar attention. In the case of Paul Walker, who was quite good in the first movie, this is probably the most bland performance I’ve seen in a lead performance in quite sometime. He seems to be simply going through the motions, while repeating such lines as “How ‘bout them apples?” more than once, which not a good sign. Tyrese Gibson makes for an energetic and exceptional sidekick, while the best acting in the movie definitely goes to Cole Hauser, who injects a much needed dose of menace to his role.

So in conclusion, 2 Fast 2 Furious is at times 2 Excruciating 2 Endure. If it weren’t for the frequent racing sequences, this may have gone done as one of the worst films of the last few years. It’s clear that director John Singleton has seen better days. He’s a confident action director, but should stick to the more poignant material that made him such a unique filmmaker in the first place. The end result is one of those movies where to enjoy it completely, you need to kill off just about every brain cell there is.

Video ****

Since the original Fast and the Furious was a standout DVD release, it’s no surprise that Universal pulled out all the stops once again for the sequel, which results in a high-speed knockout of a disc. The anamorphic picture is one flawless presentation, alive with ultra-sharp quality and a grand use of vibrant colors. Every frame consists of superb clearness and detail, making this one of the better looking discs of the year.

Audio ****

Without a doubt, the best sounding disc of the year, thus far! It’s been a while since I came across a disc that would qualify as the ultimate sound system demonstration. The 5.1 mix on 2 Fast 2 Furious is one that truly takes DVD sound to a whole new level. Every single area of the presentation is at a full throttle level of quality, most notably the sound displayed in the racing scenes, which will engage you in a heartbeat thanks to this most superior sounding release. Music is very frequent in the movie, as well, and each instance of music playback is of the utmost dynamic. The highest of marks all around!

Features ****

Lots of extras to go around, starting off with the menu itself, which qualifies for the best use of menus I’ve seen this year so far. You get three menu selections, from the driver’s seat of three different cars from the movie, where you’ll find the same extras, as well as some additional extras concerning the driver of the selected car and the ride itself.

As for the main extras, this disc from Universal deserves the checkered flag. To start off with, there is a commentary track with director John Singleton, various deleted scenes, a gag reel (quite funny), a look at the stunts of the movie, an “Inside 2 Fast 2 Furious” featurette, a making music feature with Ludacris, animated anecdotes, Driving School with the Cast, a trailer for the upcoming Fast and the Furious video game, and an additional featurette titled “Tricking Out a Hot Import Car”.

Summary:

2 bad the movie couldn’t be as high octane as the disc. 2 Fast 2 Furious is an exceptional effort, but falls short of the quality of the first movie, as well as much better similar action fare.