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2 Fast 2 Furious

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The most shameful of all B-movie pleasures, the derby subgenre thrives on crude physicality and mortal danger, preying on a drive-in audience that knows that the cars they're necking in could just as easily wind up a pile of twisted metal. Because speed kills, every souped-up feature is an invitation to disaster, a reminder that even the slickest machines are still tin cans on wheels. If nothing else, 2001's surprise hit The Fast And The Furious revived the moribund genre with much of its lowdown appeal intact, favoring old-fashioned stunt work over computer effects and introducing Vin Diesel, a brooding cinderblock made of equal parts muscle and charisma. Without Diesel to serve as ballast, the franchise drifts off the pavement in 2 Fast 2 Furious, a sequel that ups the ante with the digital weightlessness of a PlayStation game, like Grand Theft Auto: Vice City minus the cool '80s soundtrack. Short of taking flight, the glimmering fleets of candy-colored Mitsubishis and refurbished Mustangs can do almost anything, which is precisely why the high-impact chase scenes and drag races are so stultifying to watch. More stultifying still is lead actor Paul Walker, the blue-eyed scrap of cardboard who reprises his role as an ex-cop turned gear jockey, once again the howling vortex in a movie that desperately needs a little gravity. When a late-night street challenge in Miami gets him arrested, Walker and his estranged friend Tyrese are recruited for an ongoing police operation to catch generic thug Cole Hauser, a local druglord who's looking for drivers to pull off a money drop. With another customs agent (Eva Mendes) already deep undercover–and perhaps compromised–the low-wattage buddies successfully infiltrate Hauser's inner circle and accept his lucrative offer to drive trunkloads of cash down to the Florida Keys. It's best not to consider this plan too closely, but the grueling downtime between car chases makes it irresistible: Isn't there a less conspicuous way to move drug money than having two brightly colored sports cars barrel down Route 1 at 120 mph? If all traffickers were this stupid, the War On Drugs would be over. A long way from his 1991 Boyz 'N The Hood, director John Singleton has become the sort of exploitative hack that would have rankled that film's preachy father-figure, trading his soul for some low-angle booty. After the first scene, Singleton abandons the underground racing subculture that gave the first film its allure, relying instead on lazy thriller plotting that's only a bag of donuts and a freeze-frame away from the average TV cop show. But the racing scenes are the main draw for 2 Fast 2 Furious, and Star Trek fans won't be disappointed: Whenever the heroes hit the nitrous oxide, they're like captains on the Enterprise, moving warp speed into another galaxy.