Despite the fact that neither director Rob Cohen or star Vin Diesel have returned, the filmmakers behind "2 Fast 2 Furious" have managed to make a decent film out of what seemed like an entirely unnecessary sequel. It's not as good as the first film, mind you, but it qualifies as a satisfying time-waster, nonetheless.
Paul Walker returns in the role of Brian O'Connor, who has lost his badge thanks to what happened in the end of the first picture, and has headed off to Miami. As the picture opens, he's racking up funding by winning the local street races. It's not long before his actions in the first film catch up with him, however; to get out of trouble, he has to infiltrate the ranks of a local kingpin ("Good Will Hunting"'s Cole Hauser). There's little more to the cliched plot than that - the two (Brian drags former friend Roman, played by model-turned-actor Tyrese, into the act) turn into delivery boys, running cash for the criminal. Eva Mendes plays an undercover cop that serves as a love interest for Paul Walker's character, but she's almost an afterthought. Unfortunately, so is Devon Aoki, who makes a good impression in a very minor role as another street racer.
As for the acting, Paul Walker returns, which should be enough to worry any knowledgable moviegoer. One of the blandest actors somehow working today, Walker continues to flash his "Did I do good?" grin and, at least in this film, call just about everyone either "bro" or "cuz" about a million times. Tyrese, who offers a pretty good performance, also gets caught up in the "bro" and "cuz" issue: I swear, I think there was a whole conversation between the two that consisted of just "bro" and "cuz".
The two make a passable pairing, but somehow Diesel's performance in the first film was able to convince that there was something at stake; here, the two leads don't manage to do that - mainly because Walker's vacant performance starts to make the film seem like another sequel to "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure". There was also a grittiness to the first film - however mild - that made it at least a little easier to take seriously.
The filmmakers seem to have realized that the film's core audience simply wants to see the cars (and there are certainly some spectacular cars here) go fast. However, director John Singleton can't get the driving scenes down quite as well as Rob Cohen did. Although there's certainly more action and some great stunts (a scene where Walker's character is trying to remove a disruptor device as his car is going down the highway at an increasingly slower rate of speed is a well-handled, mildly tense moment), there's just a bit too much cutting, never quite focusing on the important visuals during the racing enough to give the feeling of being in a car at 150mph, the way that Cohen and cinematographer Ericson Core were occasionally able to achieve with the first picture. David Arnold's score also isn't as fitting with the action as composer BT's was with the original film's.
Overall, I liked the film, but certainly didn't love it - and it is a very different film from the original. Still, I liked the first picture more. This film doesn't offer as much in the way of character or plot (not that the original offered much, but still), yet it does manage some enjoyable action scenes of its own (aside from the ending) and move along quickly.
VIDEO: "2 Fast 2 Furious" is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen here. This is an excellent transfer that shines, despite a few minor flaws scattered about. Sharpness and detail were terrific, as the picture maintained a high level of definition throughout. Obviously, given the setting and given the cars, the film's bright color palette was a high priority for the presentation, too. Pleasantly, the film's colors are superbly rendered, with excellent saturation and no smearing.
Still, despite the transfer's pros, there were still some cons: slight edge enhancement was spotted in a few scenes. A couple of specks were also noticed on the print used, too. No compression artifacts or other faults were seen, however. Overall, quite a fine effort.
SOUND: "2 Fast 2 Furious" is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. Unfortunately, no DTS soundtrack option is included. As for the sound mix itself, it delivers the kind of bass and generally aggressive surround activity that one expects from a movie like this, but I didn't care for it as much as I did the sound design of the first picture.
The surrounds were used more creatively in the original film, discretely offering elements of the music and score, as well as presenting convincing ambience and sound effects - both of which provided a more immersive feel to the film's action. Given director Rob Cohen's history of providing films that have offered memorable (and often truly remarkable) sound design, it was nice to find that "Fast and the Furious" was certainly no different, as that film's soundtrack still serves as demo material for many.
In the sequel, there's certainly some fine use of the surrounds at times, but nothing that really convinces that the world is whipping by around the viewer at 150 mph. The music is also reinforced by the surrounds, but not to the level that it was in the first film. It's also too bad that no DTS option is included; although this is certainly a fierce and enveloping soundtrack, I sometimes felt as if the Dolby soundtrack was a tad restrained, and that maybe a DTS soundtrack option could have brought a more dynamic experience to the table.
EXTRAS: Although not something I'd consider an extra, this would be a good place to warn of the 3-1/2 minutes worth of ads for other Universal titles that proceed the main menu - and cannot be skipped past (at least on my player). The menu is also split into three menus: "Brian's Car", "Roman's Car" and "Suki's Car": most of the options are the same, but each has their own exclusives.
Commentary: Director John Singleton offers a full-length audio commentary for the feature. His discussion of the film is entertaining and generally informative; although he does chat a fair amount about what's currently going on in the story and what the characters are doing, he also does offer his thoughts about setting up both the action and dialogue scenes, some technical details, influences (video games, anime) and working with the actors.
Prelude: This short film, which I believe was also included on the "Tricked Out" DVD edition of the "Fast and the Furious", isn't of much interest. It simply - and very quickly - shows the aftermath of the first film and how Walker's character made his way to Miami. Viewers have the option of playing this before the movie.
Deleted Scenes: 6 minutes of deleted scenes are offered in a reel, with intros from director John Singleton and the film's editor. There's nothing of great interest here, but the first scene - a rooftop scene where Brian finds out what his options are with the feds - should have stayed.
Gag Reel: A few minutes of Tyrese and Paul Walker goofing around, forgetting lines or acting silly. Good for a few laughs.
Tricking Out a Custom Car: In this featurette (which I believe was also on the "Tricked Out" DVD edition of "Fast and the Furious", a Playboy model watches the technical advisor on the film alter an already remarkable car.
Supercharged Stunts: This is actually a short-but-solid featurette that breaks down the film's final stunt sequence, informing the viewer of who has to be involved in the planning of a stunt sequence and the elements that have to be filmed to put together the scene. While most film fans will likely be aware of the processes behind such scenes, they're presented here in an organized and entertaining manner. Well worth watching.
Behind The Scenes: There are two featurettes included: one is a general overview of the making of the movie (although quite promotional in nature) and the other is the making of the song and the video for the Ludacris song included in the movie.
Also: Subtitle fact track, "Fast and the Furious" video game preview, "Driving School" and "Focus On" featurettes for Paul Walker, Tyrese and Devon Aoki and car featurettes for the main characters that all three actors drive in the film.
Final Thoughts: "2 Fast 2 Furious" was better than I'd expected, although admittedly, my expectations weren't exactly high. Universal's DVD is quite nice: despite the unfortunate lack of a DTS soundtrack, audio/video quality is good, and there's several decent extras. Rent it.