In my review of The Fast and the Furious, 2001’s kickoff to the hyper-masculine car racing franchise, I supposed that somewhere down the line there would be some “sure-to-come shameless retreads inherent to sequels”. The series did not waste any time getting there. 2003’s 2 Fast 2 Furious isn’t necessarily much better or worse than its predecessor, but more like an echo. It hits the same plot points as the original (undercover policing, sports cars reaching warp speed, Paul Walker’s half-assed modes of seduction, etc.) with just a few basic casting substitutions distinguishing the two films. Sure, we’re blessed here with sex god Tyrese Gibson (who wastes little time in removing his shirt, of course) instead of Vin Diesel and a Chicken-N-Beer era Ludacris instead of the much-less-captivating Ja Rule, but the two films are more or less the same. The strange thing about it is that the repetition doesn’t feel like much of a problem.
It’s okay that both The Fast and the Furious and 2 Fast 2 Furious share so much in plot & sentiment because plot & sentiment are inessential to the films’ central draws: absurdly intricate action set pieces, a fetishistic love of sports cars, and charmingly dated ideas of cool. 2 Fast 2 Furious delivers on the action end early, opening with a ridiculous high speed drag race that features hooligans breaking into a bridge control booth to create a makeshift ramp. The ramp, of course, results in Paul Walker leapfrogging the competition as well as a competitor comically smashing through a Pepsi advertisement. Later, in the cop drama portion of the film, a second car is launched into the air (this time into a yacht) and a much more brutal highway race results in some dude driving a convertible being unceremoniously crushed by an 18-wheeler. The vehicles themselves are updated with some nifty new features: weird lights, Barbie car paint jobs, fire-breathing tail pipes, steam-shooting pistons, and nitros-powered ejection seats. The cops have upped their technology game as well, employing a futuristic, electrified grappling hook that somehow disables car engines through a kind of EMP device. As far as the movie’s 00s ideas of cool go, the CGI camera movements are hilariously dated, there’s a not-so-sly verbal reference to Ludacris’ hit “Move Bitch” (which honestly should’ve been the theme song), the Universal logo in the title card morphs into a spinning rim, and in the opening scene we’re treated to the defining hallmark of only the uppermost echelon of classy movies: break dancing.
2 Fast 2 Furious may be an exact structural photocopy of the first Fast & Furious installment, but it has such a deliriously lighthearted approach to the intense violence of its reality (a quality that made 80s action films the golden era of the genre) that it’s difficult to be too hard on it critically. As a cultural time capsule, there are a couple differences between its worldview and the one from just two years before. For one thing, there’s thankfully no more rap rock on the soundtrack and for another there’s an abundantly frequent use of the sharp uptick of the chin gesture that roughly translates to “What’s up?” The sequel also one-ups its torture game from force-feeding someone engine oil in the first picture to forcing a rat to eat through a stooge’s stomach wall in second one. For the most part, the two films are nearly identical, though. Although nearly all of the actors except Walker are substituted for new faces and there’s a complete absence of rap rock, lipstick lesbianism, and backyard grilling, 2 Fast 2 Furious is essentially a shameless retread of its precursor, but it’s one that finds a way to make its more-of-the-same formula entertaining despite the familiarity.