2 Fast 2 Furious

Robin Clifford
Robin Clifford 
2 Fast 2 Furious
Laura Clifford
Laura Clifford 
Speed. It's an intoxicating elixir that is easy to get and leaves shattered lives in its wake. Brian O'Connor (Paul Walker), now a discredited cop, fell victim to its draw and is still paying the piper for his professional indiscretions. He may have a second chance, though, when the FBI tracks him to Miami and enlist his help to bring down the head of an international drug money-laundering cartel, Carter Verone (Cole Hauser). Brian, with the aid of his childhood friend, ex-con and fellow speed freak Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson), risks their lives as they take on the task of busting the kingpin and the pair are "2 Fast 2 Furious."

Sequels to successful action films are usually a cookie cutter continuation of the original with more of the same wham, bam, thank you, ma'am but with little thought given to director and writers and too much given to the stars. When "The Fast and the Furious" hit the streets a couple of years ago, it propelled Vin Diesel to the A-list of actors and that fame put the kibosh on his return to the "F&F" sequel. Without that star's power, the producers of "2 Fast 2 Furious" could not put their follow up effort into just any hands and made a smart decision in hiring John Singleton to direct.

Singleton, working with a script by Michael Brandt and Derek Haas (from their story with Gary Scott Thompson who co-wrote the original), doesn't come up with the expected sequel. "2F2F" follows the life of Brian O'Connor as he tries to make a like after losing his badge. You'll remember, at the end of "F&F," O'Connor went against his policeman ethics and helped his assignment, Dominic Toretto (Diesel), to escape the clutches of the law. This misplaced friendship forced his dismissal from the force and he relocates to Miami where he gets his buddy Tej (Chris "Ludacris" Bridges) to broker street races for him, just to make a few speed-related bucks. At the end of one particularly hair-raising race, Brian gets busted and is hauled before US Customs agents Bilkins (Thom Barry) and Markham (James Remar). In short order, a deal is made and O'Connor agrees to go undercover, once again, but only under his terms.

Brian demands that his old friend Roman Pearce, a paroled ex-con on an ankle tether that restricts his movement, be assigned as his undercover partner. Roman blames Brian for his 3-year incarceration but, with the promise of a cleaned up rap sheet, he agrees. The Feds accept this duo and supply them with a pair of tricked up pocket rocket cars as part of their cover. With the help of a deep cover agent, Monica Fuentes (Eva Mendes), they inveigle themselves into Verone's organization and are chosen to haul a huge amount of drug-related cash in their hot cars. But a lot depends on getting past local cops on the lookout, a mistrusting Verone and some questionable support from Customs Agent Markham. Ultimately, it all depends on Brian and Roman's smarts and a little help (well, a lot of help) from Tej and the Miami Street racers.

"2 Fast 2 Furious" is not going to garner any Oscars for acting, which is pretty lightweight all around. But, Singleton does get a relaxed, assured performance from Paul Walker, especially compared to the original. The real pleasure is the perf by Tyrese Gibson (credited as just Tyrese in the credits) who made a real splash in his debut in Singleton's "Baby Boy." The young actor has an attitudinal presence that allows him to steal the show whenever on screen. Eva Mendes is a beautiful young lady with the sultry, exotic looks of Gina Gershon but the actress never elevates her character above one dimension. The rest of the supporting cast is decent with Bridges having some fun with his Tej persona. Diminutive Devon Aoki is cute as a button as Brian's friend and fellow racer Suki. Thom Barry plays a good good-cop as the kindly Customs agent Bilkins. James Remar, as the bad cop character is merely a thorn in the side of the film's heroes and, more than once, almost screws things up completely.

The production is, in a word, slick. The numerous races and chases are done with lots of noise and energy and are geared to entertain. Cinematographer Matthew F. Leonetti does a fine job, early on, of capturing the action as the racers match wits and metal for the big win. Later, things are more straightforward and familiar as dozens of Miami police cruiser take chase after Brian and Roman. The numerous crashes and smashes remind me of a combination of "The Blues Brothers" and "Smokey and the Bandit." The cars of "2F2F," ranging from state-of-the-art rice burners to good old American muscle cars like a vintage Chevy Camaro and an equally gorgeous Plymouth Challenger, are characters in the film, too. The kids who crave fast cars and furious races are going to like "2F2F" very much.

Fortunately, "2 Fast 2 Furious" is not just a more-of-the-same sequel. It has an energy of its own that allows it to stand on its own two feet. Or, is that "on its own four tires"? I give it a B.

Brian O'Connor (Paul Walker, "The Fast and the Furious") has embraced speed and the world of street racing he entered on an undercover job that cost him his badge, but the law tracks him down in Florida and blackmails him into a new job. Brian makes one demand - that he pick his own partner - and collars childhood friend Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson, "Baby Boy"), who still has a chip on his shoulder for a bust Brian didn't prevent.  They're "2 Fast 2 Furious."

Director John Singleton takes over the reigns from Rob Cohen and delivers a sequel that's lighter on its feet than its predecessor.  Singleton's "Baby Boy" discovery, Tyrese, steps on the gas and leaves former star Diesel in the dust.  "2 Fast 2 Furious" is fresh, fast and funny.

The movie with two 2s in its title features a number of pairs.  Bad cop Agent Markham (James Remar, HBO's "Sex and the City") wants results at any cost while good-natured cop Bilkins (Thom Barry, "The Fast and the Furious") accompanies Brian to pick up 'Rome' at a crash car derby.  Once they humorously work out their differences, they're presented to drug lord Carter Verone (Cole Hauser, "White Oleander") as potential drivers by undercover agent Monica Clemente (Eva Mendes, "Training Day") who may or may not be sleeping with the enemy.  They pass an outrageous audition, but remain tailed by Verone's two witless goons and continue to cross paths with the losing auditioning duo they dub Fonzi and Fabio.  Tensions mount as Roman's mouth vies with Brian's yen for Monica as the Achilles heel which will potentially be their undoing.  Screenwriters Michael Brandt and Derek Haas toss out the cliches and attempted weightiness of "The Fast and the Furious" and replace them with repartee and quick-paced action.

The film is studded with numerous racing and chase sequences, masterfully shot by DP Matthew F. Leonetti ("Rush Hour 2"), whose camera can lovingly caress a car from fender to fender before it explodes out of his frame in a blast of speed.  O'Connor's entrance is a great visual, his car snorting steam like a bronco entering the ring. Cars shoot off bridges, barrel down highways backwards, get crushed under trucks and, in what may be a backhanded swipe at Diesel's silly "xXx" set piece, race a boat.  The Japanese sports vehicles of the original are joined here by such classic American models as the Dodge Challenger, a mechanical melting pot that reflects the film's interracial cast.

Walker is much more engaging with his second portrayal of O'Connor.  He radiates confidence, turning on the sex appeal with the ladies and a swagger with the jocks.  Walker also has chemistry with new costar Tyrese, who is thoroughly entertaining as a perpetually hungry wiseass.  Tyrese may have fallen into acting, but he's already showing range as Roman Pearce is an entirely different animal from the sullen Jody of "Baby Boy."  Tyrese also shares a soundtrack selection with Ludacris who makes his fiction feature debut as Tej, the grand master of all Southern Florida racing events. He's a natural as a cocky showman and good buddy.  Model Devon Aoki also debuts as Suki, a feisty female racer who keeps company with Tej when she's not blowing by the guys in her custom pink racer.  Mendes doesn't get to do too much besides act tough and look pretty but Hauser is a sleekly lethal villain.  Smaller roles are nicely inhabited by Jin Auyeung as Jimmy the mechanic, "Memento's" Mark Boone Jr. as a detective on the take and Barry as teddy bearish Bilkins.  Remar, unfortunately, only plays one note.

"2 Fast 2 Furious" is a slick B movie that goes down like an ice cold draft beer on a hot summer day.

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