For a franchise that is essentially driven by Vin Diesel, it is extraordinary in retrospect to see that the series pinned its hopes on the charm of Paul Walker for its first sequel. Retroactively looking at their careers, there was little between them; they both had their fair share of successes and flops, but Diesel’s slightly tedious posturing led to him being erased from not only this, but his fairly obnoxious xXx (2002 – Rob Cohen) franchise.
To add salt to the wound, the absence of Diesel is barely made explicit in 2 Fast 2 Furious; but implicitly, the film has to accommodate his non-appearance. To achieve this, the film repositions Paul Walker; he is given a more adventurous past, one where he regularly broke the law and mixed in racially diverse circles. It is a far cry from the gentleman of the first film who offered to wash the dishes. The film also re-orientates his choice at the end of The Fast and the Furious; where once it was the discretion of a man in love with his criminal friend who gave him acceptance, it now was the decision made by an individual atoning for past mistakes (specifically his inability to defend Roman Pearce in his time of need). In doing so, O’Conner’s origin story moves closer to Toretto’s – this will become self-evident once O’Conner starts driving a similar Dodge Charger to Toretto. The series will make a habit of altering and deepening its characters as it progresses; see the fuck buddy dynamic of Letty and Toretto become a passionate romance without any on-screen evidence.
Many of the key qualities of the franchise become apparent in this film. The Day-Glo neon colour scheme moves to the forefront. Fantastical high-tech equipment is employed without explanation. The series demonstrates its disregard for the profession of acting in its continual employment of models and rappers in supporting roles (this is a policy that pays off as much as it fails). And for the first time, the film has a clearly identifiable bad guy. With his stomach-tunnelling rat scene, Cole Hauser positions himself as a villain in the James Bond tradition; the causal cruelty he employs in a Miami milieu bring to mind Robert Davi in Licence to Kill (1989 – John Glen).
The addition of the aforementioned Tyrese Gibson as Roman Pearce is endearing; he is a subversive presence within the films, causally undermining the seriousness of the situations he is in through his inability to comprehend the scale of the heists he is participating in. Everything is a surprise to him. Later, he will prove to be one of the strongest members of the supporting cast, but here he unfortunately takes on many of the tropes of the black best friend; he is angry, he adds an urban authenticity to the white male lead, he is comical and overtly and inappropriately sexual in social situations. It is an unfortunate element to a series that is for the most part racially progressive. This film features some colour-blind romances. In itself a good thing, but rightly or wrongly, these relationships are rarely simplistic in the real world, and the film fails to deal with any implicit or explicit issues.
Singleton directs with little sense of adventure and only really comes to life during the car chase scenes (of which there are far more than its predecessor). He understands that the wide frame is highly effective when showing a driver behind the wheel of a car. He uses CGI more cautiously, using it to subtly shift the frame between vehicles during the chase sequences rather than employ hard cuts. The camera zooms and swirls between the different vehicles. 2 Fast 2 Furious ups the chase sequences from the first film, largely by employing more vehicles. There is an astonishing scene where dozens of cars swarm out of a garage to confuse the pursuing police force, and Singleton wilfully treats police cars as cannon fodder, smashing and crashing them together in a way that recalls John Landis’ gleeful The Blues Brothers (1980).
It’s unavoidable that this sequel isn’t as strong as the first film. Thematically, is dilutes the exploration of family and acceptance into a rather superficial demonstration of the necessity of mending broken friendships. There are many things that distract you; Paul Walker’s appalling short-sleeve shirts and white-boy-pretending-to-be-tough walk. And it features a scene set at what is clearly the worst club in the world (and I’ve been to Zens). But with its plethora of engaging car chases, it’s an enjoyable entry in the series.
Fast & Furious rankings:
- The Fast and the Furious
- 2 Fast 2 Furious
- Turbo Charged Prelude