It's difficult to understand how a movie about fast cars, tough guys and feisty women could be so little fun to watch. But the filmmakers, working from a popular videogame, have managed to make something only a gaming nerd could love. It's strikingly well shot, with a likeable cast and an eye-catching use of real stuntwork, but the limp script leaves it utterly joyless. Just a tiny hint of self-awareness goes a long way in these kinds of movies.
Our hero is Toby (Paul), a super-talented driver and mechanic stuck in small-town New York while his high school rival Dino (Cooper) makes millions on the racing circuit. Dino has also stolen Toby's ex-girlfriend (Johnson), and rubs salt in the wound by asking Toby to fix up a wildly valuable Mustang for him. Toby needs the cash to save his garage, so takes on the job with his pals (Cudi, Malek and Rodriguez). But things take a dark turn when Dino leaves Toby to take the fall for manslaughter. And when he gets out of prison two years later, Toby vows to get revenge, working with hellcat racing chick Julia (Poots) to enter the underground winner-take-all race organised by a radio deejay (Keaton).
Despite trying to fool us with various plot twists, the film's script is so by-the-books that we can predict everything that will happen next. So as it heads to its jaw-droppingly implausible finale, there isn't a single moment that surprises us. All we can do is try to engage with the characters, but they take themselves so seriously that this isn't easy. Clearly, director Waugh is much more interested in the cars than the people. So at least the driving scenes are visceral and sometimes thrilling in that choreographed stunt-driver sort of way. And they're notable because there isn't a digital effect in sight.
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And it almost was before the filmmaking even began. Naomi Watts was reportedly not pleased with the original draft of the sequel script, and the director vacated the project just weeks before principal photography was set to begin. R-Two seemed destined to drown. But with a healthy revision from screenwriter Ehren Kruger, the script was fixed to Watts' satisfaction, and a ringer was brought in to direct. Now with the director of the original Japanese masterpiece Ringu and its disastrous sequel Ringu 2 at the helm, could R-Two be a worthy sequel to one of the best American horror movies ever made?
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