Apparently there aren't enough hot women and fast cars in California for a blockbuster sequel, so the action shifts to Florida, where Brian O'Connor (Paul Walker) is trying to lay low. No longer a police officer, he's still racing in order to earn a living when the FBI zaps his vehicle, pull him in and slap a deal on the table. The plan: help the feds nab a local drug-runner and they'll wipe the slate clean, or go to jail for the list of offenses he left back in LA. He takes the deal on one condition: he gets to pick his own partner. They agree, and he chooses Roman Pierce (Tyrese), a childhood friend still stinging over the thought that Brian might have been responsible for a stint behind bars years earlier, and before you can say "butt heads", they're driving for Carter Verrone (Cole Hauser), while his girlfriend, secretly an undercover agent (Eva Mendes) watches their back.
I kinda liked the first Fast and the Furious, but I wouldn't have called myself a fan, so all it took was the announcement of the movie's incredibly dopey title and my interest in it was over; it wasn't until the "Franchise Collection" Universal issued to promote Tokyo Drift that I finally caught up with it. My biggest worry was the loss of Vin Diesel's Dominic Toretto, and even in the finished film, it's obvious that Roman Pierce is a hastily-rewritten Toretto due to Diesel's departure. Yet Tyrese is one of the movie's secret weapons, sparking the flick to life with his goofy, energetic charisma. He generates good-vibe chemistry with everyone on screen, including Walker, but the real savvy of his performance is how he actively makes it different from Dominic and Brian's friendship. By deftly avoiding the notes that Diesel's already tread, he single-handedly saves the movie from most of its sequelitis, and 2 Fast 2 Furious really wouldn't be half as good without him.
The other wild card is director John Singleton. I hated his movie Higher Learning, a melodramatic, self-important "statement" plainly designed to solidify Singleton's cred as a miniature Spike Lee, but I loved his 2000 blaxploitation homage Shaft, a smart action movie with top-notch performances and style to spare. Commendably, he brings the less pretentious of his styles to 2 Fast 2 Furious, ditching the romantic and ethical conundrums and awful dialogue from the original, while straging the action sequences with enthusiasm (peaking with an awesome third-act confusion gambit that I won't spoil). But 2 Fast 2 Furious lands pretty squarely in the middle of the road, letting Singleton's desire to make a popcorn movie rob the film of having a personality.
A better screenplay would have helped too. Beyond that Roman Pierce is clearly a Toretto placeholder, a more efficient script could have fit in one or two extra action scenes that might have pushed the movie from "passable" to "guilty pleasure". Hauser also makes for a fairly boring villain (you can't get too despicable in a PG-13 movie, so Hauser settles for slightly annoyed), but the bigger crime is wasting Eva Mendes, who has a few electric moments with Paul Walker, but generally just sits around looking unfathomably hot (although let me add, she does this really well). Devon Aoki's character is also an admirable concept but terrible in execution, yelling the worst lines of the movie during the opening race sequence, leaving 2 Fast 2 Furious 0 for 2 with its female characters.
It's a shame, because 2 Fast 2 Furious has the elements it needs to be that film you watch on TV at 1 AM post-beer-and-pizza and have a blast. What's more, it's not even a bad movie; it probably ranks as the most entertaining of the first three Fast and the Furious films, which makes it even more of a conundrum. It's got its heart in the right place, but there's nothing in 2 Fast 2 Furious aside from its motion picture heritage that'd save it from an alternate-universe demise in a garage-sale graveyard. Whoever said "it's all in a name" was onto something.
Director John Singleton sits down for an audio commentary, and he does a good job explaining his motivations and goals in picking up the reins for this big-budget sequel (including influences from video games and anime, rather than other car movies). It's mildly interesting, and Singleton makes effort to avoid narrating the on-screen action (whenever he seems like he's about to, he changes topics). A shame, though, that Tyrese and Walker weren't free to join him. While I watched the commentary, I also flipped on Universal's Animated Anecdotes, which is a fancy name for their subtitle trivia track, containing the kind of riveting information you can learn by reading IMDb. It's not really that animated either, for the record: little pictures of cars accompany each tidbit, but they don't drive onto the screen or anything.
Singleton and editor Bruce Cannon introduce some deleted scenes (6:07, intros and all). None of them are very notable, although the first one features some of the worst acting from Paul Walker I've ever seen, and anyone chomping at the bit to see Eva Mendes smoking a cigar will have their dreams come true. Outtakes (2:44) follow, mostly starring a hyperactive Tyrese.
"Shifting Gears: The Making of 2 Fast 2 Furious" (10:03), or "Inside 2 Fast 2 Furious" if you go by the menu, is your typical lame EPK-style making-of piece, although there are some funny bits of Tyrese messing around. "Supercharged Stunts" (5:29) primarily focuses on the jump stunt from the finale, but unfortunately I'd say it's the least-interesting stunt in the film. "Making Music With Ludacris" (5:00) has a pretty self-explanatory title, and spotlights the charismatic rapper on the set of his "Act the Fool" music video. Paul Walker, Tyrese, Eva Mendes and Devon Aoki all show up to make friendly cameos, and Singleton asks Ludacris a few questions. No offense to Mr. Bridges, but it's sad that this is probably the most entertaining video extra on Disc 1. "Tricking Out a Hot Import Car" (3:22) makes a re-appearance, although eagle-eyed viewers will notice that this version is slightly shorter...by 15 minutes. Um...
Each menu also features a set of exclusive extras, which is more annoying than cool. Each set consists of three extras. First is a featurette on the driver, i.e. Paul Walker (2:18), Tyrese (2:17) and Devon Aoki (2:25). Walker's is the best, highlighting the star's easygoing sense of humor. "The Ride" (4:13, 2:38 and :) featurettes cover Brian's Mitsubishi EVO 7, Roman's Spyder and Suki's Honda S2000. They'd probably appeal to gearheads, but in 2009 this information is of course 6 years old. The Spyder featurette is the best, especially Tyrese's hilarious description of how awful the car looked before he had it customized. Lastly, "Driving School" (2:51, 2:12) shows Walker, Tyrese and learning to do some of the movie's stunts, and all three of them are pretty forgettable.
A trailer for the long-out-of-date video game (coming for PS1, PS2 and XBOX November 2003!) and a bunch of cast and crew bios finish the first platter off.
Unlike the Fast and the Furious Limited Edition, Disc 2 of this set contains considerably less material. "Fast Females" (7:55) obviously takes a look at the ladies who've jumped behind the wheel for the first three films through new and old interviews with the actresses, although they don't seem to agree with me that their characters have been poorly written. It's nice to see that Michelle Rodriguez seems to have loosened up, though. "Hollywood Impact (13:24) has super-dork Leonard Maltin and various car gurus talking about famous vehicles in pop-culture history (albeit only those produced by Universal). They tackle American Graffiti, Back to the Future, Smokey and the Bandit, "Knight Rider", "Magnum P.I.", "Miami Vice", The Blues Brothers, National Lampoon's Animal House (...), the Bourne franchise and of course the three Fast and the Furious films, which is a neat idea, but sadly, it's not very interesting. Plus, Universal ignores great titles from its library. No Two-Lane Blacktop? Not a word about Repo Man? Nary a mention of Duel? Blasphemy! The new material concludes with two more deleted scenes (3:24) are included but they're just longer versions of clips from disc 1.
Trailers for the Riddick and Wanted games, and the Back to the Future re-releases, along with the aforementioned spot for TimeCop 2: The Berlin Decision and a promo for the first release of Scarface on DVD on Disc 1. Disc 2 also contains a digital copy for your iPod, PC, laptop, Mac, or other portable device. English, French and Spanish subtitles are included on all of the bonus features, except for Singleton's audio commentary
You can also read my reviews of The Fast and the Furious (2001) - 2-Disc Limited Edition, The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift - 2-Disc Limited Edition and Fast & Furious (2009) - 2-Disc Special Edition here, here and here, respectively.