Retrospective Theater – A “The Fast and the Furious” and “2 Fast 2 Furious” Combo Review
I found myself wanting to see Furious 7 last week as I was perusing the available pre-orders in the Google Play Movies Store. The problem: I’ve never watched a single installment of the series from beginning to end. Yeah. I’m that guy. I’ve seen enough clips over the 14 years since the first movie released to piece together most of the story, but that’s not the same thing. So, I added onto my geel backlog list a mission to watch all 10.5 hours or so of this franchise. I finished the second installment and decided that the way I wanted to approach this series was to cap my thoughts every two movies.
One of the things that I have always found most intriguing about this amazingly long-running franchise is the constantly fluctuating cast from one movie to the next and the Hollywood gossip behind major departures and returns, so I’ll also be including this handy-dandy chart with each combo review, for actors that I could find reports for their reasons for not being in an episode of the franchise.
The main line to consider between these two movies is which is “better”. If you take a look at Rotten Tomatoes or other review sites, you’ll find that the consensus is that the first was pretty decently regarded, while the second was pretty much dismissed. Here are my own thoughts on the comparison.
Most of us lamented the lack of Diesel and Rodriguez in the second flick, and maybe Jordana Brewster as well, to a lesser extent. I like my continuity, and so of all the returning cast members returning, one that I really liked to see was Thom Barry, reprising his role as Agent Bilkins. I especially liked the flip of his role and his relationship with Paul Walker’s Brian O’Conner. In The Fast and the Furious, Bilkins is the typical movie fed. Not too street smart, intent only on bureaucratic compliance, and dismissive of a more street-smart and slick undercover cop. In the second movie, he holds Walker in the highest regard, seeming to be understanding of why he let Toretto go in the first film, and most interested in his talents and his abilities rather than being focused on his past misconduct. Very nice spin.
I liked Eva Mendes in 2 Fast 2 Furious, and I liked having a clear villain in Cole Hauser’s Carter Verone, who plays just a perfectly ripe bastard. The rat in a can scene is just a great wickedly twisted villain scene. Devon Aoki’s character is a pretty vapid, typical Hollywood female role, but I did like the pairing of her up with Ludacris’ Tej as a romantic interest, because I did not see that one coming. As on-screen interacial couplings go, this one is a bit outside the norm, so I give it an up-check.
The thing I like most about the second flick is the on-screen chemistry between Paul Walker and Tyrese. Yes, Gibson gets some hopelessly stereotypical lines, almost to the point of being annoying, but I love the character’s perspective. Having lost three years of his life in jail, Roman Pearce has little time or tolerance for societal norms, filtering what comes out of his mouth, or backing down from mobsters, no matter how big the fish. While I cannot quite see the character scripting between O’Conner and Pearce as Barstow-genuine, the friendship between Walker and Gibson comes across as genuine and translates to an equally genuine friendship between the two characters. This is in contrast to the Toretto-O’Conner relationship, which feels entirely scripted, as Toretto is a Keyser Soze-Raymond Reddington kind of mystique. A character who has to be so feared that you are not certain that any semblance of friendship with them is at all genuine.
The point of all of this is that I take the running average acceptance of The Fast and the Furious as a foregone conclusion. But having seen the first two films, I feel obligated to defend the second film just a bit. Is 2 Fast 2 Furious a good movie? Meh; certainly not great. But, for me, it was a fun movie. Good enough to watch a few times in my lifetime, now that I own a digital copy. Viewing 2 Fast 2 Furious I found myself laughing (not cynically) a ton more than I did while watching the first film, which arguably falters by taking itself too seriously. And a couple of hours of laughs is worth something in my book. For now, I appreciate 2 Fast 2 Furious for what it is, and I’m looking forward to my viewings of Tokyo Drift and Fast and Furious.