Kicked out of the LAPD for letting Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) screech into the distance at the end of The Fast And The Furious, Brian O'Connor (Paul Walker) now makes a frantic living on the Miami street-racing circuit. Well, that is until the Feds bust him and threaten jail. But there's another way: go undercover to bring down international money launderer Carter Verone (Cole Hauser).
But Brian has a condition of his own. He'll do it, but only if childhood buddy Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson) rides shotgun. Risky, especially considering the pair haven't talked since Brian joined the cops and Roman went down for possessing stolen motors. And riskier still given Brian's inability to keep his big fat gob shut.
2 Fast 2 Furious was up against it from the starter's orders. Not only was it burdened with a weight of expectation that the gloriously dumb original was entirely free of, having scorched out of nowhere in the summer of 2001, it also had to face life in the fast lane without Vin Diesel. Or Rob Cohen behind the directorial wheel. No matter - as sequels go, this is pretty much what you want to see, a movie that retains much of the B-movie flavour of its excitable predecessor while resisting the urge to simply do another lap of the same track.
Just look at the racing sequences. The furious close-ups of gears crunched and pedals stamped are lifted straight from the first outing, as are the computerised surges through tangled pipes whenever nitrous oxide is sprayed through the engine. Yet no longer are we talking about drivers living their lives a quarter of a mile at a time. 2 Fast 2 Furious instead gives us several circuits round a spaghetti track, a tag-team face-off and an elaborate freeway chase, the drivers weaving their Kandy-coloured, souped-up vehicles either side of the trundling traffic.
Meanwhile, Jordana Brewster and Michelle Rodriguez are succeeded, if not quite matched, by Eva Mendes and Devon Aoki, the former playing an undercover cop who's cosied up to Verone, the latter a sweet-natured whisp of a girl racer. But how do you replace the diesel-fuelled Big Man? With not one, but two bodies. Gibson takes care of bulging muscles duties, his burgeoning friendship with Walker also echoing the trust that grew between O'Connor and Toretto (shame about the 'comedy' bickering, though). Villain functions, on the other hand, fall to Hauser, his excellent bad guy oozing charm-swathed menace like a deadly black widow parceled inside a silk handkerchief.
All of which means there's enough in the tank to keep the franchise's engine ticking over, ready to rev into action as soon as a third instalment gets the green light. Expect to be buckling up your seat belt again come summer 2005.