As we continue to unofficially celebrate the Fast & Furious series in the lead up to The Fate of the Furious, I want to shine a spotlight on what I think is the franchise's most underappreciated effort: 2003's 2 Fast 2 Furious.
Wait. Come back, bruh.
made an excellent case that the Fast & Furious franchise as we know it is indebted to the fourth installment, Fast & Furious, which I still consider the weakest entry in the series. All of the points Rob makes are valid and true (he is a smart person and HANDSOME), but I'd like to extend the case that he so effectively makes and suggest that 2 Fast -- the entry considered to be the worst by those that don't rank Fast & Furious below it -- has a lot to do with where one of the biggest film franchises in the world would end up. A big part of the appeal of the series, which I enjoy a hell of a lot in defiance of a week's worth of social media postings from hipper-than-thou critics who are pretending to be surprised that anyone could like these movies, is that they are a great deal of fun. Goofy, dopey fun. There may not be an entry in the series that's goofier or dopier than 2 Fast 2 Furious.
Here's the weird thing about 2 Fast: as a sequel to the original The Fast and the Furious, it's not very successful. It only carries over Paul Walker, reprising his role as Brian O'Connor (Vin Diesel passed on the follow-up so he could make xXx because the things he's gonna do for his country), even though "reprising his role" is too generous a description. The Brian O'Conner we get in 2 Fast is hardly a character, with Paul Walker hardly giving a performance -- he's just a bro who's somewhat slack of jaw and likes to drive. Watching this and Fast Five back to back, I was struck by just how much better an actor Walker had become and how much more interesting his character became when he returned a little more grizzled in Fast & Furious. Toss in a couple of half-assed references to O'Connor "letting that guy go in L.A." and you have the sequel's only efforts to tie itself back to the first movie. The location is changed -- Miami instead of L.A. -- the tone is much less self-serious and even the genre has changed, becoming more of a buddy picture than the Point Break redux that precedes it. I completely understand why someone would have seen this movie back in 2003 and not loved it. I had the same reaction.
Hauser's villainous Carter Verone (dat name!) exists somewhere between a Bond villain and a stock bad guy from Miami Vice, mostly just concerned with drugs and money but not above threatening a guy with some elaborate torture involving a live rat. He's one of several indicators that 2 Fast is willing to go a little bigger and broader than the first movie, which was more or less grounded in realism. (And stealing DVD players. Always DVD players.) Another example is when the cops fire some sort of device into the side of Brian's car and disable all of its electronics, marking an early appearance of the kind of high-tech bullshit that would become a regular trope of these movies (we see more of this with the ejector seats in the finale). It's a small step, sure, but that's as it should be; the series has to build towards the large-scale lunacy of Fast Five and cannot be transformed overnight. The climactic showdown, in which Tej and sentient doll Devon Aoki lead a massive shell game involving dozens of decoy getaway cars while Brian and Roman launch a car onto a boat, is totally the predecessor to the big-twist heist in Five and the larger scope/increasingly impossible car stunts of the subsequent sequels' finales. So much of the DNA of what makes this series fun can be traced back to 2 Fast.
I know I should mention Eva Mendes, who plays the third lead as undercover US Customs agent Monica Fuentes. Unfortunately, there is little to be said about her because the movie does her no favors. She is a breathtaking afterthought, on screen to be gorgeous and eventually need rescuing. This is especially unfortunate because the Fast & Furious films eventually began offering equal opportunities for its female characters to be as badass and proactive as its males; I guess that memo had yet to be written in 2003. It appears that Mendes is set up to be Paul Walker's love interest, but so little attention is paid to this storyline that when they actually do share a kiss it's completely jarring, as though everything leading up to that moment had been cut out of the movie. Maybe it was.