'2 Fast 2 Furious': Slow-Learner's Permit

By Stephen Hunter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, June 6, 2003

"2 Fast 2 Furious" is 2 loud and 2 long. It makes any1 over the age of 30 go AGHHHHHHHH! But any1 over the age of 30 who goes 2 it is 2 dumb 2 worry about.

Still, I don't quite think it represents the end of Western Civilization as we know it, unless you believe the world will end in neither fire nor ice but the growl of acceleration. In fact, it even has a faint tinge of nostalgia to it. For us grandpops, it recalls the good old days, you know, way back, eons ago, ages ago, way, way back in the . . . '80s. In other words, it's a kind of "Miami Vice" with many more carz and numberz where all the adjectives used 2 go. (Last "2" joke, folks.)

Of course, its intended audience has just rolled its eyes collectively, signifying, "What's the geezer saying?" They don't remember the '80s. They were in nursery school in the '80s. So, in an effort to be "relevant" to them, I would say, kids, aren't there a lot of cheapo car and babes-in-bikini shows on those horrible channels you watch, like the WB and Fox? "Fastlane," that sort of thing. Well, kids: This is sort of like that.

The Sonny Crockett and Rico Tubbs roles are played by young men named Paul something and Tyrese nothing. Like Liberace's, Tyrese's last name (which is Gibson, when he starred in John Singleton's "Baby Boy") fell off somewhere on the climb to stardom. And like Liberace, Tyrese is in love with a beautiful young man. The difference is that the young man Liberace loved was someone else, while the young man Tyrese loves is named Tyrese.

The plot is pure "Vice" drippings. A defrocked undercover officer named Brian O'Conner (Paul Walker, that's it, who starred in the original "The Fast and the Furious," along with Vin Diesel, who has gone on to bigger things) is asked to penetrate the mob of a suspected drug lord. He himself is locally famous as an outlaw street racer who never loses. The deal is that the drug lord is looking for drivers; he's going to move a mysterious shipment and he needs someone who can take a Lotus through downtown Miami traffic at 140 mph, leaving cops in his turbulent wake. (Unlike in, say, last week's car movie, "The Italian Job," there are cops in this world; they're just mostly stupid and slow.)

O'Conner insists that he be partnered with his boyhood chum Roman Pearce (Tyrese), whose driving skill he admires. So you have a salt-and-pepper team infiltrating the luxurious tropical domain of a sleek, beautiful bad guy (Cole Hauser) and another voluptuous undercover agent (Eva Mendes), who is already in place. How "Vice" is that?

It's quite primitive, and the director, Singleton (besides the tough-minded "Baby Boy," he did the brilliant "Boyz in the Hood"), keeps it moving along quickly enough. Instead of the gunfights "Vice" featured, the chosen form of competition is vehicular, which leads to endless scenes of car chases. You could say the movie cuts to the chase except that there's nothing for it to cut from to that chase; it's pretty much all chase. Do you like to watch cars pile up, spin out, leap tall buildings at a single bound all while laying down a soundtrack that sounds like the planet Jupiter crashing into the planet Earth? Then this movie is for you and nothing I can say matters much.

It does offer one significant moment that might be said to identify exactly the boundary between the Old Movie and the New Movie. It climaxes with a tremendous stunt: A vehicle careers down a dirt road at about 160, hits a ramp, flies through the air like a rocket ship and intercepts, exactly, another moving transportation format. Give the stunt driver a bonus.

In an Old Movie, however, the following scene would have taken place: There would have been an establishing shot, making the point that for whatever reason and no matter how lame the logic behind it, a ramp rested at the end of the road. Oh, I don't know: Maybe the two heroes would have gotten lost and noticed the ramp, or an aerial photograph the cops had would have disclosed the presence of the ramp. In the old, orderly Hollywood story mind, no matter how or why: That ramp would have been established.

New Movie: To hell with the establishing shot. It doesn't matter. The two boys just punch the pedal to the metal, the car takes off like a jack rabbit with its tail ablaze, dust rises and swirls, the soundtrack goes nuclear, and, what the hell, there's a ramp there, exactly where it should be, and off the car goes, unfettered by any concerns with even the flimsiest connection with possibility.

Like it or not, that's the way it is.

2 Fast 2 Furious (105 minutes, at area theaters) is rated PG-13 for mild violence, though it does include one extremely discomforting scene of implied torture.

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