2 Fast 2 Furious operates inside the original film’s basest instincts. It’s ratcheted up the neon; every car is now fitted with neon underglow lighting. This is more of a fetishization of street racing than what we had before. We should allow its placement, a beacon of rap culture intersecting with popular hobby motorists, the Ludacris banger “Act a Fool” is instructive of what the film is about to do. Let’s place it: here we are a year proceeding the Xhibit reality show Pimp My Ride. It was the beginning of a pop culture moment for automobile customization, where the franchise became a parody of the thing it once set out to celebrate.
2 Fast does make an early play at expanding the crew, bringing in Paul Walker’s childhood friend played by Tyrese Gibson who’s a destruction derby racer and proves a valuable asset in the field. While we’re missing Vin Diesel (who was busy shooting the first xXx—which is like F&F’s spiritual brother), Gibson does a fine job at buddying up and playing the role.
The film sees a switch of setting from the streets of Los Angeles to the sprawling motorways of Miami. This provides ample opportunity for greater chase sequences, mixing in large cop squads and helicopters and boating segments. The thing is that Brian has just left the FBI and has been folded back after being arrested in a street race and challenged with taking down a powerful Argentinian drug lord. In one of the series’ out-of-place grittier moments, the drug kingpin tortures a man by forcing a rat to eat away at him. He’s a pretty deranged dude and a fun one-off villain, an excuse to make some muscle cars purr into action and give us a couple hours of steady adrenaline.
What’s painfully obvious is that the crew’s having so much more fun than the audience. Yeah, it’s all right watching them speed in these sports cars at blistering a pace, but it’s more of a feverish music video for automobile customization than it is a legitimate movie. John Singleton does a serviceable job of giving the film a unique day-glow spirit that befits its new Floridian setting. We know he understands street culture and has a much greater capacity than what’s showcased here, but given the loss of Diesel’s role, he does well enough to fill in the gap with a kind of road movie styling.