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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

The Fast and the Furious and 2 Fast 2 Furious (review)

Built for Speed

So I’m sitting in the theater waiting for the press screening of 2 Fast 2 Furious to start, and I’m flipping through the press notes and I come across this in the film’s end credits, which are reproduced in the booklet:

THE CAR AND MOTORCYCLE ACTION SEQUENCES DEPICTED IN THIS FILM ARE DANGEROUS. ALL STUNTS WERE PERFORMED IN CONTROLLED ENVIRONMENTS WITH PROFESSIONALLY TRAINED STUNT CREWS ON CLOSED ROADS. NO ATTEMPTS SHOULD BE MADE TO DUPLICATE ANY ACTION, DRIVING OR CAR PLAY SCENES HEREIN PORTRAYED.

And I’m thinking, Oh come on — do people really need to be told this? Is the American moviegoing audience so stupid that they cannot come to this conclusion on their own?

Still, as I approached my parked car after the screening, I found myself wishing it was something a little zippier than a poky little Saturn, and boy I bet a Saturn would be pretty cool tricked out for street racing. And as I drove home, I found myself wondering if those buttons on either side of the steering wheel would ignite the tanks of nitrous oxide under the backseat. (No — they were still for the horn.)

Yeah, I wanted to press my right foot to the floor and go FAST! but fortunately my frontal lobe was doing its job and keeping me within 10MPH of the speed limit. 10MPH above the speed limit, that is. I’m not that much of a dork.

The Fast and the Furious is one of those rare films that I’m sorry to have missed on a big screen. It’s dumb as a post, sure, but man, does it get your heart pounding and the adrenaline racing through your bloodstream. The presence of Vin Diesel does tend to have the opposite effect, inducing nausea and causing massive headaches, but Hey! Look at that cool car over there going really, really fast!

This is what kids do when there’s no midnight basketball, race their souped-up Honda Civics or whatever little crapboxes they can get their hands on, paying for all the extra bells and whistles by hijacking truckloads of TVs and DVD players. At least they’re not on drugs. (Their cars are on drugs, though, nitrous oxide, which makes them go faster somehow.) And they’ve already got a good trade under their belts for when their future parole officers are on them to get a job — the world will always need good mechanics, right?

It’s probably all those long, straight roads in L.A. that are to blame, perfect racecourses that they are and patrolled only by sorry-ass cops driving pathetic Ford Dinkmobiles. And in between the races — soup up those cars, boys, and make ’em go fast and hard and ooooohhhhhh — there’s rival gangs of racers beating the metaphorical crap out of each other by taking it to the streets, and surely there’s something homoerotic in that, and macho posturing like when Vin Diesel’s (Knockaround Guys, Pitch Black) car gets shot up by a Chinese competitor. Ouch: car-stration.

And into all this walks Paul Walker (Joy Ride, Pleasantville), inoffensively bland in his baggy T-shirts and Converse sneakers and big, pretty grin. He’s meant to be an undercover cop, looking into this DVD hijacking thing, and oh, you have to just say bless his little heart for even trying. He weasels his way into Vin’s good graces and into Vin’s sister’s pants, and in the end, you can tell that it’s Vin who’s weaseled his way into Paul’s innocent little heart, and surely there’s something homoerotic in that, too.

Still, brrrrrrrr, BRRRrrrr, brrrrrrrrr.

Ya gotta wonder, though, how Roger Corman coulda done this movie for the price of a car, and now apparently Fast cost $38 million, and that’s, dear God, cheap these days for a Hollywood film, but where oh where did director John Singleton (Shaft) spend $76 million on 2 Fast 2 Furious? Maybe if Vin Diesel was back, you could at least say it went for his bloated salary, but we all know Paul Walker ain’t pulling down eight-figure salaries.

Yes, Walker’s back, this time as an ex-cop, with all the attendant personal anguish you’d expect from such a comedown not bothering to bother him one whit, and he’s joined by model Tyrese, as if to prove that white bread knows no color boundaries. This time we’re in Miami, so it’s completely a different movie from the first one, which was in L.A. But there’s racing, including a girl racer in a Barbie-pink car, and something to do with bad guys, and cops are involved somehow, and no one even pretends that any of it is anything other than filler between the stuff with the cars.

There’s jumping over raised bridges, backwards driving on interstates, chases with helicopters, tandem races with greasers leftover from the 50s, and some stuff so Dukes of Hazzard that even the characters cannot help commenting on how Dukes of Hazzard it is. It’s all very, very cool and very, very dumb. Check your brain at the door, but don’t forget to pick it up again before you get into the car for the drive home.

The Fast and the Furious
viewed at home on a small screen
rated PG-13 for violence, sexual content, and language
official site | IMDB

2 Fast 2 Furious
viewed at a semipublic screening with an audience of critics and ordinary moviegoers
rated PG-13 for street racing, violence, language and some sensuality
official site | IMDB



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