The first of eight sequels (and a planned 10) to the Fast and Furious franchise occurred with 2003’s 2 Fast 2 Furious. We see the return of Paul Walker as Brian from the previous film, but there is no Vin Diesel coming back as Dom.
It seemed like Diesel had to be convinced to even do the first film, so it wasn’t surprising he didn’t return for a second time. I guess he didn’t envision the franchise getting as big as it later would? Even so, the first film was a major success, so I don’t know why he didn’t see that. Diesel instead took a chance on 2004’s The Chronicles of Riddick at a ridiculously high (for the time) budget of $105 million. It only made $57 million domestic and $115 million globally. In other words, that’s what people in the movie business call a “flop.” Comparatively, even without Diesel alongside Walker, 2 Fast 2 Furious on a bigger budget than last time of $76 million, made $127 million domestically and $236 million globally. Womp womp, Diesel.
Despite the lack of the Dom character, we do get introduced to two characters in the sequel who would become mainstays in the franchise: Roman Pearce (played by Tyrese Gibson) and Tej Parker (played by Ludacris). Roman is one of Brian’s childhood friends and Tej is a race host and a friend of Brian’s.
It’s hilarious to go back and watch this, knowing how the Roman and Tej characters evolve. For the most part, Roman is the same. Even here, he’s talking about how hungry he is and cracking jokes. But still, he goes from crashing cars in a derby to flying a plane into outer space, ya know? As for Tej, he couldn’t be more different. He goes from being a race host, who doesn’t even seem to drive, to being the super computer genius of the franchise. He’s the one who did the “math and physics” behind the jaunt into space.
The events of this film do have a slight connection to the first film in terms of acknowledging Brian’s past as a cop and bringing back the FBI character, who tries to leverage Brian for a job. That is, the FBI character promises Brian he will wipe his record clean if he joins in an undercover operation with U.S. Customs to bring down a drug lord in Miami, Florida, Carter Verone (played by Cole Hauser). That’s when Brian recruits Roman to help him and Roman does so to also get his record expunged.
Because there’s no Dom, that means there’s no Mia and that bummed me out because the Brian/Mia relationship was only just getting started in the first film. Instead, they sort of shoehorn in a relationship between Brian and Monica Fuentes (played by Eva Mendes), who is a U.S. Customs agent, also undercover as Verone’s girlfriend. That shoehorned relationship fell flat for me because it wasn’t at all comparable to the chemistry between Walker and Jordana Brewster in the first film.
All of that said, I thought the premise here was still smart and a good way to set up a need for speed and for Brian to still be the good guy pitted up against a villain. Hauser played the Verone character pretty well, with a particularly skin-crawling scene where he subjects a Los Angeles Police Department detective he has in his pocket to the scratches of a rat. Yuck.
The action sequences aren’t nearly as cool as the first film, though, with the highway robberies. We get some of the usual high-speed and fun drag racing, there’s a fun moment when Brian is racing another car and is behind him, but is able to ramp over him, thanks to a draw bridge, and the closing scene where we get the first wild physics-free action sequence of the franchise with Brian and Roman ramping a car onto a boat in the water was awesome, but otherwise, there’s nothing too remarkable here.
Furthermore, contrary to what I previously said about the first film that subverted some of the gender norms of the time, this one leans far more into the treating women like eye candy, with a lot of eye candy shots from director John Singleton and a lot of suggestive dialogue from Roman and Tej throughout.
So, even though it seems like I didn’t like this movie due to the felt absence of Dom and Mia, the underwhelming action sequences and the disappointing backsliding on gender equality, these movies are still just fun to watch. Walker’s charming as ever. The Roman character is a fun addition to the franchise, and Gibson and Walker have great chemistry. And who doesn’t like to watch fast cars go fast?