2 Fast 2 Furious
Director: John Singleton
Don't get me wrong - John Singleton has done some quality stuff in his career. He was the youngest director nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture at age 23 for his debut film Boyz N The Hood (which I've never seen). But I'm thinking primarily of Four Brothers, the 2004 Mark Wahlberg flick he directed, and Hustle and Flow, which he financed with director Craig Brewer. It seems to me like he suffered from the same greed of the writers when it came to this project - trying to cash in on a franchise before it completely bites the dust. Singleton tries to get flashy on occasion and flips the camera upside down multiple times throughout this movie, but it just ends up being annoying instead of cool. The rest of it (dialogue, street races, everything) is done without an ounce of originality - almost like a Brett Ratner movie. Everything is very straightforward and expected. The style from the first film has been sapped dry. I know we shouldn't expect much from a movie like this, but at least he could have followed the example of Rob Cohen and filmed the races in a way that makes it borderline-interesting for the audiences to endure.
The script, written by the quick rising duo of Michael Brandt and Derek Haas (2007's 3:10 to Yuma, Wanted), lacks all the elements that made the first film enjoyable: solid relationships among the characters, a slight sense of mystery, and races that actually mean something. Aside from missing these critical pieces, they seemed to have replaced them with tired cliches and an absoultely useless villain. Sometimes villains don't need to be as epic as Emperor Palpatine from Star Wars - just look at Taken and Statham's Transporter series. In these types of movies, it's more about watching the main character wreck henchman after henchman in new and creative ways; we don't necessarily care about a "final battle" with an ultimate bad guy (though it's a nice bonus when done correctly). Where 2F2F miserably fails is that it doesn't seem to understand this relationship and therefore gives us very little worthwhile action AND a crappy villain. Brilliant.
It would take forever to count all the cliches found in this movie, so I'll just list a few of the most unforgivable*. We've got the girl who goes undercover but is romantically linked to the bad guy, the Thomas Crown Affair trick with the scattering of cars at the end, the bitter cop who thinks they've all gone too far, and the infamous "ramp a car onto a moving boat." Some of these are excusable when separated, but add them together in the same film and you'll get disastrous results most of the time. Again, it takes a certain kind of movie to pull off ramping a car onto a boat. Starsky and Hutch? Sure, because it's fun and ridiculous. 2 Fast 2 Furious? This movie doesn't have the right kind of vibe to be able to successfully execute a move like that - they were pushing it with the "stare and drive" scene.
The film definitely isn't helped by its actors, who are about as interesting as a dried pile of sloth dung. On one level, it's not fully their fault - the script truly is awful, so they don't have much to work with. But on the other hand, you're getting paid to deliver lines - the least you could do is recite them with some conviction. Eva Mendes was dreadful in an early role, Tyrese drove the "angry black man" stereotype into the ground, Ludacris was almost unwatchable (as he was in Hustle and Flow), and Paul Walker lost the intensity he had in the first film. Without a comparably ridiculous presence like Diesel to play off, Walker falls short and the main hero of the story becomes an unlikeable character. Not to mention the fact that he committed a major crime at the end of the last film and the cops are willing to wipe his slate clean if he helps them with this mission, and then after they complete it, he and his ex-con partner STEAL MONEY and walk away. They do all this while referring to each other as "bre" and "cuh" at a rate of three or four times per sentence. Stay away from the ad-libs, guys. There was no chemistry between these supposed "old friends," and the movie suffered dramatically because of it.
As far as I noticed, there were only two original aspects of this movie. One, a torture scene in a club, features the main villain (some d-bag named Carter Verone) strong-arming a cop into giving him a "window" for his henchmen to race through to deliver drugs near the end of the movie. While the cop is held down, Verone places a live rat on his exposed stomach. He then places a metal champagne container over the rat, trapping it inside, and lights it on fire with a blowtorch. This causes the rat to start clawing and eating his way into the cop's flesh, causing a considerable amount of discomfort. Don't worry, he caves in and they let him go without too much bloodshed. But I'll give them credit for originality in that department. The second instance is in the form of an invention that doesn't exist - a projectile clamp that shoots from a gun and attaches itself to a car, shocks it with an electric jolt, and shuts down the engine remotely (pictured above). I'm not even sure such a thing is possible to build in the real world, but it seemed like it fit in well with the rest of the crap in this movie.
Overall, I'd say stay away from this flick and just watch the first one again. The new movie due out this summer, called Fast and Furious, actually takes place between this film and the next one, The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift. So at the most we can hope the series returns to the fun it had with the first installment, and at the very least we know there's going to be a cameo from Tyrese in it. Stay tuned for a review of Tokyo Drift next month, and then a review of the new film in April when it hits theaters. Until next time...
*These cliches aren't really unforgiveable - in fact, they're fairly commonplace. I just wanted to link to that video.