The line on 2001’s ”The Fast and the Furious” — a slick, adrenalized take on L.A.’s underground street-racing scene — was it would come and go faster than a souped-up Skyline. But by the time the checkered flag waved, the sleeper hit had grossed $145 million and made a superstar out of chrome-domed lead Vin Diesel. Motor on to the inevitable sequel: Diesel and director Rob Cohen (who also teamed on last summer’s ”XXX”) are out — reportedly because the actor wanted $30 million to reprise his role and Cohen refused to do the film without his star — and director John Singleton and his ”Baby Boy” star Tyrese are in. And this time around they have a $100 million budget and a flashier setting (Miami) to race around in.
”This is a whole different movie because I’m doing it,” declares Singleton (”Boyz N the Hood,” ”Shaft”), who says the sequel will have more action and humor than the original. ”I wanted to do something that was straight popcorn. In the early part of my career I was very concerned with being taken seriously as a filmmaker and I accomplished that. So now I can just have fun.” And that includes bigger, better, and mostly nondigital stunt sequences. ”There’s more money this time around,” says stunt coordinator Artie Malesci. ”We’ll have 200 cars in one shot, all going and crashing.”
The sole returning cast member is Paul Walker as erstwhile undercover cop Brian O’Conner, who was stripped of his badge and is now on the run for letting Diesel’s character go free at the end of the first film. O’Conner infiltrates the Miami street-racing circuit in an effort to bring down an underworld kingpin (Cole Hauser). ”On the first film we felt a lot of pressure because we were making a movie [about something] really obscure that no one had touched on before,” says Walker. ”Now I know we’re making a movie people want to see.”
Despite his basically filling the void left by Diesel, Tyrese (playing O’Conner’s childhood buddy) says he felt no pressure — he hasn’t even seen the original. ”[I don’t want to] be like somebody else…. I gotta be me,” says the actor. ”I try to keep a fresh head.” It can’t hurt that it’s shaved.