2 Fast 2 Furious exists for purely financial reasons. The way the first film ended did imply there could be more story to tell but one of the film’s stars, Vin Diesel, opted to not return for the sequel. With his character not featured, we also miss out on Jordana Brewster and Michelle Rodriguez. Paul Walker’s Brian O’Conner is back on the scene so we at least get a familiar face to carry on the franchise. The first film was a surprise hit in 2001 when it grossed $207.7 million worldwide on a $38 million budget so even if all the players weren’t in place, a sequel was inevitable but with the franchise being about “family”, it’s easy to see why this entry is the weakest because there isn’t really a cohesive family unit. There is plenty of action and the film is fun in parts but there is something missing and time hasn’t exactly made it a better film.
Brian O’Connor (Walker) is back. He’s not a cop anymore, but that doesn’t stop a bunch of Feds from getting him to work undercover. So, in order not to be alone, he recruits an old buddy, Roman Pearce (Tyrese), who has a score to settle with Brian. The two of them infiltrate the evil empire of drug czar Carter Verone (Cole Hauser) by becoming his drivers. Already in place is an undercover cop, Monica Clemente (Eva Mendes), who is playing the part of Verone’s mistress. Beyond that, things start getting murky. The ultimate point is for Brian and Roman to stay alive and deliver Verone to the cops. If they do this, their criminal records will be expunged and they will be free men.
I think the biggest issue with 2 Fast 2 Furious is that choice of director. Rob Cohen didn’t return to do the sequel (he decided to direct in Vin Diesel in xXx, which is one of the reasons Diesel didn’t return). Before we got Justin Lin for the third film, John Singleton tried his hand at the franchise and he’s not really a good fit. Singleton is a talented director and can tackle drama with the best of them (films like Boyz n the Hood and Higher Learning spring to mind) but he didn’t have a ton of experience with action at the time and it shows throughout the film. Some scenes work better than others (the opening race recalls some of the best moments from the first film and it’s visually arresting from start to finish) but a lot of the other action sequences range from moderately entertaining to generic. It’s interesting that 2 years separate the two films but the sequel at times feels a bit rushed and it’s clear a little more time was needed to make some of the action scenes pop a bit more.
The chemistry between Vin Diesel and Paul Walker was key in the first film and its absence is felt in this outing. Some actors just make each other better and it’s clear that was the case between Diesel and Walker. Paul Walker is likable enough that we care where Brian is headed during this go round but he can’t carry the film on his own. Tyrese is added to provide Walker with someone to riff off of and while they do have some chemistry, it’s just not on the same level as what was showcased in the first film. Their interaction is played more for humor, which does work at times, but a more demanding force was needed to make the union truly work. I will say that when Tyrese returned to the franchise in Fast Five they figured out how to use him effectively so it just took time and the right director to make it work. Also making his first appearance, before returning in Fast Five, is Ludacris and while he doesn’t have much of a character here, it’s interesting to see how much they would develop him in future installments. Eva Mendes provides the female quotient for the sequel and while she’s definitely easy on the eyes, she lacks aspects of what made Brewster and Rodriguez work in the first film. The writing for her is detrimental to her character and she’s not strong enough to overcome it. Lastly, Cole Hauser plays a villain straight out of the generic villains’ handbook. He’s supposed to be imposing but he’s mostly one-note and forgettable.
Despite my criticisms, the film does offer up 108 minutes of mindless entertainment. The film is never boring but it lacks the freshness of its predecessor. Judging the franchise as a whole, the film does feel a bit out of place in its overall tone and it’s clear that a little more time was necessary to get things back on track.
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