This episode of Revisited was Written by Cody Hamman, Narrated by Travis Hopson, Edited by Juan Jimenez, Produced by Adam Walton and Chris Bumbray, and Executive Produced by Berge Garabedian.
No Vin Diesel? No problem. Paul Walker goes on a solo adventure in the first sequel to The Fast and the Furious. Miami sunshine, neon nights, a dangerous drug runner, Eva Mendes, and two new characters who would have prominent roles in future sequels: all of these elements collide in a follow-up that has the unforgettable title 2 Fast 2 Furious (watch it HERE). And it’s time for it to be Revisited.
SET-UP: The Fast and the Furious was released in June of 2001. Made on a budget of thirty-eight million dollars, the street racing action movie earned more than two hundred and six million dollars at the global box office. Its home studio Universal wanted to cash in on that success as quickly as possible, aiming to get a sequel ready to reach theatres in June of 2003. But there was an obstacle to overcome. Vin Diesel – who played racer and DVD player thief Dominic Toretto in the first movie – was against the idea of a sequel. He thought The Fast and the Furious should be left as a standalone classic. That didn’t stop the studio from trying to include Diesel in their sequel plans, though. While he and The Fast and the Furious director Rob Cohen went off to make the spy movie xXx, Universal and producer Neal H. Moritz commissioned multiple scripts for the Furious follow-up. Gary Scott Thompson, who co-wrote the first film, and newcomers Michael Brandt and Derek Haas were tasked with coming up with two ideas: one that would involve Dominic Toretto, and one that would focus solely on Brian O’Conner, the undercover cop, played by Paul Walker, who befriended Dom in the first movie.
xXx was released in August of 2002 and the Fast and Furious sequel was going to film that fall. Diesel and Cohen both could have come back. But Diesel stood firm on his decision not to make the movie. The actor has said that he turned down the project because he didn’t like the script. He was quoted as saying, “I guess I’m of the old mind-set that sequels should be more a continuation of a story than a rehash of a story.” But Walker heard a different reason. He told the New York Times, “They just couldn’t make the deal with Vin. It was my understanding he wanted to come back but wanted half the studio.” Rumor has it that Universal offered Diesel, who had just received a ten million dollar payday for xXx, twenty to twenty-five million to play Dom again. Much more than the two-point-five million he got the first time. But when Diesel asked for even more, they chose to let him walk away. It didn’t look like he needed The Fast and the Furious anyway. He was working on building a franchise around his Riddick character from Pitch Black and xXx was intended to be a major franchise as well. The future was bright, even without Dominic Toretto in it. So Diesel moved on – and since he wasn’t coming back, Cohen also opted out.
Moving ahead with the Brian O’Conner script, Universal and Moritz quickly found Diesel and Cohen’s replacements. Singer-slash-model Tyrese Gibson had recently gotten positive attention for his performance in the coming-of-age film Baby Boy. Which was written and directed by John Singleton, whose previous credits included Boyz n the Hood and the Shaft reboot. The project then known as The Fast and the Furious 2 would reunite them. Singleton was hired to direct the film, with Tyrese signed on to co-star.
Thompson, Brandt, and Haas crafted a story that turned Brian O’Conner from an undercover Los Angeles lawman into a fugitive from the law. Since Brian let Dom go at the end of the first film, he’s now facing an arrest warrant for obstruction of justice and aiding and abetting a criminal. When we catch up with him in the sequel, he has left L.A. behind and now lives in a houseboat behind an auto shop in Miami. Earning money by competing in complex street races organized by the owner of the auto shop. These aren’t the straightforward quarter mile races Brian and Dom competed in. One of these races might go around corners, through neighborhoods, and over a raised drawbridge. After we see Brian compete in and win a race, the law catches up with him. Customs Agent Markham, played by James Remar, and FBI Agent Bilkins, Thom Barry reprising his role from the first movie, have a deal for him. They’re looking to bust drug runner Carter Verone, played by Cole Hauser. The problem is, they have never been able to catch Verone and his ill-gotten money in the same place at the same time. Customs has placed an undercover agent inside Verone’s compound: Monica Fuentes, played by Eva Mendes. Since Verone and Monica have clearly gotten intimate during the year she has spent undercover, there’s some worry that she has fallen under his spell. Sort of like Brian got too emotionally involved with Dom. But the audience is given little reason to ever doubt her. She warms up to Brian very quickly. Monica handles travel and logistics for Verone, and he’s looking for drivers who will be able to transport some money for him soon. Markham and Bilkins tell Brian his criminal record will be wiped out if he infiltrates Verone’s organization as one of those drivers. He agrees – but won’t do the job with the inexperienced agent they wanted to pair him with. He’ll choose his own partner.
That’s when Tyrese enters the picture as Brian’s childhood friend Roman Pearce. Who was recently released from prison, having been busted for car theft. Roman is not a fan of the authorities and is none too happy that his pal Brian became a cop. But while he and Brian do some fighting and bickering, Roman agrees to do this Verone job with him. Because it will wipe out his criminal record as well.
So, aside from Walker as Brian and Barry as Bilkins, we have an entirely new cast of characters in this sequel. Everyone Brian and Dom hung out with in the first movie was left behind. That was a decision that didn’t sit too well with Jordana Brewster, who played Dom’s sister and Brian’s love interest Mia in the previous film. But it’s the direction Universal chose to go in. The only other character they considered bringing back was street racer Edwin, played by rapper Ja Rule in the first film. In the screenplay written by Brandt and Haas, Edwin was supposed to be the auto shop owner and race organizer Brian hangs out with. The character, who had just been a cameo role previously, was supposed to be a prominent player in this sequel. Ja Rule was paid fifteen grand for his appearance in The Fast and the Furious. For this one, his pay would have increased to five hundred thousand. But a deal couldn’t be made, and Singleton felt ignored when he met with him. Ultimately, Ja Rule decided to follow Vin Diesel’s lead and turn down the offer. He told MTV, “Me and Vin talked after he turned it down. He hollered at me ’cause they still wanted me to do the film and they bumped up my role as a starring role and everything. And you know, we talked about it. I just felt it wasn’t the best move for me as far as what I want to do in Hollywood right now. I’m really trying to do this acting thing very seriously. And you know, sometimes every move is not the right move.” Besides, at the time he seemed to think he would be joining Diesel in the Riddick franchise. That didn’t happen, and for The Fast and the Furious 2 the Edwin character was replaced by a new character. Tej Parker, played by rapper Chris “Ludacris” Bridges. Ludacris was excited to take part in the film – and the deal worked out very well for him, as Tej would be brought back for most of the future sequels.
Further building up the supporting cast, Singleton chose Devon Aoki to play street racer Suki. Like Jordana Brewster and Michelle Rodriguez in the first movie, Aoki didn’t have a driver’s license when she was cast in this film, even though it would require her to do some driving. Mark Boone Junior makes a memorable appearance as a crooked cop who’s associated with Verone. Mo Gallini and Roberto Sanchez are Verone’s henchmen Enrique and Roberto. MC Jin plays Tej’s mechanic Jimmy. And John Cenatiempo and Eric Etebari play a pair of drivers Brian and Roman score classic muscle cars from.
REVIEW: Even with Shaft on his resumé, a Fast and Furious sequel was an unexpected choice for Singleton to direct. And he said he took the job exactly because it was something people wouldn’t expect from him. He was down for the challenge of making the first PG-13 movie of his career. And of making a movie that would be cool enough and fun enough for the audience that it could lead to more sequels. He was really just out to have a good time making this one. As he said on his audio commentary, “If you could get paid to be in Florida and hang out with Paul Walker and Tyrese and Eva Mendes, wouldn’t you do it?” He created a fun atmosphere on the set, swimming and fishing between camera set-ups, encouraging the actors to improv. In an effort to make the movie feel spontaneous, they would change up dialogue at a moment’s notice and rewrite it on the fly. While doing this, they kept one objective in mind: Singleton wanted to have something that would make the audience chuckle in every scene.
The fun everyone was having while working on the movie is still felt in the finished film. 2 Fast 2 Furious is just a fast-paced blast. It has a lot more action than its predecessor, with the bare minimum of plot carrying us from car race sequence to car chase sequence. There are plenty of vehicular smash-ups and displays of old school stuntwork. When Brian and Roman are speeding down the highway, racing other drivers or being chased by the police, it brings to mind the classic car movie days. It all builds up to a car ramping stunt that’s reminiscent of The Dukes of Hazzard. And, following Cohen’s work on the first film, when there’s a street race Singleton allows the film to become quite stylized. When figuring out the look and style of the movie, he drew inspiration from an interesting mixture of sources: Japanese anime, the Speed Racer cartoon, the Gran Turismo video game, Westerns, and Top Gun. He knew he was trying to appeal to a new generation of movie-goers here. He needed to make something that would be enjoyable for viewers who grew up on music videos, animation, and video games.
Singleton and cinematographer Matthew F. Leonetti delivered a film that is quite pleasant to look at while it speeds along. Many daylight scenes take place in lovely, sun-soaked locations. Often filled with vibrant colors. Night scenes go heavy on the colorful lighting and neon. They even had a technical consultant on set who was considered an expert in shooting neon on film to make sure they had the best looking neon around.
When we’re not being dazzled by the visuals and the action, we also get to enjoy the hilarious bromance between Brian and Roman. They start out on shaky ground. They even wrestle around in the dirt during their first scene together. But by the end of the film they’ve fully come around to being great friends again. And there’s no way to talk about 2 Fast 2 Furious without addressing this: you know that Quentin Tarantino monologue about the homoeroticism of Top Gun? Well, this movie ranks up there with Top Gun as one of the most unintentionally homoerotic action movies ever made. Eva Mendes’s character Monica is meant to be Brian’s love interest of sorts. There’s at least enough chemistry there to get Verone jealous. But there’s a lot more heat in Brian and Roman’s interactions than in Brian’s scenes with Monica. There are moments when Brian and Roman are bickering, getting in each other’s faces, where it wouldn’t have been surprising to see them start making out. JoBlo.com’s Jason Adams has described 2 Fast 2 Furious as a homoerotic epic, and that’s one of the most entertaining things about it.
While we watch him exchange dialogue with others and make his way through intense situations, Brian seems cooler than he did in the previous movie. Singleton certainly thought Walker was cool, comparing him to Steve McQueen. This is even in the movie, where people refer to Brian by the name of McQueen’s most popular character: Bullitt.
The movie also has what may be the most legitimately threatening villain of the entire franchise. There’s a darkness to Cole Hauser’s Carter Verone. Who lives in a mansion that was once actually owned by Sylvester Stallone. In a movie that’s light-hearted most of the time, Verone is dangerous. The scene that best demonstrates what Verone is capable of is when he tortures the detective played by Mark Boone Junior. He places a rat on the man’s stomach, then puts a metal bucket over the rat and starts heating it with a blowtorch. The idea being that when the rat gets too hot, it will start gnawing into the man’s gut to escape the heat. Apparently this is a real torture tactic the writers were told about by a Green Beret. It makes for an effective scene, and a memorably dark moment in the franchise.
LEGACY/NOW: In January of 2003, the website for the sequel to The Fast and the Furious went live. And that’s when the world found out it was going to have one of the most ridiculous titles ever. And therefore one of the best titles ever. 2 Fast 2 Furious was going to hit the big screen that June, just like Universal had always wanted.
As you would expect from a movie with two in the title twice, the budget for this one was doubled, boosting it up to seventy-six million. And when it reached theatres, it made slightly more than the previous movie did at the box office. Domestically, it fell short of The Fast and the Furious. The first movie had earned just over one hundred and forty-four million, but this one topped out at one hundred and twenty-seven. It was the international numbers that greatly improved. The first movie couldn’t quite crack sixty-two million. 2 Fast 2 Furious made over one hundred and nine million internationally. Bringing its total to two hundred and thirty-six million, about thirty million more than its predecessor.
Universal had another hit. 2 Fast 2 Furious had the fourth highest June opening weekend in history. It was the fifteenth highest grossing film of the year in the United States and sixteenth worldwide. The critical response was largely negative, but the CinemaScore from audiences gave it an A minus. When it was time for the film to reach home video, the DVD was packed with special features, including a six minute short film. The Turbo Charged Prelude, directed by music video helmer Philip Atwell from a script by future The Voice producer Keith Dinielli. This short tells the story of Brian’s journey from L.A. to Miami without dialogue. Showing him avoiding cops, competing in street races, and catching a ride from Minka Kelly.
2 Fast 2 Furious had proven that only Paul Walker was needed to make a successful Fast and Furious movie. It looked like this was the direction the franchise was going to take from now on, and Walker was totally on board to come back for more solo sequels. But Universal took an unexpected swerve on the way to the third movie. There would be no Walker in that one. We would be introduced to a whole new set of characters. Most of them teenagers, drifting their cars through Tokyo. The only connection to the previous films would be through a last minute cameo… But that’s a story to be told in the next episode of Revisited.
Originally published at https://www.joblo.com/2-fast-2-furious-revisited/