By Mike Clark, USA TODAY
Rubber peels, and behind-the-wheel peelers are often peeved with each other. Thus, 2 Fast 2 Furious is an adequate title for the latest sequel to pick your pocket, even though this kind of cutesy moniker can't help but bring to mind the skunk-like aromas put out by Cradle 2 the Grave only four months ago.
The new film is, of course, the follow-up to 2001's The Fast and the Furious. That surprise box office bonanza was one of those rare recent movies that really did recapture the feel — without the tinny soundtrack — of nostalgic drive-in fodder from decades past. But this go-round, which deals with infiltrating the operation of a Miami-based money launderer (Cole Hauser), has a built-in problem.
Ask yourself: If only one lead from the first Fast can return for its sequel, should it be sleepy Paul Walker or the more dynamic Vin Diesel? Well, forget Diesel, because a) Walker's cop character let Diesel's hotly pursued fugitive escape into presumed anonymity at the end of the original; and b) Diesel has been too busy being top-billed in high art like XXX and A Man Apart.
So here we are with Walker, whose actions have gotten him bounced off the force, though the Feds are willing to forgive if he and an estranged pal (Tyrese, from 2 Fast director John Singleton's last film, Baby Boy) will get Hauser.
Before you can say Studebaker, we're back into a very specific culture where the new agents' female counterpart (Eva Mendes) looks as if she ought to be on the cover of a men's magazine. Here, guys ask women, "When are you going to pop my clutch?" and cuties who can handle fast cars as well as men are named Suki.
As for male camaraderie, these dudes call everyone "Bro." The movie is all about racing, and character be damned, though the still dazed-looking Walker and Tyrese finally get a little rapport going after a worn-out story's very rocky start.
Baby Boy was Singleton's best since 1991's Boyz N the Hood breakthrough, but here he's just trying to slum as painlessly as possible. Like last week's The Italian Job, this movie is all about using public thoroughfares as personal speedways, with slow-on-the-take police and no helicopter-TV coverage (yeah, right).
At least 2 Fast is self-aware enough to know that it's trash, which is worth half a bonus point. Lack of pretension helps the viewer get over the fact that this is just another retread.
Grade: 2 out of 4 stars
Stars: Paul Walker, Tyrese, Eva Mendes, Cole Hauser, Chris "Ludacris" Bridges, James Remar
Director: John Singleton
Rating: PG-13 for street racing violence, language and some sensuality.
Opens Friday nationwide