Released in the summer of 2001, The Fast and The Furious introduced the world to what would become one of the most successful and much-loved franchises in cinema today. Upon first appearances though, few could have predicted that it would run to a series of 7 films and hold its own in exceptionally changing times where cinema releases have become strangled by a mix of CGI and superheroes. On the surface The Fast and The Furious was a crowd-pleasing a mix of Gone in 60 Seconds and Point Break which built on the promise of the two leads, Vin Diesel and Paul Walker, who had shone in the previous year in Pitch Black and The Skulls respectively. It was an entertaining blend of action and simmering melodrama saw it earn a healthy box office return of over $200 million.
However, we are not here today to talk about The Fast and The Furious. No, we are here to praise the merits of the sequel 2 Fast 2 Furious, or Too Fast Too Furious for people over that certain age when using numbers for letters became something young people did.
Coming two years after the success of the initial film, the second film picks the story up with the ‘Turbo Charged Prelude’ which I can’t deny is certainly a prelude. However, like much of the film that follows the action is merely working its way through the gears at a leisurely rate. It can found on the DVD and has the production value of a cutaway scene from a PlayStation game. We see Paul Walker’s character Brian O’Conner on the lam, making his way to Miami and integrating himself into the street racing scene earning himself the nickname ‘Bullitt’, a nod to an earlier age of cinematic car chases.
The early scenes in the film tread water in terms of what can be expected from the early films in the series. In hindsight, they are very much of the time and now appear slightly dated. A blend of Pimp My Ride meets early 2000s hip hop videos, with the entirely appropriate casting of Ludacris playing Tej Parker, the centre point of the street racing game who holds court as a variety of dodgy characters drive neon cars with turbo charged boosters.
However, the film quickly moves away from this theme and enters what can only be described as a 1980s cult TV mashup as The Dukes of Hazard meets Miami Vice. O’Conner is captured and forced to work on the side of the law once again to take down a local drug lord played by Cole Hauser, alongside fellow undercover agent Eva Mendes. Walker however has one more trick up his sleeve and he recruits his old friend Roman Pearce, played by Tyrese Gibson to buddy up with him as they adopt roles as drivers for hire.
It is with this change in theme, that the success of the series becomes apparent. These films are family entertainment. Not just for teenage boys, they are adaptable for the whole family. In an age, where we are bombarded by superheroes from every comic book company, it’s refreshing to see the same morals and extraordinary feats of endurance and skill play out in the real world. You are never in any confusion about what side to root for. Indeed throughout the later films, we see that characters from numerous racial backgrounds given equal starring time and also strong roles are played out by female actors such as the aforementioned Eva Mendes, Jordana Brewster and Michelle Rodriguez.
It’s interesting to look back at the series at a time when Vin Diesel had stepped away in favour of other roles, as the 2nd film becomes more of a spin off from the series rather than a continuing instalment. With the next film in the series, Tokyo Drift, Paul Walker also decided that it wasn’t for him and moved on, as the film moved continents to focus on speed racing on the streets of Tokyo. It’s hard to imagine any other successful film series taking three films to even decide that it wanted to become a franchise.
However, the detachment of the 2nd film is part of the success. The film is breezy and fun, and once the story takes hold, it motors along at a pleasing pace without ever becoming taxing for a viewer of any age. The latter films would take more of a thriller feel focusing on more elaborate heists and stunts, but this was an episodic encounter which repaid the faith of its returning audience with some solid thrills.