2 Fast 2 Furious (2003) Retro Review

After handing Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) the keys to his 3-T-4 Turbo, Dual Wet-Shot Nitrous-Engage Toyota Supra, Brian O’Connor (Paul Walker) flees Los Angeles and the FBI. He takes refuge in Miami, Florida, earning money from illegal street races. When the U.S. Customs Service finally tracks him down, they give him a choice: Either help Miami police arrest drug lord Carter Verone (Cole Hauser) or do hard time. O’Connor agrees to go undercover as a driver on the condition that he can enlist his former best friend Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson) as his partner. Pearce totally hates O’Connor’s guts now, but soon the two are wheeling, dealing and calling each other “bre” again. Also, Eva Mendes plays an undercover Customs agent that loves O’Connor. Or maybe not.

So here we are. It’s 2003 and Vin Diesel says no to a second go at the Fast franchise. He and Rob Cohen decide to make xXx instead, leaving the director and supporting actor roles for John Singleton and Tyrese Gibson to fill.

If the series ended here, the criticism 2 Fast 2 Furious enjoys would probably be acceptable. It is wildly dissimilar from its predecessor, and much less polished. But the series did continue, and for a while 2 Fast was just an offbeat detour the franchise took on the direct-to-video road. Then Justin Lin brought Roman Pearce back into the franchise with Fast Five and suddenly 2 Fast wasn’t just a silly detour, it was canon. Character-building canon, as it would turn out.

Whereas the first Fast was primarily set in the yellow glow of LA’s nights, 2 Fast is primarily shot in the bright Miami daytime. This is the first indication that the tone’s a bit lighter. The second is the character of Tej, a mechanic-by-day and smooth operator by night (and concurrently by day), who also happens to be Ludacris. The third is the character of Suki (Devon Aoki), whose primary characterization is to be the hot Asian girl who wears short skirts and drives a pink Honda S2000. Whenever the plot putters out, one of them pops up to do something mechanical or bend over a car.

Nobody making this movie had any illusions about what they were doing. Cars go fast, drivers go vroom, girls are hot in Miami, and so is Eva Mendes. And that’s why I believe most of the criticism for 2 Fast is unfounded. It has a 36% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, which doesn’t really mean anything if you don’t care about ranking systems – though I was surprised to discover it’s the same rank as Tokyo Drift and even higher than Fast & Furious, which has the series’ lowest ranking of 27 percent. As far as Metacritic is concerned, however, 2 Fast is the most egregious entry.

So what’s good about the whimsically titled 2 Fast 2 Furious? Well, watching Paul Walker and Tyrese Gibson fool around with each other is fun. The chemistry between these two is completely different from the Brian-Dom dynamic – which is much more adversarial and respectful. The Brian-Rome dynamic is akin to you and your college friends just before one of you slaps the other in the face or farts in the other’s beer.

And then there’s the baffling romance sub-plot between O’Connor and Eva Mendes’ character – whose name I’m too lazy to look up because it hardly matters. I have no idea what the writers, the director or the actors were thinking by the end of this movie. It’s possible there was material left on the cutting room floor but how this all shakes out is O’Connor is clearly infatuated with Eva, she kind of flirts back, there’s a scene towards the end where she kisses him in his room like this has happened before, and then at the end of the movie she says goodbye and bats her eyes at him over her shoulder.

All of which only fuels the speculation that O’Connor’s real love-interest/rebound of the film is Rome, after being dumped/ditched by Mia and/or Dom. But such speculation is not the province of a lowly film critic. That’s what slash fiction is for.

As I will probably reiterate several times throughout this series review, Fast films really don’t have to answer to anybody in terms of plotting or substance. What makes them fun is that the characters, such as they are, are fairly consistent and the vehicular action is pretty good. They never claim to be more than that and for some reason, that’s perfectly fine with me. It could be Miami voodoo. I don’t know.

There is an undeniable exuberance to 2 Fast that is unmatched anywhere else in the series. (Tokyo Drift comes closest, but only in parts – the rest of it’s actually much darker than the rest, especially after what we learn at the end of Furious 6.) So much of what happens in the film is just plain ridiculous, bordering on cartoony, and there are vast stretches when it seems like there really wasn’t enough script to go around so they filled it in with races or the characters messing with each other (e.g. Rome steals a cop’s sandwich, BECAUSE F U).

There is one moment, however, that actually means a lot to the series as a whole. Towards the end of the film, Brian and Rome make peace with their past. Rome was busted for theft while Brian was gone to become a cop; Brian felt bad that he wasn’t there to help, Rome blamed him for reasons that don’t really make sense. What does make sense is that Brian confesses that his guilt over what happened to Rome factored heavily into why he let Dom go at the end of the first movie. It’s actually a pretty poignant moment, as far as Fast films go.

Why Brian doesn’t explain this to Mia when she asks him the same question in Fast & Furious is infuriating, though I can understand why he wouldn’t relate the entire events of 2 Fast to her in a three-minute cafe scene. It seems like a continuity error, but then she asks him if he’s a good guy pretending to be a bad guy or really a bad guy pretending to be a good guy. This is pretty much the dilemma O’Connor struggles with throughout 2 Fast.

A lot of fun in watching the series is in following the characters through their journeys. 2 Fast is a breezy little side story about Brian’s character in the same way that Tokyo Drift is a breezy and then depressing side story about Han’s character. But we’ll tackle that one in three weeks, since I’m reviewing these things chronologically (for those not in the know, Tokyo Drift takes place after Furious 6).

“Why must I chase the cat?”

2 Fast 2 Furious (2003)
Directed by John Singleton
Universal Pictures
107 Minutes

Fast and Furious Reviews
Part 1 – The Fast and the Furious (2001)
Part 3 – Fast & Furious (2009)
Part 4 – Fast Five (2011)
Part 5 – Furious 6 (2013)
Part 6 – The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006)

For more film reviews, check out Pierce Nahigyan’s Article Archive

3 Comments on 2 Fast 2 Furious (2003) Retro Review

  1. Even though I know “Need for Speed” (coming out this year) is in no way related to the Fast and the Furious franchise. I can’t help but think it was bumped into this year to compete with Fast… then when Walker passed, they were like, “well, I guess there’s no competition this year. RIP.”

    I would be interested if you do a review of that one though as well.

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