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. "2 Fast 2 Furious"

This sequel to a surprise hit ("The Fast and the Furious") doesn't rev up the story muscle to outpace the original. It's underpowered with little charismatic fuel provided by a desultory cast. It's not that Paul Walker doesn't have the looks and the conviction; it's just that what he has is too low octane to boost this picture out of the pits and engage the emotional gears.

You might want more than speedy street competition and growling engines.

The basic setup is drawn from the original story. Officer O'Conner (Walker), stripped of his badge, retains his reputation for speed and a ride to match. After winning the first one, he's chased down by a platoon of cops for breaking a bunch of laws and is brought in for a little confab with his former bosses on the Miami task force and, in particular, agent Markham (James Remar) in order to make him an offer. They'll clean his sheet if he's willing to do a little undercover work to bring down a bad drug cartel. He's the man for the job because everything in this world is racing, and Carter Verone (Cole Hauser), the psychotic kingpin, has just put the word out that he needs fast drivers for a planned operation.

If you think this is a little threadbare and hokey, wait'll you see what follows. All I want to say here is that it's not much to look forward to outside of the velocities and stunt action. Even the female groupies are underpowered. Of course, if you get your fix on cop-defying traction, go for it. You'll see a 1970 Dodge Challenger Hemi blowing away a Mitsubishi Eclipse and agent O'Connor playing chicken with his 1969 Chevy Camaro Yenko S/C. Yikes!

All in all, though, 2 little 2 make noise about. We wonder: is this franchise out of gas?

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                                      ~~  Jules Brenner  

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Paul Walker disengages an electrical decripleing device

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