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film: Full Throttle

“2 Fast” isn’t smart but its stunts beat computer-generated action.

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“2 Fast 2 Furious” is a B-budget, drive-in movie that resembles old-time flicks such as “Dangerous Curves” and “Blood, Guts, Bullets and Octane.” There was some concern that with an $80 million budget (twice that of the original), it might get too big for its own good. Rest assured that this one looks just as ludicrous and tacky as the first.

Teen magazine cover-boy Paul Walker is once again the leading man, but he’s approaching old age now at 29. He has the California surfer-boy look down pat, even though someone has directed him to try a John Wayne macho strut that makes him look afflicted. Again, he plays undercover police agent Brian O’Conner, disgraced and kicked off the force, but now assigned to root out a flashy businessman who is using imports and exports as a cover for drug trafficking.

Mercifully, the locale has been changed from Los Angeles to Miami, because audiences would find it impossible to keep believing that the L.A. police wouldn’t catch on to all this illegal street racing.

Once again, Walker merely looks handsome while he watches the film being stolen. In the first film, Vin Diesel emerged a major star — so big that the studio refused his $20 million price tag to return. The replacement is an equally charismatic, but perhaps more showy performer named Tyrese. He’s been in only one movie before this, “Baby Boy,” but he seems at home in front of the camera.

We don’t miss Diesel, but we do miss Michelle Rodriguez, the tough girl driver in the first film. At times, it looks as if something might be done with Eva Mendes, the Cuban-born actress who plays an undercover agent who’s sleeping with the bad guy. There’s also Devon Aoki, the exotic Japanese/German model who is cast as a girl driver. But both are left in the dust as the automobiles and the stunt guys take over.

The stunts are terrific. More than $10 million was allocated for the herd of cars — most designed to be crashed. It is refreshing, too, to see action scenes that are obviously performed by stuntmen rather than by computers.

Don’t count on “2 Fast 2 Furious” for smarts, but it does have a lot of action, mucho cool and Tyrese. In sheer movement and noise, it can beat an audience into submission.*** S

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