Expert film discussion from completely unqualified people


March 29, 2015

Rob watches a vastly superior sequel. 

In this seven-part series, Rob watches the Fast and Furious films for the first time. Check out Part I here

Sequels to successful films tend to follow a formula: Bigger and better. More characters, more locations, bigger action, and better effects. It's not always that easy, though. Many sequels wander into self-parody (The Matrix Reloaded) or completely misunderstand what audiences liked about the first one (Jaws II). The trick is to have enough familiar elements to keep audiences comfortable without relying so heavily on well-tread territory that we get bored or frustrated. It's a delicate balance.

It's no surprise that The Fast and the Furious would get a sequel; the franchise is driven more by the premise than by the plot. Plus, sponsorship from eager auto/racing/stereo/soft drink/vodka/clothing companies means that the film is profitable before it's even released. The talent is cheap and the possibilities are endless. Here's what I predicted for the second entry before seeing it:
The post-credit sequence [of The Fast and the Furious] found Vin living in Mexico, so I can only assume that when Paul Walker has to face off against a different group of car enthusiasts, he's going to track down his old friend and offer a clean record in exchange for helping bring down the bad guys. Bring back some old friends, introduce some new ones (throw in a black guy who's good at computers or science!), and you're all set. 
Boy, was I wrong.

2 Fast 2 Furious (2003)

"He did the stare and drive on you, didn't he? He got that from me."

Now this is podracing. Holy shit, you guys. Why didn't anyone tell me that John motherfucking Singleton (Boyz in the Hood) directed one of these? I was completely wrong about the plot synopsis, but I'm glad I was. 2 Fast 2 Furious stands head and shoulders above its predecessor because it did what the best sequels always do: It kept what worked in the first one and ditched the rest. Paul Walker returns as Chris or Ben or something. Brian. Doesn't matter. What's important is that Vin Diesel has been replaced with the charm factory that is Tyrese Gibson. He provides sorely needed levity and lets everybody take a breath and have some fun with this ridiculous affair. The first film was too earnest. It took itself too seriously. It's not Vin Diesel's fault, but the awkward and clumsy bromance vibe they tried to cultivate (which is tough when you skip things like "character development") was a major issue and brought that narrative to a screeching halt. 2 Furious tosses that shit out in favor of a good old-fashioned buddy cop video game set in the James Bond universe.

So the plot (there's a plot this time!). After letting Dom go at the end of Part I, Brian has been fired from the LAPD and is earning his keep street racing in Miami. When he's picked up by the feds, his old boss convinces him to go undercover as a driver to take down a local drug guy. He's given the option of selecting his partner, so he chooses his childhood best friend, Roman. Roman's got a record that the feds are willing to wipe clean in return for his services. Already embedded in the organization Mona. Mary. Monica! Played by Eva Mendez. All they have to do is follow her lead and they're golden. Ludacris and some other ethnic stereotypes are there to help, too.

Before we move on, let's make one thing perfectly clear: This is not a smart film. This is not a creative or original film. This is not a world-saving or life-changing film. But this is a fun film. That's all it is. There are exactly no moments of tension. Not for a second do we doubt that Brian and Roman will win. We're never threatened by Vaguely Latino Drug-Dealing Kingpin Guy or any of his cronies. Even the cops laugh their way through the action (anyone else notice James Remar from Mortal Kombat Annihilation?) We have just enough supporting characters to make the world feel lived-in, and each of them is just useful enough that they don't feel incidental. Best of all: They actually do interesting things with the cars. Most of them are pointless and batshit stupid, sure, but they're interesting.

The performances start out very shaky but gradually ease up as things go along (the opening street race is just awful until they get in the cars). They're all exactly as campy and smirking as they should be. Paul Walker doesn't have to pretend he's Tortured Hero Guy this time, so he just follows along behind Tyrese and has fun with it. Mr. Singleton has a decent eye for action and understands exactly when to play things straight and when to let them get bonkers. There's just enough of a plot for things to hang evenly, but not so much that you have to give it a second thought. Roger Ebert said it best: "[2 Furious] doesn't have a brain in its head, but it's made with skill and style and, boy, is it fast and furious."

Predictions for Part III? Well, I'm cheating this time because I know that it's called Tokyo Drift and that it's the only one that doesn't star Paul Walker. I'm assuming that we're officially in spin-off mode. A new environment with new characters, but with the same tropes and familiar images. Maybe even a continuity shout-out or two to keep things in line with the series. Whatever the case, I'm excited to find out what this Tokyo drifting is all about.


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  2. This was an incredible series which i have ever watched, the actions and the stunts which are performed were highly risky but they do this for the entertainment. vin diesel fur coat