'2 Fast 2 Furious' Races Into Theaters

Ready to burn rubber? The street racing movie that made Vin Diesel a star is back — but this time the high-performance engines won't be running on Diesel.

Diesel earned $2 million for the Fast and Furious, but he reportedly walked away from talks to do the sequel over money issues. After all, his star is rising so quickly that he's joined Hollywood's elite $20 million club.

So he's not back, but Paul Walker — who played an undercover LAPD detective in the original — is. He's lost his badge, moved to Miami, and is racing souped-up street rockets for kicks, until he's called in to uncover an international money-laundering operation.

But do you really need to know the plot? 2 Fast 2 Furious is about high-octane street racing, just like the original, the surprise blockbuster that grossed nearly $150 million domestically.

The real question is, do you need Diesel? Can a Furious sequel burn purely on the teenage thrill of illegal street racing?

"I think it was a real question for everyone, initially," says Walker. "We didn't know what to think without Vin. It didn't feel like there was going to be a sequel initially.

"But apparently it's more than a sequel and you know that from the buzz we're getting. I don't know what kind of indicator that is, but I know when you sit down in the theater, you have all the diehard fans, and they're losing their minds."

‘Children, Don’t Try This at Home’

Reprising his role as Brian O'Connor, Walker kicks off the film with an exhilarating race featuring a jump across an open drawbridge. O'Connor is eventually forced to help U.S. Customs crack a crime ring with the help of his childhood best friend, Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson), an accomplished driver with his own criminal record.

Some critics blamed the original movie for spurring the rise of street racing. At the very least, the movie drew attention to a fast-growing problem that stretches across the country, much to the dismay of law enforcement.

In the last year and a half, San Diego has attributed 17 deaths and at least 24 serious injuries to illegal street racing. Similar reports are being echoed throughout the country.

Last moth, three people died in an illegal street racing incident in the Washington, D.C., area, and Phillip Miyano, a 21-year-old college student, died in a crash in San Diego after being clocked at 100 mph, authorities said.

The late-night asphalt showdowns usually draw large crowds of teens and young adults and can end in fatal crashes. Some cities are so overwhelmed they've passed laws making it illegal to even watch street racing.

Other cities have created legal race tracks to take the danger off the streets.

Universal Pictures went on a pre-emptive public relations campaign in preparation for the sequel. "They got me doing all these PS's [public service announcements] and that sort of thing," Walker says.

"We did everything in a controlled environment," he adds, reminding viewers of the dangers of street racing. "Professionals came in."

Walker thinks speaking out against street racing is a responsible move. But he doesn't think the movie should be held responsible for anything.

"My argument is, look at all those people that are out there smoking cigarettes in movies. They're glamorizing that just the same and that's killing people, just slower," he says.

"All you can do is, you know, tell them it's just a movie and say, 'Children, don't try this at home.' "