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There is intensity, but this is 2 fast, 2 frivolous

THE BALTIMORE SUN

There are just 2 many things 2 be said about 2 Fast 2 Furious, the mega-octane sequel 2 the mega-octane smash of 2 summers ago.

Like its ultra-hip coolness, evidenced right from the start not only by all the swaggering vernacular being tossed about (as well as by the title itself; nothing suggests street cred like substituting numbers for words), but by the veritable rainbow coalition of dudes who take part in the film-opening drag race. There's a white guy, a black guy, a Hispanic guy and an Asian gal. How fortunate that the local dragsters broke down by such perfect demographics.

Or its roster of awesome cars, a steady stream of souped-up mega-machines that could probably outrace the space shuttle in a fair fight.

Or the way the action is everything. Who needs brains when there's all that adrenaline 2 be tapped in 2?

So what do we have here? Lots of cars going very fast.

A plot? Yeah, something about rogue California cop Brian O'Conner (cardboard cut-out Paul Walker, returning from The Fast and the Furious, but without Vin Diesel) who gets busted while racing on a Miami street. The cops know who he is and offer him a deal - get a job as a courier for this high-profile drug kingpin we've been after, help us nail him, and we'll drop all the charges against you.

O'Conner gives a reluctant thumbs-up, but with a condition: They have 2 sign his boyhood friend Roman Pearce (Tyrese) as his partner. The cops agree, but Pearce doesn't; he still blames O'Conner for the incident that sent him 2 prison a while back.

So the guys bicker a lot, but somehow they bond anew and go after the bad guy. In this, they're aided by undercover customs agent Monica Fuentes (Eva Mendes), who infiltrated the bad guys about a year ago, and may or may not still be one of the good guys.

About the cars: Did I mention they go real fast? Admittedly, they are sights to behold, and director John Singleton (Boyz N the Hood, Shaft) knows how to film speed 2 maximum effect, 2 the point where you feel as much inside the cars as the drivers do. Sure, it's wicked cool, but is it a movie?

The cast, taken as a whole, possesses all the magnetism of a wad of cotton - save for Tyrese, who at least tries to do something with his screen time other than fill space. He's got real screen presence, and sometimes manages to inject life in 2 the film's non-automotive moments.

Still, there's something upsetting about glorifying an activity that sends cars racing through public streets at speeds upward of 140 mph (the production notes make this seem as much a harmless teen rite-of-passage as surfing, only more awesome).

Aw, nobody goes to summer movies looking for morality, just thrills. 2 Fast 2 Furious has lots of 'em. Maybe lighting into this movie because it doesn't aspire 2 anything else is like slamming a mosquito for existing only 2 suck blood.

Then again, I don't go out looking for mosquitoes. And as The Italian Job proved, it is possible to have fast cars in a good, thrilling movie.

Then again, The Italian Job doesn't have numbers anywhere in its title. Go figure.

2 Fast 2 Furious

Starring Paul Walker, Tyrese, Eva Mendes

Directed by John Singleton

Rated PG-13 (language, violence, sleaze)

Released by Universal

Time 100 minutes

Sun Score *1/2

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