No-one asked for it, but after 2001’s The Fast and the Furious racked up an impressive sum at the box office, Universal ordered a sequel to their awful cash-cow. Jettisoning director Rob Cohen and actor Vin Diesel (thank God), 2 Fast 2 Furious is precisely what you’d expect: a brainless actioner with street racing and crime scenes reminiscent of Miami Vice. On account of terrible scripting and wooden acting, by no stretch is this a good movie, but at least it’s efficient enough at fulfilling its promise of fast cars and action aplenty. With a better director in John Singleton (Boyz n the Hood), the picture actually delivers the goods with stylish flair. Against all odds, the filmmakers behind 2 Fast 2 Furious have managed to create a moderately serviceable time-waster out of an unnecessary sequel, though it’s still heavily flawed.

Kicked off the LAPD for his moronic behaviour in the original film, Brian O’Conner (Walker) has relocated to Miami where he earns his keep winning illegal street races. After being arrested following one such successful race, the authorities offer Brian a proverbial “we’ll wipe your criminal record clean if you do a job for us” deal. Brian’s target is crime boss Carter Verone (Hauser), whose crew has already been infiltrated by a U.S. Customs agent (Mendes). To act as a second driver, Brian recruits old friend Roman Pearce (Gibson), who had gone to prison several years beforehand thanks to Brian’s undercover work.

2 Fast 2 Furious was written by Michael Brandt and Derek Haas, neither of whom had a hand in writing 2001’s The Fast and the Furious. While it was a promising move to discard the talentless hacks responsible for the first film, 2 Fast 2 Furious‘ screenplay is unintentionally laughable in both its ridiculousness and its dialogue. Clichés abound, and the film has a tendency to be mind-numbingly stupid (see the finale, wherein Brian manages to perfectly land a car on top of a moving boat and escape without serious injury). The dialogue, meanwhile, alternates between bland and flat-out awful, not to mention the picture contains enough uses of “bro” and its derivatives (“bruh”, “breh”) to surely set a new cinema record. With drab, one-dimensional characters, there’s no heart or soul to this picture, nor is there any way to justify its existence beyond the business aspect. The awful soundtrack of hip-hop and generic action music doesn’t help matters.

However, the action scenes – i.e. the film’s bread and butter, and the only reason outside of greed for the feature to exist – are admittedly impressive thanks to slick production values and competent direction. They are indeed entertaining and well-crafted, and almost make the trite dialogue scenes worth enduring… Almost, but not quite. The problem is that the film is just too “sanitised” – an R rating rather than a studio-friendly PG-13 rating would’ve helped 2 Fast 2 Furious tremendously. After all, it feels iffy for African American characters to talk in such a stereotypical fashion, but not use the f-word liberally. (Humorous dialogue is especially neutered in this sense). Also, B movies just sit better with unrestrained violence; PG-13 injuries and gunshot wounds feel too unrealistically compromised, thus weakening the sense of fun.

With Vin Diesel having stepped away from the franchise for part deux, it’s a mighty shame that Paul Walker wasn’t ejected as well. An exceedingly wooden performer, Walker shows no degree of acting talent in his performance here; instead, he merely regurgitates dialogue in an awkward fashion as if he’s forgotten his next line. However, as Roman, musician-turned-actor Tyrese Gibson is surprisingly decent. Gibson has charisma, and it looks as if he had fun in the role even though it’s obvious his character was written into the script to replace Dominic Toretto after Vin Diesel refused to return. Since this is a PG-13 action movie, Cole Hauser did not have the freedom to be a genuinely sinister villain, which renders his performance unremarkable. Meanwhile, as the token hot females, Eva Mendes is attractive but forgettable and generic, and Devon Aoki is completely interchangeable. The only other cast member worth mentioning is James Remar, who’s strong and authoritative as one of the police officers overseeing Brian and Roman’s assignment.

You’re an idiot if you expect fully-rounded characters and smart writing from 2 Fast 2 Furious. It’s an action movie for the masses which delivers superficialities and action scenes within a sleek packaging, and nothing but vacuous dead air surrounds the sporadic thrills. Nevertheless, at least there are thrills here and there, which is more than what can be said for its unredeemably bad predecessor. So, no, 2 Fast 2 Furious is not exactly awful since it’s pretty entertaining, but there are plenty of superior action movies out there, rendering this middling effort entirely disposable. But if you loved the original movie, you’ll probably love this one too. Sequel: The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift.

5.2/10