The 2003 outing never quite manages to catch up to its predecessor, which boasted a freshness, star presence and revealing look at a new extreme generation of thrill seekers. Instead, it loads up on louder colors, cars and characters to distract from what’s missing under the creative hood. Yet for its flaws, this spirited sequel is fun mainly because it rarely takes itself too seriously.
With ‘The Fast and The Furious‘ Director Rob Cohen teaming with star Vin Diesel on ‘xXx,’ the producers opted not to wait on them to return and instead relocated the franchise to the East Coast for some Miami Mayhem.
Paul Walker’s Brian O’Connor was positioned to be the series’ main character from the first film so this was a test of the franchise’s viability centering around Brian traveling to various racing locales taking down some bad guys like a racing lone gunslinger.
After letting Diesel’s Dominic Torretto escape custody, Brian got kicked off the L.A. police force and relocated to Miami, where he is dominating the local scene with the assist of his friend/race organizer Tej (Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges). Here, he’s earned the respect of fellow racers like Suki (Devon Aoki) and has become Dom’s East Coast racing equivalent. Monica Fuentes (Eva Mendes), a sexy undercover federal agent offers him the opportunity to get his record clean if he takes down drug lord Carter Verone (Cole Hauser).
Realizing he needs a capable partner, Brian reaches out to his estranged friend Roman Pierce (Tyrese), a racer that’s every bit Brian’s equal with an attitude to match. Continuing my Star Wars analogy from the last review, Dom not being in the sequel is kind of like sitting Han Solo out of ‘Empire Strikes Back’ and making Lando the co-lead. Lando’s a great and necessary addition to the series, but he couldn’t replace Han.
Still, Roman gives the series a cocky motormouth that’s great for laughs in addition to giving Brian a longtime associate. Walker and Tyrese have an easygoing chemistry making it easy to buy into their characters’ history.
Interesting note, hip hop star Redman was originally cast in the role of Tej, but scheduling conflicts forced him to pull out and be replaced by Ludacris. Hope it was worth it for Reggie Noble.
Director John Singleton (‘Boyz n the Hood’) conjures a ‘Miami Vice’ meets ‘The Dukes of Hazzard’ feel. The Oscar nominated director was just starting to establish himself in the shoot-em up action field, but he proves easily up to the task. He provides an almost comic book film approach to the the racing scenes especially in the NOS boost sequences.
His director of photography Matthew F. Leonetti helps add to that larger than life visual with the sheen to the race cars and copious amounts of neon. It is Miami after all.
The film takes its biggest hit with regards to the stakes. Last time, Brian was conflicted with his growing loyalty towards Dom’s crew and his job, the consequences to the races were more severe and the outcome impacted most of the characters in some manner. Michael Brandt and Derek Haas’ script doesn’t offer anything deep to the characters.
Unlike some of the other films in the series, this one doesn’t hold up particularly well and that’s before factoring in TV shows that feature as much action and more complicated plots in an episode.
While it’s underwhelming after the promising start for the franchise, it does introduce two pivotal characters and makes for a brainless, fun action movie.
If the first film built the house, ‘2 Fast 2 Furious’ fills it with a greater emphasis on action and a less serious tone. The growing pains here were essential to creating the worldwide phenomenon the franchise would soon become.