John Singleton’s “2 Fast 2 Furious” has its high-octane moments, but on the whole, the film disappointingly remains at or below the speed limit.

Paul Walker returns in the sequel as Brian O’Connor – this time without his badge, which he lost for allowing Vin Diesel’s character to escape in the first installment. After apprehending O’Connor at a busted street race, the police offer him an ultimatum: help us bust corrupt international businessman Carter Verone (Cole Hauser) or go to prison. O’Connor wisely chooses the former but insists upon partnering with his childhood friend Roman Pearce (Tyrese) to complete the job.

Now, as many acute observers have already noted, much of “2 Fast” progresses more like a “Grand Theft Auto” scenario than like a feature film. Take, for example, the initial test of Brian and Roman’s merits as getaway drivers: Verone assembles a group of potential candidates and tells them that the first pair of drivers to recover goods from his Ferrari gets the job. Accordingly, the men flee on foot to their vehicles and then race to their destination, making a playground of the interstate, and in the process, causing one of the candidates to be crushed by two semis.

This chase, like the majority of those in “2 Fast,” is well-orchestrated and frenetic, but the premise itself makes the entire episode seem rather foolish and more game-like than life-like. Moreover, the screenplay by Michael Brandt is vapid, and although the script isn’t intended to buttress the movie, the characters themselves lack flair and appeal.

If action is our sole criterion, though, and all previous criticisms are thus moot, then “2 Fast” succeeds. The driving stunts are not only chaotic: they are colossal. The opening race scene through Miami streets at speeds in excess of 120 miles per hour obviously doesn’t soothe the palate of today’s viewers; to intensify the situation, the cars jump a raised drawbridge as though it’s a skateboard ramp. And this scene is merely a sampling of what’s to come, namely in comparison to the concluding chase scene which features trucks flattening police cruisers and hundreds of street racers collectively fleeing the law and scattering throughout Miami.

In retrospect, maybe too much Paul Walker or the dull screenplay makes “2 Fast” terribly mediocre; regardless, the film’s worthwhile scenes of action and mayhem are ultimately trumped by mistakes and shortcomings elsewhere.

Rating: 2 1/2 stars.

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