Taking place a couple of years after 2001’s box-office hit “The Fast and the Furious” minus Diesel and director Rob Cohen; After letting criminal Dominic Torreto go, ex-officer Brian O’Connor is now tangled in the gritty underworld of drag racing in which he’s now considered the best, but when he’s caught by police after a sting, he’s offered a chance at redemption to catch a vicious crime boss Carter Verone. He now teams up with his old friend Roman Pearce and the two must go undercover as Carter’s henchmen and prevent him from shipping drugs into Miami. I was not a fan of the original hit “The Fast and the Furious”, it was a tepid action flick with terrible performances and an almost unbearable plot that didn’t make a whole lot of sense.
This time around Paul Walker takes the reins and must carry the film without Vin Diesel who departed along with director Rob Cohen to film “xXx”, and it’s probably a good thing considering Walker must now depend on his acting to carry the film. This time acclaimed director John Singleton directs this, and I managed to enjoy this a lot more than I did the first considering this is a 107 minute long commercial for cars. In spite of it, I just enjoyed this film and had fun. I learned from the first film that this franchise shouldn’t be taken seriously and I just turned my brain off and sat back for the ride.
Right at the beginning we witness a race about to go down and, with a small miniscule role from popular rapper Ludacris, he calls over O’Connor to race which leads to an exciting opening car race. Now it was blatantly obvious the race was a ploy to keep the audiences attention, but it worked. The races in the film had something the first film didn’t: energy. There’s an immense amount of energy that Singleton injects to the film because he’s a much better director than Cohen is. The races are fast, exciting and I enjoyed every minute of it. The race on bridge was great and very intense.
Aside from that Walker is forced to carry the film considering Diesel, who, let’s face it, drew attention to the first film. But Walker actually manages to handle his lead role very well and is a likable leading man. His character is very determined and often is the one to make the smart moves in the film and rarely ever screws up. If only they’d change his wardrobe, eck. Not only that, but there’s a villain that is actually worth watching. The bad-ass Cole Hauser does what he can with the character Carter Verone, a sort of watered down Scarface except very intense.
He manages to come across as really psychotic considering the PG-13 rating slapped on it and there’s even some great monologues in which Hauser demonstrates his edgy psychotic shtick that’s always enjoyable. Anyways, we’re given a considerable amount of action, and crime movie material to keep the audience entertained and Singleton does good. His action scenes are fierce, his settings and camera angles sleek, and he’s not afraid to drift away from the original formula of entering the car’s motors as the race starts. It was a gimmick in the original I never cared for and it’s nice that he doesn’t rely on it. Aside from that there’s actually a villain in the film, and a good one. The original had the cliché of Walker getting involved with a crew and discovering that the crew he’s befriending are the very people he’s trying to catch, blah, blah.
But while the original’s plot wasn’t exactly innovative, I appreciated this plot a lot more. And there’s no love interest. That’s a major plus. The original had the tepid romance with Walker and Jordana Brewster which created the conflicted plot twist and so on, so I appreciated the fact that there was zero to no romantic subplot. Singleton is a rather big improvement upon Cohen who’s direction was only mediocre for a film that required sleek directing and Singleton delivers with some excellent direction for some great car races. Singleton who’s previous credits include the acclaimed “Boyz n the hood”, gives this film the texture and sleek glossy tone required for a Miami setting.
While the story and direction are much better and much more sophisticated than the original film that was an unusual success, this isn’t the brightest film in the bunch. We watch a story that’s been recycled over and over and done to death; it’s the usual story of an ex-con on the wrong side of the law forced to infiltrate the underworld and earn the trust of a crime lord. It’s been done! “Donnie Brasco”! Hello! So, we’re given a recycled storyline along with car chases, races, and pursuits that, while colorful and exciting, are just too loud.
There’s are a lot of cheesy one-liners they spout every second, and characters as paper thin and wooden as any. The characters presented in the film are also just gimmicks; there’s Suki the sexy Asian girl who hangs out with a gang of girls ala “Grease”, there’s rapper Ludacris’ character who serves as a sort of host for the illegal races, wise man, and oh so much more. Aside from that, there continues to be the gimmicks and plot clichés with Eva Mendes who is simply wasted in a miniscule role as a femme fatale who has an attraction towards Walker’s character Brian, but her role and purpose in the film is so predictable and cliché.
Haven’t we seen the femme fatale in films before? Especially with the plot she’s given. Mendes is only around to basically serve as eye candy, flashing her looks, and spout simple one-liners then exit the screen for long periods of time. Paired with the zero charisma and bland performance Paul Walker presents, previous charismatic supporting actor Vin Diesel is replaced with his poorest copy, singer turned actor Tyrese. He’s first introduced at his lot where he’s being held in house arrest but is racing cars in his backyard with people.
But it’s a bit of a stumper considering that “House Arrest” is the basic concept of one imprisoned in their house, and considering that they give you a certain length of feet you can go before your alarm is set off and the authorities are alerted, and it’s odd that they’d let a house arrest subject race cars. Regardless, Tyrese is a spectacle to watch. When he’s not acting wooden he’s chewing the scenery, when he’s not chewing the scenery he’s acting wooden. He’s a poor substitute for Diesel. Though I’m not a fan of Diesel and his acting, there’s no doubt that Diesel helped fuel the original film’s success, and Tyrese is simply awful.
It’s funny, all the time he was on screen I was thinking about better actors who could have played his role, actors who could have made this movie better, naturally charismatic actors who are good in every role: Larenz Tate, Derek Luke; but alas, Tyrese was chosen. He smiles a lot and attempts to act charismatic to make up for the lack of by Walker, and is just cringe inducing, especially when he attempts to deliver a poorly timed one-liner intended to be comedic.
He has zero chemistry with Walker and it becomes more and more difficult to buy that his character and Walker’s were childhood friends as they claim in the film. Oh, and he also takes his shirt off exposing his chest; a blatant and rather pathetic device to draw female viewers into a basically mediocre action flick. Tyrese hams it up with his horrible acting and zero chemistry up until the final scene of the film and makes the viewing experience more awful. Then there’s the lack of blood; sure it’s PG-13 fare to attract the young movie-goers but the lack of violence is so obvious, that it’s rather cheesy, especially the last battle with Carter Verone in which he’s only shot in the shoulder and taken down, and there’s not a lot of blood coming from his wound considering he’s shot by a shotgun. Regardless, it was a waste.
While this may not be the brightest bulb in the hallway, I accepted it for what it was: a dumb fun piece of action fodder. Much better than the original, leave your brains at home and you’ll enjoy the great direction, cool car chases, slick characters, hot women, and fun plot.