The man clearly knows how to smell a stinker a mile away, likely aided by Sandra Bullock’s 20-20 hindsight essay, “The Importance of the Words `No, Thanks’ and Other Things I Learned From Speed 2: Cruise Control.”
But fear not, race fans, for Paul Walker is back as fugitive-turned-undercover-cop Brian O’Conner, who’s enjoying the illegal racing circuit in Miami when he’s tapped (by the very police he’s evading) to help bring down smarmy drug lord Carter Verone (Cole Hauser). And, when he’s asked to team up with a partner, he refuses his assigned driver (because, you know, as a wanted fugitive with a lengthy record, he has that kind of power) and selects his somewhat bitter old friend, Roman Pearce (Tyrese), to join the melée. Their job is to snag work driving for Verone, and they’re aided in that endeavor by a fellow undercover officer named Monica (Eva Mendes), who’s spent almost a year posing as Verone’s girlfriend and who’s dropped into the already fluffy story as a completely unrealized love interest for Brian.
In between the pesky plot are lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and LOTS of racing sequences, complete with gloriously flashy cars, deafening engines and bass-thumping hip-hop. I guess the producers asked themselves what appealed to audiences the first time around, and then took that element and multiplied it to the nth degree. Unfortunately, they forgot that the first film also provided more substance outside of racing, had compelling performances and brought something new to the screen. Here, though, it’s all racing all the time. Cars pony up to the start line, almost literally, at the drop of a hat...for money, for other cars, for jobs, for fun, to escape the authorities, whatever. Anytime they can race, they do.
Which is too bad because, as exhilarating as the racing footage can be, beating the audience over the head with it actually makes it tedious and seriously slows down the movie. Then again, without the pavement-shredding antics, 2 Fast 2 Furious would probably be about half an hour long.
Director John Singleton has said that this is his big-budget, fun movie (after more serious fare like Boyz ‘n the Hood and Baby Boy), but it’s not really so much fun as it is... loud and bright and shiny and hollow. Paul Walker barely has anything to do onscreen, save for furrow his brow, check his rear-view mirror and say the word “bro” more times than any human being ever should in the course of 110 minutes. Tyrese steps into the brooding, scowling, growling buddy role left vacant by Diesel, and does little more than those three things for the film’s duration. And Eva Mendes...where was she? She’s barely in the film, despite what its trailers would have you believe. There isn’t even a love scene!
There are pretty cars and pretty people in 2 Fast 2 Furious, along with some curious homoerotic subtext between its two male leads (Brian gets more physical with Roman than he ever does with Monica!) and a couple of genuinely impressive sequences. But if you want the thrill of street racing in a major motion picture, you’re likely better off staying home and watching the original on DVD.