I recently saw and enjoyed THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS PRESENTS TOKYO DRIFT, part 3 in the FAST AND THE FURIOUS saga. And it reminded me that it was time I got around to seeing part 2. This one is closer to a straightup sequel. They couldn’t get Vin Diesel to return so instead they just follow Paul Walker’s character.
I know that probaly all of you have seen that first movie over a thousand times and have it memorized backwards, forwards and sideways, but in case there is one person out there who may not be familiar with the story, I want to help that one person out. In the first movie, Paul Walker is a new street racer in town who befriends Vin Diesel, who is the charismatic leader of a team of racers, but is also leading a gang of armed robbers or a chop shop or arms dealers or kidnappers or something. And a ways into the movie you find out that Paul is actually an undercover cop trying to bust Vin. But throughout the movie they have a special sort of male bonding – the type that happens between an undercover cop and his mark, or between two dudes obsessed with cars – so at the end Paul purposely lets Vin escape.
At the beginning of part 2 we learn that Paul is in Miami, where he is the king of underground street racing. And he’s a fugitive because of letting Vin go. I guess he travelled around helping people and racing cars, like the A-Team with a car instead of a van. But after the spectacular opening race he gets caught by the pigs. It turns out the FBI has a plan for him: if he will go undercover as a driver for this drug kingpin guy, he can get a full pardon. The guy they offer as a partner doesn’t know shit about cars, so he convinces them instead to let him use his childhood friend who now hates him because he blames him for his jail time, Tyrese. Tyrese is not a cop and they would also have to give him a pardon, so it is a good deal I guess, somehow.
Let me tell you, if you like stupid fucking movies like this, this thing is pretty remarkable. I think I enjoyed TOKYO DRIFT a little more overall because of Lucas Black, the Sonny Chiba cameo and the Tokyo setting. But 2 FAST is a must see for connoisseurs of ridiculous movies. And this has already been established during the studio logo, when the Universal planet earth thing turns into chrome, and then starts bouncing up and down on hydraulics. It’s hard to believe, but the iconic Universal Studios logo has been pimped.
Then we go right to shots of people getting out of cars and setting up roadblocks, lots of round female booties in tight shorts waving around like a carrot on a stick to get male members of the audience involved in the movie. We soon find that future Screen Actors Guild award winner Ludacris is some kind of P.T. Barnum of Miami street racing, he’s the promoter, the emcee, the referee and the mastermind who finds exciting new ways to do the races. (Later we find out that he does the same thing for jet ski races.)
Like in TOKYO DRIFT they took my advice and made the races have actual turns in them, on account of the fact that two cars going fast in a straight line is not cinematic. What’s great is Ludacris has some kind of connections or super powers so that he can empty out a huge portion of the city to create an amazing course. He mentions that there is a surprise, which turns out to be that he breaks into the control room on a bridge and wires it to go up so they have to jump it. For some reason the racers are not upset to have this life threatening obstacle thrown into the race without warning, and Paul Walker manages to actually fly over the guy in first place to take the lead.
Also I should mention that the other racers are pretty funny characters, especially the character Suki who is a petite girl who drives an all pink car and is lit in all pink, and she has a little monitor in front of her that for some reason shows a cartoon version of herself. When she has to deliver dialogue it’s clear she has never acted before, but she gets into it when she’s driving and yells things like “MOVE, BITCH!” When she goes off the jump she yells “SMACK THAT ASS!” Alot of the movie, by the way, is people in cars pretending to drive and saying things to each other that nobody besides them can hear.
Also there’s a part where Paul Walker skids around 180 and drives backwards in freeway traffic so he can flip off Tyrese.
The director is John Singleton, who has got to be the most formerly-acclaimed director to have ever made a movie even remotely like this. Remember, when he directed BOYZ N THE HOOD he was nominated for a best director Oscar. He was the first black director ever nominated (Spike Lee still hasn’t been, has he?) and I think the youngest. And now he’s doing a movie called 2 FAST 2 FURIOUS which he describes on the commentary track as “Girls and cars. Girls and cars. Girls and cars. That’s what it’s all about.” He says he based the race scenes on Speed Racer and video games. And he comes up with some sublimely ridiculous digital camera moves from car to car surrounded by motion blurs, or through engines into the circuitry of the GPS hidden in the car.
I like the plot because it’s mostly just a list of little missions they have to perform. To audition as drivers for this criminal, all these guys have to race to a car lot to steal a package from his impounded Ferrari. The biggest job they have to do for him is also a race, but they are racing the police (who the FBI for some reason can’t call off) as well as trying to outsmart the criminals and steal their money. Since the first one had a scene where Vin Diesel hung out the side of his car and tried to catch a guy jumping from a truck, this one has a scene where the cops shoot a futuristic electronic device into the side of his car so Paul has to hang out the side and pull it out and throw it into the front of a cop car just in time for it to go off and short out the car’s electronics. Also there’s a part where they do “some Dukes of Hazzard shit” and jump a car onto a boat. Which technically never happened on Dukes of Hazzard I’m betting, since Hazzard county is, I believe, landlocked.
The climax involves something like 100 or 150 tricked up cars flying out of garages and driving around to confuse the police. It’s one of those movies where everybody is willing to come together and risk destroying their cars and getting arrested to help out Paul Walker. And this you can understand because he seems like such a nice guy. I didn’t make a checklist but I suspect that at some point he calls every single male character in the movie “bro” at least once.
Speaking of destroying their cars, I gotta mention again that you can’t help but be kind of disgusted with these people for having cars like this. They try to establish them as low income individuals at the beginning, by showing Paul Walker in his apartment saying “you know I need the money” and another racer discussing with his girlfriend that he needs to win the race in order to pay rent. Yeah right motherfucker, your car is worth more money than I will ever have, I’m having trouble feeling sorry for you on that one. And then none of them seem too shook up about completely destroying their cars jumping off bridges and shit. Luckily, Ludacris runs some sort of charity and has a garage where they repair the cars. You never do see what happens though to the guy trying to get the driver job who gets his entire car flattened under a semi.
The screenplay pretty much makes no sense on any level. It is not clear why this kingpin guy needs good drivers so bad. All they’re really doing is delivering money, they’re not getaway drivers or anything. He is always suspicious of them, so it’s not clear why he doesn’t just hire one of the other people who wanted the job. Or why the feds couldn’t find an undercover cop driver who did not have to be pardoned. Or how it helped them to give him a partner who is also a criminal. If it was a cop to look after him, that would make sense, but letting him bring his friend along does not make sense. Also, for the big money delivery at the end the bad guy says he can only get them a 15 minute window where they won’t have to worry about police. But after that they torture Mark Boone Jr. with the old rat/bucket/blowtorch/it will chew through you to escape routine and then they only ask him for a 15 minute window. They don’t ask him for more. So even though he is terrified of himself and his family being eaten alive by rats, he calls in the cavalry as soon as the 15 minutes is up, because that’s the deal.
Also it’s funny how much of a “have the cake and eat it too” movie it is. Paul Walker is edgy because he’s a fugitive on the run but he’s a good guy because he’s working for the police again. The authority figures are a pain in the ass because James Remar from THE WARRIORS is always busting their balls, but on the other hand the FBI guy always stands up for them and laughs at their outrageous antics. The two thug guys who work for the kingpin are “stone faced killers” who always follow them around and threaten them, but then after being exposed to the magic of a high speed chase they all laugh and compliment each other and Paul Walker calls one of them “bro” and you get the joy of male bonding. But then right after that Tyrese still tosses one of them from his car using a specially designed nitrous ejector seat. And at the end, Tyrese is cool because he lies to the police saying there were only 3 bags of money. But then he impresses you because even though he was set to get away with it, he goes to his trunk and gets the other 3 bags and hands them over. But then also it turns out that both he and Paul Walker set aside some of the money anyway.
A few notes about the DVD: it includes a “turbo charged prelude” which is supposed to be a short film bridging the gap between the first and second movies. Strangely, they did the same thing for xXx2, another Diesel-less sequel to a Vin Diesel movie. Like the one on there, this one has all the professionalism of a porn movie, but unlike that one it doesn’t have a stunt double playing Vin Diesel so it’s not really funny.
Also, the menus are crazy. First you have to choose one of three cars, and then they drive around in computer animation. Then when you get to the actual menu part all the text flashes and vibrates and you can’t tell what you’ve selected, making it one of the most annoying menus I’ve seen, and also completely faithful to the tone of the movie.
Anyway, if you are the kind of person who can enjoy the type of nonsense I mention above, I highly recommend this picture. Another test: if you get a kick out of the title 2 FAST 2 FURIOUS, this might be for you, if it just makes you groan, you should probaly stick to some other, more tastefully titled movie.
VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.