I will be the first to admit that the storyline and mumbo jumble in “Final Destination 2” is probably too convoluted and at the same time too simplistic for its own good. Having said that, I must also confess that the film is a stroke of near genius, and the credit goes entirely to director David R. Ellis. “Final Destination 2” is 90 minutes of intensity, blood and gore, races against time, and enough hokey New Age meditations on death and destiny and preordained fate to choke an incredulous elephant.
Although the screenplay purports to have very close ties with the original (and in fact the survival/death of the sequel’s characters all have origins in the survival/death of the cast of the first), I couldn’t tell you if it all makes sense or not, since I haven’t seen the first. That out of the way, “Final Destination 2” opens with Kimberly (A.J. Cook) and some friends heading out to Daytona Beach for summer break (from school, I would imagine, although the movie never tells us if Kimberly even goes to school). Before they even make it onto the freeway, Kimberly gets a premonition of a deadly care pile up in which she and numerous others dies. Snapping out of the vision, Kimberly makes such a commotion that she ties up a group of people waiting to get onto the freeway, thus unwittingly saving their lives.
Being that Death hates being cheated, he/it begins to come after them one by one. Luckily our resourceful heroine Kimberly knows about the events that transpired in the original “Final Destination” and seek help from Clear Rivers (Ali Larter), the only survivor from the original. Clear has locked herself away in a mental institution in an attempt to further escape her fate, and comes back into the world only to help Kimberly and the survivors fight back against the unseen but ever present force that is Death. But as the saying goes, the only sure things in life are Death and taxes, and Death is a lot meaner than the I.R.S.
The trick about watching a film like “Final Destination 2” is to pay attention when there is almost no dialogue in the scenes, and to look the other way when characters stand around talking. The screenplay is, for lack of a better description, overreaching. The film’s reference to Death as if it was some casino card dealer or huckster trying to sell snake oil out of the back of a wagon takes the cake. Whenever the characters got together to discuss fate and Death and their elaborate plans to cheat both, you can’t help but smirk. It’s that kind of screenplay.
The real star of “Final Destination 2” is director David Ellis, who shows an abundance of ability and talent with the camera, and an innate understanding of elaborate choreography. Working with cinematographer Gary Capo, the duo maneuvers and arranges the kill scenes in such a way that I’ve only seen John Woo do with his gun battles. The word balletic comes to mind. There’s such a terrific understanding of camera angles, of the need to build tension with each subsequent frame, and the tick-tock of approaching death that “Final Destination 2” is a joy to watch whenever its character shut up long enough for Death to take over.
Which isn’t to say the rest of “Final Destination 2” is a chore to watch. Even if the explanations are all a little kooky, and you can’t understand how these people could possibly accept such ludicrous explanations so easily, the cast still acts in such a way that doesn’t completely undermine them as flesh and blood human beings. The only weak link in the main casting is Ali Larter (“American Outlaws”), who looks entirely out of place and not up to the task. Maybe she’s doing what we’re doing, namely wondering what she’s doing in this sequel at all.
On the other hand, A.J. Cook provides a nice center as the young woman trying desperately to keep herself and others alive at all costs. She finds help from Burke (Michael Landes), another survivor of the would-be accident. The movie takes great creative license with Burke’s status as a State Trooper by having him do, and is able to get away with, things that would defy his job description. Nevertheless, the screenplay should be commended for not having the two leads meet and fall madly in love in the space of a couple of sequences, as is the want in these types of movies. Now if they had only shown this restraint when it came to the whole “Death’s design” angle…
Let me make it clear: “Final Destination 2” is nothing special, but my oh my is it fun to watch. The exhilarating and clever direction of relative newcomer David Ellis overcomes the movie’s crackerjack screenplay, which is not always easy to do. Most of the times a poor script is enough to sink a movie. “Final Destination 2” proves to be the exception, and is, easily, better than the original.
David R. Ellis (director) / J. Mackye Gruber, Eric Bress, Jeffrey Reddick (screenplay)
CAST: Ali Larter …. Clear Rivers
A.J. Cook …. Kimberly Corman
Michael Landes …. Officer Thomas Burke
Terrence ‘T.C.’ Carson …. Eugene Dix