While dismissed by the majority of critics as the ultimate in mindless popcorn movies, this sequel to the surprise 2001 Vin Diesel hit nonetheless raises some thought-provoking questions:
Paul Walker reprises his role as an LA cop who goes undercover to infiltrate the adrenalized world of illegal street racing. Vin Diesel does not reprise his role from the surprise hit which catapulted him to fame. Why? Because he demanded $30 million to do so and, to their credit, the film’s producers have yet to stop laughing. This raised the following question for me: Is Diesel maybe feeling a tad foolish at this juncture given the total tankage of recent output like “Knockaround Guys” and A Man Apart?
In his place, the film’s creators have cast substitute musclebound chromedome Tyrese, a perfectly watchable, if generic, screen presence as an old friend who initially holds Walker responsible for a prison stint he’s just completed. Federal authorities promise to clear the fellow’s record if he agrees to team up with his old pal, head to Miami and help catch the ruthless head of a money laundering cartel by infiltrating that city’s adrenalized world of illegal street racing.
Tyrese? Why just the one name? Is he a legendary rapper or something? Why does everyone else in the world seem to know who he is? Am I getting too old for this?
And since when does the federal government nab heads of powerful cartels by setting up stings involving illegal street racers? How big a problem are cartels these days, anyway? I thought they were pretty much an 80s nuisance.
Story, to put it mildly, takes a back seat to action in this picture and all the action takes place, as you might expect, on the street. Illegally. From the opening scenes to its climactic moments, 2 Fast 2 Furious is one long car chase virtually uninterrupted by dialogue or character development. Walker and Tyrese are hardly the film’s focal points. If the souped up, day-glo cars could have driven themselves, the movie could easily have done without the actors.
It’s safe, by the way, to say the forces of darkness have prevailed where total commercialization of popular culture is concerned. First recording artists started licensing their songs to commercials. Now filmmakers make films that are little more than full length ads. What we have here, obviously, is the spectacle of Hollywood in a frothing frenzy of unbridled, shame-free product placement. Why pay Vin Diesel when Mazda, Honda, Nissan and Toyota will supply your stars free of charge?
The artistic bankruptcy of the film industry in general is one thing. Watching a director as promising as John (“Boyz N the Hood”) Singleton sell out is another. His participation in this project only serves to confirm what I’ve been saying for years: The movie business eats its young.
The sad part is the young can’t wait to be gobbled up. Independent filmmakers aren’t viewed by mainstream Hollywood as competition. They’re viewed as fresh meat. When young directors achieve success in the indie world, they generally can’t sign with the big boys for big money fast enough. Independent cinema isn’t so much an alternative to the mainstream as a training ground for it and Singleton is only the latest in a long line to be happily bought off.
But here’s the nagging question I was left with: I know who was fast in this film. Everybody was. Twentysomethings with no visible means of livelihood drive customized road rockets capable of shifting into warp speed on command. On the other hand, I wasn’t quite sure who was supposed to be furious. Everyone in the movie looked like they were enjoying themselves to me. Even the bad guys seemed to be having a good time.
The ticket buyer perhaps? I think not. Anyone who buys into Singleton’s flashy, goofball sequel will get precisely what they pay for. Good news for them. Bad news for western civilization.
Oh, I know. They must have been thinking of Diesel. Here all involved are making a fast buck on the sequel he passed up and, meanwhile, his career has stalled. My guess is the actor will rethink his position on the franchise when the third installment rolls around. By then, however, it may be 2 little 2 late.