The Countdown to “Fast 8” Continues: “2 Fast 2 Furious”

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A love that dare not speak its name.

Kevin: In the early 1990s, John Singleton made cinematic history when his debut feature “Boyz n the Hood” made him the first African-American and youngest person ever nominated for the Best Director Oscar. The talented and socially conscious filmmaker was expected to be a powerful voice in the film world in the years ahead, highlighting issues such as race, gender, and economic disparity. A decade later he directed a movie where rapper Ludacris leeringly asks model-actress Devon Aoki, “Damn Suki, when are you gonna pop MY clutch?”

That’s right, the next step in our long march toward “Fate of the Furious” is the first sequel in the series, “2 Fast 2 Furious.” While the original concerned the FBI’s efforts to stop a gang from boosting top-of-the line Panasonic DVD players, the follow-up raises the stakes to international drug smuggling, thus sowing the seeds for the escalation to globe-trotting espionage and terrorism that the team would tackle in later films. It also showed that the franchise could survive without Vin Diesel, grossing an insane $50 million opening weekend even after the star decided he was too good for these movies (a position he would obviously hold strong to after his career took off like a rocket with films like “The Pacifier” and “Babylon A.D.”).

So how do the adventures of returning star Brian (Paul Walker) and his new man crush Roman (Tyrese Gibson) compare to the original? Is Roman an acceptable substitute for Vin Diesel both in the movie and in Brian’s heart? Has Paul Walker’s acting gotten any better? Why does Miami seem to have no cops around when major parts of downtown are being blocked off for street races?  And when exactly did auto-body shop owner and race organizer Tej gain the computer skills that have made him a greater hacker than Edward Snowden? Take it away boys:

Mike: So we open with Ludacris sporting the full Southern Hospitality afro, and right away he’s all up in arms because there’s only three cars available to race, and since these guys are real sticklers for the rules there absolutely positively 100% cannot be a race unless there are four cars involved, because otherwise it just wouldn’t make sense.

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Cue Paul Walker, who even two years later has yet to improve his acting ability at all since the first one, but he does make this face when he’s driving fast:

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I totally forgot Eva Mendes was in this movie. It’s good to see a Spanish woman as beautiful as her at a street race in Miami being completely ignored. We all know Spanish guys never hit on women; I’m glad Singleton didn’t perpetuate the stereotype further, not counting the part a few moments later when Amaury Nolasco screams that he can smell Devon Aoki’s ass. (Kevin: Also when you watch it with the subtitles, a good 70 percent of his dialogue consists of the phrases “SPEAKING IN SPANISH” or “YELLING IN SPANISH.”)

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The acting in this movie by everyone in the cast is pretty terrible, but I gotta say that Devon Aoki as “Suki” really takes the cake. She can’t even hand someone money convincingly.

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There is also an absurd amount of head nodding going on. These people really enjoy silently acknowledging each other. Ten minutes in and so far this is what I’ve seen:

Tej nods at Brian.

Brian nods at Tej.

Monica nods at Brian.

Brian nods at Suki.

Suki nods at Brian.

Brian nods at Tej again.

Tej nods at Brian again.

By the end of the movie each character nods at each additional character at least three times. We’re talking hundreds of nods by the end credits.

This is what you look like when your tiny fiberglass rice burner with no airbags hits a Pepsi billboard at 120 mph.

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Just get out and walk it off. All you did was jump a drawbridge at 160 mph, bottom out, fishtail, and collide with a stationary object.

Finally, I know this must be a stylistic choice because every car in the “Fast” series has the same thing, but why do they all have the NOS labeled with Brother P-Touch tape on their steering wheels? I guess they can trick out the entire car with neon lights and flat-panel computer screens, but they get lazy when it comes to dazzling up these buttons. Also, why even bother to label them?! You’re a professional racer, you should know that those aren’t the horn.

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Kevin: Yeah I have some thoughts on this opening race as well:

  • First of all, as the movie starts Brian is apparently a well-known and respected underground racer in the Miami. Was it ever established in the first one that he was any good at all though? He loses his first race to Dom, needs Dom’s help at the end against a couple of Korean guys on motorbikes, and only “wins” the last race because Dom’s car gets clipped by a semi.
  • After Brian shows up as a last-minute entry in the opening race, the entry fee is set at $3,500, which everyone acts surprised by yet they all apparently have exactly that amount pre-wrapped in a bundle that they just hand over immediately without counting.
  • We’ve come a long way from the 10-second drag races of the first movie, as Brian and the other three racers drive all over a downtown Miami area that is completely deserted, which is not too surprising I guess since Miami is well-known for having a pretty quiet nightlife. This race also doubles down on the idea perpetuated in the first movie that the world outside your car turns into a trippy “2001”-type light show as soon as you start going above 110 mph.
  • As you alluded to earlier Mike, if blocking off major intersections wasn’t enough to attract the attention of the cops, some of Ludacris’ buddies risk severe jail time to break into a municipal building and manually raise a drawbridge as an extra challenge for the racers (hope no ambulances needed to get across or anything). While Brian somehow jumps the bridge and leapfrogs over his closest competitor to win, the other two cars that make the jump get seriously damaged after landing on the other side (the fourth racer goes, “Oh hell no!” and elects not to try the jump, making him by far the smartest person in this movie).
  • Seriously why the fuck would anyone want to compete in Ludacris’ races? It’s not enough that you may be out a few grand if you lose, apparently he will seriously try to kill you at some point, and even if you survive you will probably have to spend more than you would have won to fix all the damage your car will sustain.

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CJ: Ahhhhhh “2 Fast 2 Furious.” Or as it’s commonly known, “2 Fast 2 Furious: We Will Never See Vin Again!” I’ve always found it funny how much Vin loves this franchise given how quickly he high-tailed it away from it at the start. It’s like when you cheat on your girlfriend and dump her, only to find out your mistress has been double-teaming a couple football players and you have to go back claiming the affair meant nothing.

Anyway, back to that opening race: Kevin not only does Ludacris’ team drop pylons, but did you notice they only drop them in one location, yet somehow the whole city is blocked off? Not just that, at one point as they are driving through an abandoned South Florida and they clearly go past what I assume is the Miami Heat’s arena. At the very least there should have been a shot of Alonzo Mourning with a hooker.

Another thing about Ludacris: as the movies go on he’s supposed to be some kind of computer genius, right? Yet somehow in this one he’s solely a guy who runs an auto-body shop. I’m gonna stay positive and assume he took advantage of nighttime computer classes at Miami Dade College, although this still doesn’t explain why he’s a Miami big-timer and everyone respects him.

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Ludacris, the best employee Geek Squad ever had.

Before I forget, here’s the question I want answered: What is everyone doing that allows them to pay for all these cars? They are clearly at most 23 years old, and yet they all walk around with $3,500 in cash and can waste untold amounts of money turning their Honda Civics into Death Race 2000. Are they all rich kids of Miami’s socially elite class? Are they high-end male and female escorts? Are you concerned that both seem equally plausible?

Kevin: They certainly can’t all be rich kids, because before the opening race the girlfriend of Slap Jack (played by a young Michael Ealy) reminds him that he better win because they have rent to pay. Jesus how much is your rent if you’re willing to risk $3,500 no questions asked on a street race in which you have a very good chance of getting arrested, severely injured, and/or sustaining expensive damage to your car? Also, any couple this financially irresponsible must have at least seven kids, so considering Slap Jack is never seen again in this series, I hope Ludacris shared at least a little of his windfall from the Brazil heist in “Fast Five.”

Mike: Either way, once the opening race separates the men from the boys, we finally get into the “plot.” The FBI makes Brian a deal to clear his name so long as he infiltrates a drug cartel as a driver. He only agrees to do it if he can bring his ex-boyfriend Roman Pearce (Tyrese) along for the ride. So right away the FBI flies Brian out to Barstow, CA, and we meet Roman who is making a living as a demolition derby driver. The two make love for a few hours and then fly back to Miami.

Kevin: All right before we go further this is as good a time as any to discuss the rather interesting “relationship” Brian and Roman share. I’m sure we’re not the first people to note this, but I really think they have a lot more to their “history” than just growing up together on the streets and Brian being responsible for Roman going to jail for three years. Let’s put it this way, when this occurs after they first see each other again, it’s by far the least homoerotic moment between them:

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Let me just list some other moments between Brian and Roman that hint at something deeper between the two:

  • While heading to bad guy Carter Verone’s (Cole Hauser) mansion for an “audition” race, Brian tries to act super cool by staring at undercover agent Monica Fuentes (Eva Mendes) for a long time while not looking at the road. A jealous Roman later makes sure to tell her that Brian “got that from him” first.
  • Later during the race Brian yells at Roman, “I got something for your ass!,” something I have a feeling both of them said a lot back in the day. (Side note: When they get to Verone’s car in an impound lot to retrieve a package inside, Tyrese rips off his shirt, which seems gratuitous until we find out he had a really good reason: he wraps the shirt around his hand and punches the driver’s side window, which easily shatters with no damage to his hand whatsoever. I’m sure he thinks this makes him a badass, but both Carl Weathers and Steven Seagal did this exact move in “Action Jackson” and “Above the Law” respectively without any protection to their hands, so slow your roll Tyrese.

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  • Anyway, whatever questions existed about the relationship between Brian and Roman are pretty much answered when they get back to the mansion. While Fuentes is walking in front of them, Roman angrily asks, “What are you checking her out for?,” while Brian is a little too quick to reassure him that he wasn’t. Either way Fuentes can easily hear this entire lover’s spat, as she is like a foot in front of them.
  • In the next scene they are getting ready to sit down for lunch and Roman still can’t let this go, again accusing Brian of checking her out. Fuentes speaks for all us when she says, “Both you girls shut up!”
  • When he’s not being angry with Brian, Roman’s acting like a passive aggressive little bitch with Fuentes, who has been living with Verone as part of her undercover work. First Roman pissily says, “You must be really cozy in this mansion,” before muttering under his breath “sleeping with the enemy” in the most judgmental way possible for a guy who did three years in prison.
  • Roman: “It means you’re always getting in trouble over a female, BRIAN!” The implication being maybe Brian would be better off not trying to be someone he’s not, if you know what I mean.
  • Roman again: “When I needed your ass you were nowhere to be found!” After watching these two I’m taking the most literal interpretation of this as possible.
  • More Roman to Brian: “I know you better than you think.” Yeah I bet you do Roman.
  • Later at a party at some boat docks organized of course by Ludacris, Roman makes a rather unconvincing attempt to catcall some hot ladies, and this is what Brian immediately does, almost as if to literally reassert his hold over Roman:

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  • Brian asks Ludacris if Roman can stay with him for a while. When Ludacris asks why he can’t stay with Brian, Roman responds, “Nah I don’t want to stay with him, he got some bad habits.” What the fuck does that mean? Even Ludacris obviously doesn’t want to delve too far into that weird and cryptic statement.

Mike: While there is plenty to speculate about their relationship behind closed doors, I will also say that when infiltrating a multinational drug cartel, it’s always best to come dressed like a professional. I believe the saying is “Dress for the job you want.” Here we see Roman looking like a fed up janitor and Brian like me in the 7th grade. (Kevin: As “Striking Distance” proved with Bruce Willis, no hero can look cool wearing shorts and white socks.)

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Cole Hauser also plays a really convincing Argentinean drug lord named Verone considering he’s a red-haired actor of Jewish, German, and Irish descent. I guess Bill Burr was unavailable. (Kevin: I’ll just add that he does not make the most intimidating face when he’s sucking on a cigar the size of Peter North’s dick):

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CJ: Let’s talk about the FBI’s plan to take Verone down. While Vin elected not to return, the filmmakers obviously scored a major coup by getting Thom Barry to return as fan-favorite Agent Bilkins:

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“I’m back bitches!”

Brian tells him if he’s gonna do this mission, he gets to pick his partner. Brian was just pulled in by the cops so I’m not sure why he thinks he has a say in this. But Bilkins just says, “Yeah, sure.” Doesn’t even take a second to hem and haw and then reluctantly agree. I don’t even think Brian finished speaking before Bilkins gave the green light. Next we see them in California, at which point Bilkins only then chooses to read Roman’s rap sheet. That’s an eight-hour flight they were on and Bilkins never thought to look at his files. I know we’ve previously made fun of how shitty a cop Brian is, but I’m starting to think it’s the training.

Then Roman Pearce, portrayed by Jacob Silj School of Thespianage graduate Tyrese, wastes no time in beautifully integrating himself into the Furyverse by looking into a crowd of people and immediately recognizing Brian, whom he had no heads up would be there.

Then during their audition race for Verone, I first started to notice what would become a common theme through the “F&F” movies, which is that these guys talk to each other a lot despite the fact they are in separate cars going 100 MPH and presumably can’t hear a fucking word the other person is saying. Yet somehow they always have the right response to what anyone else says. Is it just me? I think the next time I’m on my way to work I’m just going to loudly proclaim “I’m not done yet scumbag!” and look around to see if anyone responds.

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“What did you think of that Heat game last night Roman?”

Mike: Speaking of driving, can we talk about how Roman magically knows his way around Miami even though he’s only just landed? Also, when they are at the impound lot to retrieve a package from one of Verone’s cars, he pulls a gun and starts shooting at some cops including James Remar. Where does he get a gun from?!  I guess maybe he keistered it all the way from Barstow.

Also, everyone is extremely cavalier in regards to their deep cover operation. They have conversations about their law enforcement pasts and their present plans inside Verone’s house and club. They talk more about what they’re going to do there than when they’re at FBI headquarters.

It’s pretty amazing how every environment in Miami is teeming with amazingly hot bikini-clad women and virtually no men at all. It’s like Tej has discovered the lost city of El Dorado. In relation to the development of his character in the later films, it seems like he would have been better off just chilling in Miami living like a Roman Emperor with an auto-body shop.

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Yes, to some people this was considered sexy in 2003.

I’m assuming that Brian and Roman’s mission is to be covert, yet it seems like everyone in Miami knows about it. They take their cars to Tej’s garage and right away a mechanic is telling them that the cars are wired with transponders and they’re not sure if they can take them out. When questioned about it, Brian just blows them off:

“Hey Brian, these look like FBI tracking devices. They’re impossible to turn off or remove …  Are you working with the FBI?”

“Oh word? Yeah, you don’t wanna know.”

“But I DO KNOW Brian, that’s why I’m asking you.”

“Cool bro, I got this.”

End of conversation.

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Way to stay undercover there Brian.

Now I’m no drug lord, but I’m pretty certain that driving around cartel money, especially a paltry sum like a few million dollars, is probably something they make the interns do. Yet Verone is really spending a lot of time buddying up with Brian and Roman. Likewise it’s always a wise course of action where, if you suspect certain people might be working with law enforcement, the best way to smoke them out is to do something highly illegal in front of them, like torturing a cop you have on the payroll with a rat and a blow torch. Perhaps I am going out on a limb here,  but if they can’t get Verone on this drug bust then maybe they can put him away for all the other stuff he does like kidnapping, extortion, torture, malicious intent, and attempted murder of a police officer? That seems like something that would get a person a few years in the big house.

CJ: Yeah I’m really confused by Verone’s plan as well. He has money in a wall of a shack that he can’t get to cause it’s under surveillance, so he sends two guys in brightly colored cars – who are followed by known henchman – to pick the cash up, which will somehow not set off any alarms. And then they are just going to out run them? Verone’s big plan is basically like your shitty liquor store robbery? How did he even amass his fortune? Wait, it’s Florida, the state even New Jersey laughs at.

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But he and Monica make such a cute couple.

Mike: My god there is so little actually going on in this movie that most scenes are simply pointless. Like the poker game where Tej draws a royal flush, the most impossible hand in all of cards. The actual story and movie could probably take place in about 18 minutes, so they’re just padding the other 90 with garbage revolving mostly around Brian and Roman “bonding.”

At one point Monica sneaks out of Verone’s compound, and I guess it’s implied that she swam all the way to Brian’s houseboat because for some reason she’s dripping wet and wearing a Puma shirt tied off at her perfect belly.

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Then afterwards they share a weird first-time kiss that comes out of nowhere and never happens again. I guess they were trying to make the scene sexually charged but it actually came across like Brian was having an asthma attack and Monica just wanted to leave without being rude.

This is not even a joke, I’m an hour and 25 minutes into this movie and I honestly have no idea what’s going on. All I know is by the end of the movie there are dozens of police cars destroyed and millions of dollars in damage and all that happens is that the FBI says “JOB WELL DONE BOYS! You held up your end, your records are clean!” and then we go into what should be a freeze frame but isn’t:

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CJ: Since we are nearing the end I’ll throw in a few additional thoughts:

  • The gang Brian and Roman race against during the audition were a mix of “Sopranos” rejects and Smash Mouth fans.
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(Kevin: I’ll note for the record that the actor on the left went to my gym in NY and was also in “The Last Boy Scout”)

  • When Verone suggests they get to know each other better and Eva Mendes says they should meet up at a club at midnight, I won’t lie, that’s way too late for me.
  • Brian keeps referring to women as “potential.” Is that the Florida version of talent? Either way, it only confirms that if you are from Florida or are a Dudebro, please kill yourself. (Kevin: Maybe he means it as he is only “potentially” heterosexual)
  • When learning that Verone plans to shoot Brian after the mission is over, Bilkins calls off the plan.  James Remar says no way, offers no argument as to why, and Bilkins shrugs his shoulders and goes along with it. Solid leadership Bilkins!
  • The undercover guy outside Verone’s mansion was a Mexican posing as a gardener.
  • The mad scramble of Florida’s worst EDM DJs was actually kinda clever. I look forward to 6 movies from now when this escalates to submarines.
  • Wait, they have this whole scramble and the cops think Brian and Roman stayed in the exact same two cars from earlier. Note to self – if you ever need to trick the cops, basically do the flare move from “Jurassic Park.”
  • And yeah, Brian and Roman are definitely fucking.
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Seriously, check out the look Roman is giving him!

Kevin: I’ll wrap this up by saying that I do admire this movie for saving its stupidest moment for the very end: Brian decides he’s going to jump his car onto Verone’s yacht, and somehow he knows that if he accelerates to 120 mph there will be a ramp at the end of the dirt road that will allow him to perfectly launch the exact height and distance needed to land on the boat:

I have a feeling when John Singleton was sitting among his fellow Best Director nominees in 1992, he did not envision the day when he would need to have one of his characters acknowledge that they were about to rip off a move that “Dukes of Hazzard” pulled off at least three times an episode.

Either way, although they still hit paydirt without Vin, the “Fast and Furious” producers found themselves going into the next one without Paul Walker as well, so like good gamblers they bet on black: Lucas Black that is, in “Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift.” Did their wager pay off? Come back soon and find out.

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6 thoughts on “The Countdown to “Fast 8” Continues: “2 Fast 2 Furious”

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