Combustible Celluloid
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With: Paul Walker, Tyrese Gibson, Eva Mendes, Cole Hauser, Ludacris, Thom Barry, James Remar, Devon Aoki, Amaury Nolasco, Michael Ealy, Jin Auyeung, Edward Finlay, Mark Boone Junior, Matt Gallini, Roberto 'Sanz' Sanchez
Written by: Michael Brandt, Derek Haas, Gary Scott Thompson
Directed by: John Singleton
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for street racing, violence, language and some sensuality
Running Time: 108
Date: 06/03/2003

2 Fast 2 Furious (2003)

1/2 Star (out of 4)

2 Little 2 Late

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The very smartest and stupidest of films have the power to shock and surprise us. They burrow into new highs and lows of intelligence that many of us never previously imagined. For example, the very smart Three Kings surprises with its endless cleverness just as much as Plan 9 from Outer Space surprises with its endless ineptitude.

The new sequel 2 Fast 2 Furious might be called one of the stupidest movies ever made, but that would be a falsehood. In truth, it's far too lazy to explore any new levels of stupidity. It's happy to simply loll around on the surface, recapturing already charted levels of stupidity.

It's a movie expressly aimed at 13-year-olds, just as Finding Nemo is aimed at smaller children. As part of this, the filmmakers assume ignorance on the part of their young audience; they bank on the fact that most 13-year-olds have not seen very many movies and will not catch on to the weary story mechanisms that are dragged out and put to use for the ten thousandth time.

It's also an instantly disposable movie, geared toward a huge opening weekend followed by limbo. The loud engine noises only work on the big screen, as viewers of The Fast and the Furious and XXX on home video will attest. I saw both at home; I hated the latter and lost interest in the former before it was half over.

Here's another clue for you: Vin Diesel, whose unfaltering taste in films has run from Knockaround Guys to A Man Apart, does not appear in this film.

The unfailingly bland, dull pretty boy Paul Walker returns from the first film as former undercover cop Brian O'Conner, who is now the best street racer around, as proved by the four-way race that opens the film. I'm not sure, but it's entirely possible that the filmmakers substituted a large pile of vanilla pudding for Walker in some scenes without anyone ever noticing.

O'Conner gets arrested after that opening street race and goaded into pulling another undercover job. As part of the deal, he needs to enlist a second racer, and so he calls on his childhood pal Roman Pearce (pop star Tyrese). Of course, Pearce has a grudge against O'Conner so that they can fight and bicker with each other for at least an hour.

After performing a test of our heroes' driving abilities, their undercover job kicks in: stealing a bunch of money for a half-witted gangster (Cole Hauser) and transporting it at high speeds to a secret drop-off point. The gorgeous Monica Clemente (Eva Mendes) also works undercover as the gangster's girlfriend.

None of this makes any sense. For one thing, even though O'Conner and Pearce are working for the cops, they show up in droves to chase our heroes through traffic. And why does the money need to be transported in race cars in the first place? Why not do it quietly and in secret?

If the plot makes very little sense, the dialogue by Derek Haas and Michael Brandt takes the cake. The characters constantly chatter on and on, mostly in an attempt to out-cool each other. It's all abrasive and antagonistic, like an endless, verbal pissing contest.

Worse, director John Singleton (yes, the Oscar-nominated one) keeps cutting to the inside of the cars during racing scenes and showing the characters talking ... to no one. He had the opportunity to convey the speed of the race, or to fetishize the cars, or for crying out loud, something -- and he insists on continually breaking the rhythm by going where nothing is happening.

2 Fast 2 Furious marks Singleton's seventh feature film, and by now it's clear that he was a one hit wonder with his debut Boyz N the Hood (which itself was overrated). He's taken to collecting huge paychecks and going through the motions.

To his credit, the movie starts out with some classic exploitation elements in place: gratuitous beautiful women in skimpy clothes, loud revving engines, etc. But Singleton quickly grows bored and after awhile doesn't even appear to be having fun.

Speaking of money, the original The Fast and the Furious was made by Roger Corman back in 1954 for something like $10-12,000. Like 2 Fast 2 Furious, it was an exploitation film, aimed at teenagers with disposable income. But it had a fighting spirit to it; it was an underdog, competing against the stodgy mainstream fare.

With a budget of $76 million, this new film has now become the stodgy mainstream fare. For that kind of money, Corman could have made over 6,300 racecar movies -- all of them better.

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