One might wonder, how could it get any worse for the "Fast And The Furious" franchise? The answer? Hire John Singleton to direct and keep Paul Walker as the star.
Kicked off the force for his obscenely moronic law enforcement choices, Brian O'Conner (Paul Walker) has relocated to Miami, and earns extra bucks racing his tricked-out car alongside competitors (including rapper Ludacris and the strangest looking professional model on the planet, Devon Aoki) on the empty streets of the city. Spotted by an undercover agent (Eva Mendes, "All About the Benjamins"), Brian is pulled back into duty to help bust a coldblooded crime lord (Cole Hauser, "White Oleander") and recover a wealth of drug money. Brian's old friend Roman (Tyrese, "Baby Boy") agrees to help out in exchange for the deletion of his criminal record. Given brand new souped-up cars to work with, Brian and Roman head off into the face of danger to help get their lives back on track.
I was no fan of 2001's "The Fast And The Furious." While not disturbingly awful in the grander scheme of things, "Furious" was nonetheless a deafening, carelessly made thriller that featured a cast of talent-free, pretty actors, led by a filmmaker way outside his element (Rob Cohen, "XXX"). It also gave birth to two careers that few wanted to see grow, those of Vin Diesel and Paul Walker. While both handsome and rugged men, they don't know much about charm or elocution, and they took the tiny bit of Blow-Pop allure to "Furious" down with them.
Now the dust has settled, and "Furious" came out a box-office champ. We are faced with the inevitable sequel, ingenious in neither execution nor imagination. "2 Fast 2 Furious" (IMDb listing) is a rehash, warming over a top-hat full of ideas that Cohen burnt to a crisp in the original. His replacement is John Singleton, notable for his 1991 cinematic debut, "Boyz N the Hood," and not a damn thing since. Since Diesel wanted big bucks to return, Singleton has brought in his own bald, muscle-bound actor, Tyrese, to replace him. The similarities between the two films are glaring and unabashed, and who can blame Universal for wanting the same thing twice. But in hiring Singleton, they didn't get the same product again, they got a version 10 times worse. Singleton has an even less deft eye than Cohen (if that's possible), stealing his ideas and trying to pass them off as his own. We get the green-screen assisted racing scenes again, more scantily-clad women of the night, another bad script (this time from Michael Brant and Derek Hass, who have placed variations on the word "bro" at the end of every line), and a return to the almost hardcore-porn-like details of the cars presented here. Like "Furious," the mixture is shoddy, favoring noise and idiocy--this film is a nit-picker's wet dream come to life--in hopes that the style and the colors will hypnotize the audience into enjoying themselves. The filmmakers employ a strong dose of comedy to ease the blow. It's reliably numbing for a time, but then you get to the scene where the James-Bondian crime lord uses a rat, a bucket and a blow-torch to make his point to a crooked cop, and the film officially enters toon town, thus becoming even more of a joke than previously thought. Singleton is in way over his head here, and his sequel veers wildly all over the map of quality. I already regret saying this, but I missed Rob Cohen's harebrained touch.
With his comedic braggadocio and his ability to form complete sentences, soul singer Tyrese at least has something to offer the film beyond Diesel's monosyllabic delivery and stone-like emotions. It's rather unfortunate the film didn't ditch Paul Walker as well. Walker is such a feeble actor, and "2 Furious" runs him through the silliest material, even asking this white-bred Californian to pass himself off as worldly urban. What a sight! Walker doesn't have too much bridge material from the original film to take part in, and his presence here seems to be needed to keep the attention off of Diesel's absence. The franchise doesn't need him, and if the movie gods bestow a "Furious 3" on the masses, here's to hoping they ditch him for the next ride.
"2 Fast 2 Furious" is not only a bad title, it's a bad film as well. If the first film attempted to be a sincere look into the street racing counter culture, this sequel is just a high-tech "Smokey and the Bandit." It accomplishes what sequels normally don't: it doesn't learn from the original's mistakes, and forms a whole new pile of mistakes in which to bury itself.
Filmfodder Grade: D-