Whenever the stars of the adolescent street-racing fantasy 2 Fast 2 Furious were feeling balky or temperamental on the set, as movie stars are wont to do, the cure was probably easy -- an oil change and a tune-up. John Singleton's adrenaline-spiked sequel to the surprise summer hit of 2001, The Fast and the Furious, comes furnished with two-legged actors (including blond, blue-eyed Paul Walker, a holdover from the first flick), but its sexiest attractions run around on four wheels. It's a good bet that the customized yellow Nissan Skyline Walker roars and screeches through the proceedings and the mostly purple Mitsubishi Evo 7 convertible piloted by R&B singer Tyrese will wind up on a lot more overheated teenagers' bedroom walls than, say, beautifully constructed leading lady Eva Mendes, who plays an undercover U.S. Customs agent. For one thing, Eva's paint job isn't as good.
Let's dispense right now with the trifles of plot, character and motivation. Courtesy of screenwriters Michael Brandt and Derek Haas, you've got an interracial pair of outlaw buddy-heroes obsessed with horsepower (Walker and Tyrese), a nasty Argentinean drug dealer (Cole Hauser) and a wide assortment of cops, good and bad. You've got six bags stuffed with cash. You've got Miami, complete with bikinis and palm trees. That's all you need to know, because these minor elements exist for only one reason: to prop up the frantic car races and chases, spectacular crashes and heart-stopping drawbridge leaps that are 2 Fast's real substance -- if you want to call it that. This is low-rent summer fun, exuberantly mounted, so leave your IQ in the glove compartment, unless you're really in the mood to ponder the deeper meanings of lines such as this one, delivered by a hip mechanic to a beautiful street racer: "Bring that body by the garage tonight; we'll work on that front end of yours."
Front end, nothing. The story here is about bottom line. After the phenomenal success of The Fast and the Furious, now enjoying a second economic jolt by way of a special-edition DVD, producer Neal H. Moritz and company mean to cash in again. The aptly named Vin Diesel and his foghorn voice have moved on to higher ground, original Fast director Rob Cohen has been replaced by Singleton (Boyz N the Hood, Shaft) and the street-racing scene has been shifted from LA to Miami. But this sequel assaults the senses even more relentlessly than its predecessor, and the cars are even flashier.
Along with an exotic, wildly painted array of import "tuner" models -- expensively customized Hondas, BMWs, Toyotas and Mitsubishis -- is an equally eye-popping fleet of American iron -- hot new Dodge Vipers, Chevrolet Corvettes and Ford Mustangs (one of these gets unceremoniously crushed by an eighteen-wheeler), as well as a sprinkling of nostalgic Detroit muscle cars from the pre-emissions-standards era, including a 1969 Yenko Camaro and a 1970 Hemi Dodge Challenger that figure prominently in Singleton's climactic chase scene. Suffice it to say that this extravaganza deploys many, many vehicles -- not just a fireworks-style finale of 200-or-so custom racers but various helicopters, SUVs, white police cars, yachts and, unless my eyes deceived me amid all the mayhem, a Winnebago driven pokily along an interstate by a pair of 80-year-olds who were clearly in the wrong movie. When, more than three decades ago, Steve McQueen first hurtled his dark green Mustang over the crest of a San Francisco hill in Bullitt, he could scarcely have imagined what havoc he would wreak. Car-centric movies such as 2 Fast 2 Furious are, if not the logical conclusion of McQueen's and director Peter Yates' handiwork, its inevitable metastasis. Singleton's own résumé could now aptly include the entry Noyz Nder the Hood.
Every last delightedly reckless, nerve-smashing, hormone-crazed moment of this unbridled summer fun, further jumped up by ear-splitting music tracks by such as UGK, Big Reese, Trick Daddy and K'Jon, is bound to enthrall the vast armies of teenagers and emotionally underdeveloped twentysomethings at whom the movie is aimed. Who feels like arguing with their tastes? But count on one thing: When the kids get back to school in September, they'll give their unholy fits to their driver-ed instructors.