I Was Made For This, Bruh: 2 Fast 2 Furious (2003)
The first three entries in the Fast and Furious franchise feel like singular oddities. The first one is a Point Break-esque, undercover cop-befriends-career-criminal story with cars, while the third is a culture-clashing, coming-of-age movie with cars. The second one is a 2003 action-heavy, buddy cop movie set in Miami that’s not Bad Boys II. 2 Fast 2 Furious actually has a lot in common with that particular Michael Bay opus, but while Bad Boys II is a misanthropic trip, 2 Fast 2 Furious is a more light-hearted, fun sequel that improves on the original on many fronts.
2 Fast is the only film in the franchise that doesn’t feature Vin Diesel, who decided to make XXX with the original Fast director Rob Cohen instead. In Cohen’s and Diesel’s place—director John Singleton and R&B singer-turned-actor Tyrese Gibson, who had previously worked together in 2001’s Baby Boy. Paul Walker returns as Brian O’Conner, having turned fugitive after letting Dominic Toretto escape at the end of the first film. Actually, if you want to check out what Brian was up to between Fast 1 and 2 Fast, make sure and check out the bizarre, dialogue-less, six-minute short The Turbo Charged Prelude for 2 Fast 2 Furious, which is featured on the DVD and Blu-ray release. Essentially, street racing is his passion, which leads him to the underground racing circuit in Miami.
You could easily see where Diesel’s Dom could have fit into this sequel. Brian is caught after the opening race—which, like the original, is shot like the cars are not only traveling at the speed of light, but bending space and time like the finale of 2001: A Space Odyssey. The feds want Brian to go undercover to take down the muscle car-obsessed drug lord Carter Verone (Cole Hauser); their initial plan of teaming Brian up with a fed is quickly shot down when Brian insists he needs a real gearhead as a partner. Right here is where we could’ve seen Dom’s shiny bald head reappear in the series, but no, we have an equally shiny bald head to be in awe of. Brian enlists the help of childhood friend Roman Pearce (Gibson), whose character turns out to be one of the franchise's best.
Let’s talk about Brian and Roman. Yes, there has always been a “bromance” between Dom and Brian ever since the original Fast—from that initial longing look they share at the beginning of the movie, all the way to the moment when Brian lets Dom go—it’s a love story. In an effort to out due that heterosexual love affair, the makers of 2 Fast decided to make Brian and Roman the best of friends. When Brian goes to Roman’s trailer home, Roman reacts by tackling him to the ground. The two start to brawl, but there’s a playful nature to it all, like they've done this many times before. By far, the two actors with the most effective chemistry together aren’t Brian and fellow undercover agent Monica Fuentes (Eva Mendes), it’s Brian and Roman. While Walker was the epitome of a crustless tuna sandwich in Fast 1—always in a dour mood, balancing his law enforcement career and his personal feelings towards Dom—here he’s having a lot more fun, and that’s thanks to Tyrese’s infectious charisma. It’s not explicit, but there something flat-out interesting happening between Brian and Roman, and I can't take my eyes off of it—like how the camera can't keep its eyes of Tyrese's glistening chest when he takes he shirt off to use it as a makeshift glove to punch through a car window.
The film also features the first-time appearance of Ludacris as Tej Parker, who we’ll see again, along with Roman, in Fast Five. It makes you wonder when or if we’ll see one of 2 Fast’s best characters, the pink muscle car-driving Suki (Devon Aoki), in any future installments. Hell, Hauser’s Carter Verone makes an outright threat to Brian and Roman at the end of the film saying he’ll be back—Fast 10: The Return of Verone, anyone?
Along with the return of characters from past installments, the Fast franchise is notorious for the continual escalation of action. There were a few wrecks and high-speed chases in Fast 1 to keep the film afloat, and here it’s all about more, like a shot of NOS to the franchise's engine. You’ve seen a car go underneath a semi-truck in Fast 1, sure, but have you seen one go underneath a semi and get crushed like a bowling ball rolling over an empty soda can? You can get a sense of where the franchise would eventually go with the final action set piece: Brian and Roman try to escape police helicopters and their solution is driving into a warehouse and unleashing dozens upon dozens of neon-colored muscle cars onto the hapless police force. It’s all about more. Director John Singleton improves on the action from Fast 1, make it more thrilling with the use of (mostly) practical effects throughout.
From the beginning of the film—I mean, that Universal logo turning into a silver tire rim to the tune of David Banner’s “Like A Pimp” is a perfect way to start this movie—to the absurd ending of Brian and Roman driving a car off a pier and landing directly onto the bad guy’s yacht, 2 Fast 2 Furious offers up some ridiculous absurdity while being ridiculously entertaining. As with each of these early Fast films, it’s retroactively a vital part of the saga, an essential watch to fully appreciate the later films. Do you want to know why Roman eats so much in Fast Five through Furious 7? You have to watch 2 Fast 2 Furious for the answer.