Revisiting the Reviled – ‘2 Fast 2 Furious’ Shaped the ‘Fast’ Franchise While Almost Killing It

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Every week with Revisiting the Reviled, Sean looks at a film that was meant to appeal to geeks and failed, often miserably.

Once upon a time, the Fast & Furious movies were about street racing. The first film, The Fast and the Furious, was a street racing riff on Point Break, where an undercover cop gets so deep in an underworld that he becomes a part of it. Within that first film there’s only a seedling of the franchise that would wind up becoming the biggest and best in over-the-top action cinema. Among fans of the Fast & Furious movies, the general feeling is that the worst is either 2 Fast 2 Furious or Fast & Furious – I won’t hear your Tokyo Drift bashing. But Fast & Furious laid the groundwork for the escalating madness of Fast Five and Furious 6. 2 Fast 2 Furious, however, almost drained all the gas from the burgeoning franchise. And even though it did introduce certain characters and Furious tropes, 2 Fast 2 Furious is unequivocally the worst of Fast & Furious saga.

After letting Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel, who doesn’t appear in this film, the only Fast & Furious film without the big guy) go free at the conclusion of the first film, Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) has moved to Miami where he’s in the underground street racing scene. The film opens with Brain joining a late night street race staged by Tej (Ludacris), who barely resembles the character he would become in later films. The race is drenched in neon and every character is color coordinated. It looks Joel Schumacher’s Fast & Furious Forever. But it also underserves all the new characters the film has to introduce by having every participant in this race that isn’t Brian pretty much irrelevant. Worst of all, the race has so much dodgy CGI that it barely resembles any Fast & Furious movie. Nobody goes to Fast & Furious movies for CG cars.

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Unsurprisingly, Brain wins the race. His victory lap is cut short when the police raid the finish line. Though he makes a valiant effort to elude them, Brian is rounded up and delivered to US Customs Agent Markham (James Remar) and his former boss Agent Bilkins (Thom Barry). They offer Brian a proposition, a proposition that will be used in every even-numbered Fast & Furious movie – help them apprehend a certain bad guy and get a clean criminal record in return. But Brian can’t infiltrate the dangerous criminal syndicate with their agent who doesn’t know the difference between the schmeklerod and the transmusoid. In order to do this job, Brian needs Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson), an old friend from back in the day. With the help of the undercover Monica Fuentes (Eva Mendes), the duo will work as drivers for the vicious Carter Verone (Cole Hauser), a brutal drug lord.

Before Roman and Brian can be drivers for Carter, 2 Fast 2 Furious introduces another trope in the Fast & Furious lexicon with the duo having to race a ragtag group of ruffians to prove they’re the best. And once they’re in the gang, questions swirl around whether or not Monica has turned her back on the Feds and become the girlfriend of the villain. It’s all meant to the echo the first film, and is also echoed again in other films. Once we get the duo in the gang, the rest of the plot is rather boilerplate material without raising the stakes as later installments are so adept at. At the film’s conclusion, there’s this casual conversation that is meant to set up future installments that would never see the light of day.

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Director John Singleton attempts to make 2 Fast 2 Furious a highly stylized take on the first film. However, his stylistic choices come at the expense of the visceral thrills that the Fast & Furious movies are known for. The first race, with its heavy neon aesthetic, is mostly CG cars vrooming by. I don’t mind the poor green screen background for the actors driving – hey, safety first – but when the cars themselves are CG and not driven by stunt drivers, it is antithetical to the Fast & Furious series. These moments are regrettable and unfortunate. Yet Singleton still manages to sneak in a couple impressive car chase sequences, namely the big high speed pursuit at the end. Cop cars go crashing and flying in various directions. It’s reminiscent of The Blues Brothers in that way. Even these scenes suffer from having Brian have to remove some kind of claw weapon that the police have which can shut down a car. It feels like it all belongs in another movie. When real cars aren’t racing across the screen 2 Fast 2 Furious has nothing much to offer except some bad dialogue. The screenplay by Michael Brandt, Derek Haas, and Gary Scott Thompson has moments where Brain O’Conner says, with a straight face, “It’s getting thick real quick.” Yeah, that’s pretty damn thick.

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Even though 2 Fast 2 Furious is unmistakably a Fast & Furious movie, it still is the weakest of the bunch despite introducing and reinforcing a number of the series’ tropes. It’s a weird installment because I can’t think of any other film that was so influential in establishing the direction of a franchise without properly capturing or conveying what makes that franchise so unique. This is a movie that introduces characters that are now firmly embedded in the current state of the Fast & Furious movies, yet it took nearly a decade to reintegrate these characters back into the fold. Of all the movies in this series, 2 Fast 2 Furious is the one with the least amount of horsepower.

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