On “2 Fast 2 Furious”
It is impossible to summarize 2 Fast 2 Furious in any language invented by mortals. What does one say about a 2003 film in which a spicy white international drug lord with a confusing accent puts a rat on a cop’s bare torso, pops a metal bucket over the rat and applies a blowtorch to the container under the theory that the rat will gnaw through said cop’s aforementioned naked abdomen in order to get free of the rising heat?
Truly, one should say nothing. What could even the finest essayist, film critic, or literary mind add to the discourse around such a motion picture? I am but a humble scrivener, dedicating two months of my life to the Fast and Furious franchise. How can I muster the courage to share my thoughts on the most important sequel since Empire?
Please note: I am watching each film for the very first time, in order of theatrical release. I am aware this is not the sequence of the franchise’s meta-narrative, and that I am skipping the tie-in cartoon series as well as a couple of shorts, but I saw A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi long before I watched Rogue One, and I enjoyed both seasons of The Mandalorian without having seen Clone Wars. What I’m saying is that the Fast and Furious universe is Car Wars, and Dom is Han Solo and Princess Leia at the same time and somehow also Yoda and Mace Windu and Grogu, and I can handle it. I am dealing.
I shall now endeavor to use my inadequate human words to say something about this movie.
The late, great John Singleton could take anything and make it exciting. He had a particular talent for working with newer actors on the verge of greatness. For example, in 2 Fast 2 Furious he beautifully directed the energetic young rat who would go on to do very good work in the role of Clunky Metaphor in The Departed (2006) before his breakout turn as Remy in Ratatouille (2007). Unfortunately, in the latter film, Pixar studio execs chose to dub over the rat’s original vocal work. Patton Oswalt did a great job with it, but we’ll never know what could have been.
I watched 2 Fast 2 Furious with my dad, even though I knew he hadn’t seen The Fast and the Furious (2001). I knew the lack of context wouldn’t be a barrier to fun for him. This man enjoyed all of Coming 2 America (2021) without knowing it was a sequel. He just thought it was a hilarious movie about a blended family starring Eddie Murphy, Jermaine Fowler, Tracy Morgan, and Leslie Jones, all of whom he thinks are very talented.
My father has seen every other hit Eddie Murphy film from the 1980s through the early ’90s. I have no idea what happened for him to not only not have seen 1988’s Coming to America, but to never have heard of it. I have certain theories.
A churchgoing Irish Catholic, Dad was busy with two small children and a full-time job at a birth control factory, and I can only assume the overwhelming irony of his life choices kept him sufficiently busy that he missed out on certain pop culture moments. He has told me, however, that if Coming to America is anywhere near as funny as Coming 2 America, he thinks he’s going to love it.
Since Dad obviously has a track record of enjoying sequels on their own merits, I brought him along to watch 2 Fast 2 Furious, which is to say, I made him watch it with me in his basement after he was done hitting golf balls in the backyard and chatting with me about his new life in retirement. We sat in recliner chairs and gazed at the 85-inch screen with the booming sound system. As an added bonus, the closed captions gave me the benefit of getting to read the dialogue. Plus I got to raid his pantry for snacks. All in all, it was a treat.
I spent the first third of the film waiting for Dominic Toretto to show up, and I felt the pain of his absence like a missing piece of my goddamn heart. My process throughout this project has been to read as little as possible about what was going on in the real lives of the cast and crew, what happened on set, and how the films were received. I have mostly succeeded in my effort to do zero research, but certain facts have crept in.
Apparently, Vin Diesel went off to do other action movies for awhile. I do not know when he reappears in the Fast and the Furious movies, and I do not want to know. I wish to be surprised.
I cannot fault Vin Diesel for wanting to do other work. He is capable of many things, though I know his greatest success has certainly been with these car movies. I don’t know what Michelle Rodriguez was up to circa 2003, but I’m sure it was pleasingly weird and intimidating.
I tried to remember what I was doing in 2003. I think it was mainly a decent year for me. I was, by any measure, incredibly lucky to be alive and attending my second college. I lived in the mountains of Western North Carolina and ran around with hippies. The summer 2 Fast 2 Furious came out, I volunteered at a Catholic outreach clinic for migrant workers. I grew my hair longer. My life was pretty easy.
Meanwhile, President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney waged foreign wars based on a series of lies. People my age and younger were being deployed. Somebody I would befriend years later was sent overseas for the first of three deployments. Overseas, hundreds of thousands of people of all ages would die as a result of U.S. policy. The trauma for those who fought the wars and those who endured them would be compounded year after year.
On March 10, 2003, the Dixie Chicks performed in London. It was the first concert of a tour in support of their sixth album, Home. Before playing the song “Travelin’ Soldier,” lead singer Natalie Maines told the crowd that the group was ashamed that President Bush was from Texas. What unfolded next would change the course of that band’s trajectory, and would both affirm and challenge what country music could and could do not.
In much lighter 2003 pop culture news, Jay-Z’s The Black Album dropped. So did OutKast’s Speakerboxx/The Love Below. I loved them both, and bought the former on vinyl.
But I missed this movie sequel, a film starring symmetrical bone structure and glistening moisturizer, when it roared into theaters.
All of these things are not equal in importance or meaning, but they all happened in 2003. That was 18 years ago. It is 2021, and I have some catching up to do. So, it would seem, does my father.
Dad kept asking if Kevin Hart was in the movie, or would be in the movie, and he suggested that Kevin Hart would’ve done a great job in the movie. I said that I didn’t know if Kevin Hart was doing action roles in 2003. Dad believes that any film might be improved with the addition of Kevin Hart, Will Ferrell, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (on this point, Dad is correct) or Bill Murray. I am fairly certain that if we ever screen Lars von Trier’s Breaking the Waves, he will opine that Kevin Hart would’ve made it a better watch.
We will never a film like that together, at least not on purpose. Dad does not like horribly depressing movies. 2 Fast 2 Furious is more his speed.
This movie is about Miami, and cars. Ludacris organizes illegal street races for cars, and Paul Walker makes money by participating in those races, and Cole Hauser is from Argentina and he has a spray tan and he is a bad man, and Eva Mendes is a customs agent who fucks Cole Hauser steadily and lives in his house for almost an entire year in order to get him arrested, because this is how law enforcement works in Miami. Paul Walker is an ex-cop but he was so good at copping that the FBI and The People of Customs bring him in and make him be a cop again except a customs guy this time, and he says he’ll only do it if he can pick his partner.
Then he and FBI Boss Man go to Barstow, CA, where troubled people with family trauma self-medicate with cars, and they see Tyrese, who did prison time for something, and who used to be Paul Walker’s best friend, and who thinks Paul Walker is a piece of shit for becoming a cop because ACAB. Tyrese also thinks Paul Walker could’ve helped him not go to jail. They fight, and Paul Walker at some point is like, “I felt awful you went to jail, I would’ve helped if I could have, but indeed I could not have.” The dispute is solved!
FBI Boss Man will clear their records if they bring down Cole Hauser, and also somehow Samantha’s terrible boyfriend Richard from Sex and the City is involved as an FBI guy or Person of Customs.
Now Paul Walker and Tyrese are friends again, and it is time to go to Miami because cars, and also Eva Mendes is still having sex with Cole Hauser because this is what government agents who are women do, always, in Miami.
I was able to write 5000 words on The Fast and the Furious, but I will admit I don’t have it in me to spend that much of my time or yours on 2 Fast 2 Furious. The absence of Saint Vincent of Diesel makes it hard for me to care, although this film was fine. The colors are bright and the soundtrack is pretty good and I am sad that John Singleton is no longer with us.
This film introduces the hottest person thus far in the cast: Devon Aoki, who plays Suki. As Benihana hive, I have no choice but to stan any legacy member of the sacred hibachi dynasty. I also think that if I bought a Benihana franchise I would call it Benincasa’s Benihana and anyway, Devon Aoki and I should probably get married if her actual marriage doesn’t work out. She is a perfect-looking person and also her car is cool.
Speaking of cars: there are many cars! Somehow at one point they do a thing called a “scramble” in order to throw law enforcement off, or maybe they’re throwing off the International Crime Syndicate of Rats and Vague Ethnic Identities. I can’t remember. It’s a bunch of cars and people get confused.
Two cars have ejector seats, or maybe just one does, or maybe they all do. You’re an ejector seat. No, you’re an ejector seat. Am I high? This movie is a brick of some kind of drug that temporarily numbs half your emotional pain.
They land a car on a boat. I do not know why this was necessary, except that it was something that could be done, and thus it was done. Almost everybody ends up fine, except for Cole Hauser, who will presumably have to go bully people in jail like he did to Wiley Wiggins in Dazed and Confused.
My dad and I laughed at the end of the movie. The whole thing was silly, and funny, and Tyrese and Ludacris both display excellent comic timing. My mother arrived home with takeout food, and we ate dinner at the table like we used to, except without my brother, who has a wife and kids of his own now. Mom was disappointed she hadn’t gotten to watch the movie with us.
“I like those movies,” she said. “I’ve seen a few of them. The best one is Hobbs and Shaw. Jason Statham is hot!”
“The Rock can do anything,” Dad said.
“We love him,” said Mom. “And I love Jason Statham.”
“I know,” I said. “That’s very clear.”
“Do you want to know how much I love Jason Statham?”
She got up disappeared into the laundry room. She emerged with a two-foot tall cutout of Jason Statham himself, as if this were a perfectly normal thing to keep near the washer and dryer.
“Who gave you that?” my father asked incredulously.
“MYSELF!” she said.
And that was the end of that conversation.
I have no idea what revelations The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift will provoke, but I know for sure I need to watch it in my parents’ house.
Read the first essay in the series, “On The Fast and the Furious,” the film that should’ve been called Point Brake.
For the third essay in this series, see “Han, Solo: On Tokyo Drift.”
For the fourth essay in this series, see “‘Fast & Furious’ is a Movie.”