Claims of homoeroticism directed at action films - especially buddy action films - are nothing new. There’s a fine line between depicting romance and intense friendship in the movies, and sometimes that line can be humorously blurred. Usually the line is there, though, and any homoerotic reading is ultimately foiled by the text of the film.
That is not the case with 2 Fast 2 Furious*, a film that reads like the writers were trying to sneak the gayest movie ever into America’s multiplexes. The relationship between Tyrese and Paul Walker is all but explicitly that of former lovers, a relationship defined by Tyrese’s constant jealousy of Walker whenever he’s in the company of Eva Mendes.
Technically 2 Fast 2 Furious is a sequel to The Fast and the Furious, but Walker seems to be playing a completely different character. And it’s nice, because this character seems to actually have brain function, as opposed to the driving zombie from the first film. When the movie opens he’s still doing the street racing thing, but this time it’s for real. After letting Vin Diesel run at the end of the first movie, Walker has lost his job with the LAPD (which seems like a pretty weak slap on the wrist, all told). But since this is the movies Walker can only get so far from his past, and he’s soon drawn into working undercover as a driver for a drug kingpin, and he brings his old hometown (butt) buddy along for the ride.
The opening race of 2 Fast is almost legendary. Four racers speed through the empty streets of Miami, jostling for position and attempting to force the others off the road. Director John Singleton starts the film with a reasonable adrenaline burst, and as the race ends and the cars approach an open drawbridge it seems like we’re about to see something truly incredible. And it would have been incredible - Paul Walker’s car jumps OVER the frontrunner’s car as they both leap the open bridge - if it had been practical. Instead it’s two CGI cars floating weightlessly through space.
Not all of the action in 2 Fast is CGI, and 2 Fast is much heavier on the action than the first film. And, unlike the first film, there are some actual stakes at play; Mendes is an undercover cop who has infiltrated Cole Hauser’s operation. Hauser has hired Walker and Tyrese to drive a package down the length of Florida - but he’s constantly alert for undercovers and could bust them at any moment. Unfortunately none of this plot makes sense in the film; it’s not clear why Hauser would want to transport his dirty money in two gaudy ricers, or why any of the events in the film have to unfold the way they do. None of it makes sense except as excuses to set up action set pieces.
That’s okay, since 2 Fast is interested in action over drama. In fact there’s very little ‘drama’ on display here. The relationship between Tyrese and Walker is light and banter-filled, as opposed to the chemistry-free relationship between Walker and Diesel. Most of the drama comes from stock drug dealer bullshit, like Hauser torturing poor Mark Boone Junior with a rat. There’s a little bit of time spent on the concept that Mendes may have flipped, but that’s just as inconsequential and unconvincing as her love story with Walker.
As I said the relationship between Walker and Tyrese is way more convincing. Old racing buddies from Barstow, Tyrese holds a grudge because he got busted by the fuzz just two months after Walker got a badge. But Tyrese has no time to play ‘angry’ in this film. He has exactly two modes of acting: cocky and hungry. He’s actually sort of amazing; there’s a Teflon quality you need to sail through a bad, cheap action movie like this and Tyrese has it. He’s aware he’s walking through shit, but none of it sticks to him and he kind of enjoys the sensation of it squishing between his toes. He’s having the time of his life, and that’s the attitude that can save a movie like 2 Fast. He also has his own, unique and incorrect way of pronouncing ‘Brah,’ saying it like ‘Bray,’ as in the noise a donkey makes. At first I thought it was just a flub that made it into the film, but HE KEEPS SAYING IT.
Director John Singleton doesn’t bring much to the film besides an able second unit (the second unit, by the way, should get above the title billing on the Fast and Furious films. They’re the folks who direct the action scenes, and they’re the reason you watch these pieces of trash). He continues the aesthetic of the first film, which is to find a nice, sunny city and only shoot the ugliest and most concrete sections of it. Huge sections of 2 Fast feel like a USA original TV series - drab and sun damaged. But what Singleton lacks in directorial vision the script makes up for in sheer ridiculousness. At the end Tyrese and Walker are trying to outsmart Hauser AND the cops, so they create an elaborate doublecross. It involves them driving into what is apparently a tesseract garage, where they change from the GPs-wired ricers they’ve been driving the whole film into wonderful American muscle cars they won in a race earlier. But why is the garage a tesseract? Because when they pull in, followed by a dozen cop cars, five Bigfoot trucks come out of the garage and begin crushing cop cars. That’s followed by at least fifty ricers, all running around in circles, confusing the police. There’s a shot of the sports cars in the garage and it looks like they’re driving directly out of infinity.
The Fast and the Furious was endearing because it lunkheadedly thought it was telling a real story. 2 Fast is fun because it’s fully aware that this is the kind of film you watch on cable late at night (except made inexplicably PG-13), and just rolls with it. There’s very little attention paid to anything but the action and the interplay between the leads, which is all you need. But it’s also a landmark moment for gays on film; at the end, when Tyrese says he’ll stay in Miami with Paul Walker to make sure he doesn’t sleep with any women you know what it must have been like to be at Stonewall that fateful night.
A couple of notes:
- This film features Ludacris in a role, and also features people quoting Ludacris lyrics. It feels sort of meta.
- Cole Hauser is almost a non-entity in this film. I do wonder if they brought him in so that he could bring a little Vin Diesel stank with him from Pitch Black.
- Eva Mendes is almost completely irrelevant to the plot of the movie. With very little effort she could have been completely written out of the story. But then the film would have been even more explicitly gay, I guess.
- The final Dukes of Hazzard-style jump onto the boat is delightfully ludicrous, but what’s even better is that the film plays it for real, so that Tyrese breaks his arm and Paul Walker is immobilized from a concussion for a minute. It’s so jarring to have characters execute a Looney Tunes move and then pay for it.
* I guess in 2003 the ridiculousness of the title would have been worth mentioning, but since this series has come to pride itself on stupid, stupid titles, 2 Fast actually seems clever.