In Defense of the Most Hated ‘Fast and Furious’ Movie


It’s a widely-held notion that of the eight (soon to be nine) Fast and Furious films, John Singleton’s 2003 installment 2 Fast 2 Furious—the first sequel, following up Rob Cohen’s 2001 original—is the worst. Entertainment Weekly did have the temerity to call “2 Fast” a “forgotten gem,” but every noteworthy ranking declares the sequel the “worst”—an argument that is facile, lazy, and ultimately, incorrect.

I’ll consider doling out some forgiveness for those who found the sequel lacking back in ’03, with The Fast and the Furious stars Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster, and even Ja Rule all missing from the diesel-fueled action. But in hindsight, within the grander scheme of the unlikely saga that has unfurled over the past two decades over nine films and one spin-off, “2 Fast” is not only better than you remember, it also introduces some of the most important elements in the franchise. And yes, it is a better film than the first, especially with Singleton behind the wheel.

The Fast and the Furious is an okay movie with a great concept: “Point Break” with muscle cars. Cohen, a serviceable director of schlock, was inspired by a piece of ethnographic journalism by Ken Li that ran in VIBE Magazine in 1998. Screenwriters Gary Scott Thompson, David Ayer, and Erik Bergquist took Li’s exploration of street racing and laid the undercover-cop-goes-native structure on top.

The illicit world of underground street racing the film introduces is intoxicating, even though it’s populated mostly by men in unfortunate hats and mesh tank tops. It works, but mostly due to a solid cast and the intriguing world it builds. But everything about it is sort of “soundalike,” down to the hip-hop/nu-metal soundtrack and Paul Walker’s Keanu Reeves impression. The chemistry between Walker’s naïf undercover cop Brian O’Connor and Diesel’s muscle car Buddha Dominic Torretto is intriguing enough to make you want more, and the film was an undeniable hit: it made $207 million on a $38 million budget.

For the sequel, screenwriters Gary Scott Thompson, Michael Brandt, and Derek Haas transplanted the action to South Florida, giving the muscle car action a Miami Vice sheen. Diesel turned his nose up at the script and declined to return. But John Singleton, an admitted “The Fast and the Furious” superfan, signed on to direct, bringing with him Tyrese Gibson, the R&B singer Singleton made into a movie star with his 2001 film Baby Boy. With Vin out of the picture, Tyrese fills the void as Roman Pearce, Brian’s buddy from their hometown Barstow. (Ja Rule also turned down 2 Fast, demanding more than the half a mill he was offered, making room for his fellow rapper Ludacris to join the cast in what turned out to be a long-running role as Miami street race impresario Tej, and cementing his contribution to the franchise as a now-classic meme and nothing more).

Ludacris, Tyrese Gibson, and Paul Walker in 2 Fast 2 Furious, 2003.Everett Collection / Courtesy of Universal Pictures


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