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Recommended
4 stars
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Overall Grade
4 stars

(click linked text below to jump to related section of the review)

The Movie Itself
3 Stars
HD Video Quality
4.5 Stars
HD Audio Quality
5 Stars
Supplements
2.5 Stars
High-Def Extras
2.5 Stars
Bottom Line
Recommended

The Fast and the Furious Trilogy

Street Date:
March 24th, 2009
Reviewed by:
Peter Bracke
Review Date: 1
March 23rd, 2009
Movie Release Year:
2001
Studio:
Universal Studios Home Entertainment
Length:
320 Minutes
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13
Release Country
United States

The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take

The Fast and the Furious

What is it about watching car crashes on screen that endlessly fascinates moviegoers? They are the auto-mechanical equivalent of slasher movies, and you'd think that there would only be so many ways to destroy a car. Yet we continue to flock to these movies, our appetite to see all makes and models of automobile crashed, smashed and blown to bits apparently insatiable. Perhaps the best piece of car porn ever put on-screen, the original 'Fast and the Furious' also remains the best of the original three-picture franchise. The story is a fairly formulaic crime thriller, but who needs plot when you have lots of good-looking people driving fast cars and blowing things up?

Paul Walker stars as undercover cop Brian O'Conner. He's assigned to infiltrate the underworld subculture of Los Angeles "street racing," where impossibly good-looking teenagers (who all apparently have unlimited financial resources) jack up hot cars and challenge each other to death-defying, late-night competitions. O'Conner befriends the king of the circuit, Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel), but will soon question that loyalty when Toretto and his posse become the prime suspects in a car hijacking ring. Eventually, O'Conner will have to put his newfound street racing skills to the test if he's going to bust the thugs, get the girl, and beat Toretto at his own game.

'The Fast and the Furious' is not a movie that appeals to the intellect. But what it does, it does pretty well. Action ubermeister Rob ( 'xXx,' 'Stealth' ) Cohen directs with the gas pedal pressed all the way to the floor. The lighting, the music, the editing and the action are all pumped to the max, so the film is pure audiovisual eye candy. Take the scene where a group of feds busts in on the lair of Johnny Tran (Rick Yune). Cohen stages the scene like a music video, with a blaring neo-industrial song on the soundtrack, lots of slo-mo, and not a single word of dialogue. No, this is not art on the level of European mise-en-scene, but I still have to hand it to Cohen. He revels in telling his stories as pure cinema (even if it is of the MTV variety), and so -- unlike most of his contemporaries -- he at least has a consistent stylistic aesthetic to critique.

Then there is the action. Though I found the early street racing scenes the least interesting and most far-fetched, 'The Fast and the Furious' really kicks into gear in the second half. There is one extended sequence involving a careening semi-truck that remains one of the most exciting action sequences I've seen. I also liked the climactic daytime street race between Diesel and Walker, which is truly white-knuckle viewing. There is something to be said for pure entertainment movies like 'The Fast and the Furious,' which elevate a threadbare plot and cliched characters through sheer force of style, and turn out far better than they have any need to be. As far as car porn films go, this one is up there on my top five list with 'Bullitt,' 'The Road Warrior' and 'Speed.' (Movie rating: 3.0/5.0)

2 Fast 2 Furious

If not exciting, than it is at least intriguing to see what a major director is going to do when handed formulaic, substandard material. If the news that John Singleton was going to tackle '2 Fast 2 Furious' was not an announcement on the level of, say, Stanley Kubrick doing 'Jaws 5,' it still was a bit of a head-scratcher. Singleton had made his name doing more serious, socially conscious fare, such as 'Boyz 'N the Hood,' 'Higher Learning' and 'Rosewood,' and he is, after all, the youngest filmmaker ever to be honored with an Academy Award nomination for Best Director for 'Hood.' Even his big-budget 2001 remake of 'Shaft' felt subversive, as if he wasn't so much slumming as integrating his gritty, indie aesthetic with a more commercial, iconic property.

Singleton doing '2 Fast 2 Furious,' however, just felt like a sell-out. Quite frankly, at the time the gig came his way, he certainly needed a hit. ('Shaft' was not a blockbuster, and his follow-up, 'Baby Boy,' was seen by next to no one.) Rather than take an obvious cheesy, derivative franchise and turn it on its ear, Singleton instead reveled in its expected conventions, seeming to treat the film more as technical exercise than anything overtly personal. Not that there's anything wrong with a director having a little fun, but '2 Fast 2 Furious' feels so identi-kit that it could have been directed by anyone.

The plot is essentially a remake of the original 'Furious.' Paul Walker is back as Brian O'Conner, who, after the events of the first film, has been booted from the police force. But when the feds get wind of a street-racing plot by criminal mastermind Carter Verone (Cole Hauser) to smuggle hot cars, they call Brian back into action. Hooking up with his bitter ex-con pal Roman Pearce (Tyrese) and undercover agent/Victoria's Secret model Monica Fuentes (Eva Mendes), this mismatched trio will have to put aside their differences -- and crash a lot of cars -- to take Verone down.

'2 Fast 2 Furious' so straddles the line of camp that the joke almost seems intentional. Singleton directs the film like a comic book, with the words "Pow!" and "Crash!" practically superimposed over the screen. The plot is incidental, the action so outlandish and unrealistic it's impossible to suspend disbelief, and even the film's body count is treated like a joke, as both good and bad guys are run over and flattened like a Wile E. Coyote cartoon. Even the performances are larger-than-life riffs on a single characteristic. Walker (clearly fulfilling a contractual obligation) is the frat guy gone good. Mendes sashays around like the window dressing she is, but with a self-aware wink. And Hauser milks every silly bad-guy line like he's auditioning for the villain role in a James Bond movie. Only Tyrese seems to be taking his jaded ex-con seriously, but even he seems to collapse under the weight of this post-modern house of cards and goes jokey by the film's overblown car-crash finale.

A bit more personal investment in the material and more well-constructed script may have elevated '2 Fast 2 Furious' beyond the level of a very, very guilty pleasure. But it's a junkyard movie from a filmmaker who has done better, and undoubtedly will again. I just hope the paycheck was worth it. (Movie rating: 2.0/5.0)

The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift

How do you review a movie that seeks to be nothing more than serviceable? Such is the problem with 'The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift.' As with any genre sequel, there are the high water marks and the bottom feeders, but 'Tokyo Drift' just sort of hovers somewhere in the middle. Which makes it almost impossible to hate, or to love, and certainly to critique. All you can say is whether or not it gets the job done.

The surprise is that 'Tokyo Drift' actually delivers. It is the thrill ride the adverts promised -- a pastiche of the best parts of the first two 'Furious' flicks, splashed with a bit of Japanese "ethnic flavor" and, of course, lots of vehicular collateral damage. It's also made without any apparent personal passion on behalf of its makers, nor an overriding aesthetic style that would signal the arrival of a major new auteur. Asian director Justin ('Crossover,' 'Better Luck Tomorrow') Lin, making his first big-budget Hollywood franchise picture, surprisingly brings little authenticity to 'Tokyo Drift' (which it certainly could have used to differentiate it from its predecessors). Still, it's fun, professional, polished, and slick entertainment.

With the Paul Walker character of the first two 'Furious' flicks now long gone (apparently, 'Into the Blue' beckoned), 'Tokyo Drift' introduces us to a new hero, Sean Boswell (Lucas Black). He's a misfit southern hick who, after a "three strikes and yer out!" infraction with the law, is displaced to Tokyo to live with his father. But cocky Sean will be given a quick dose of character-building chrome sniffing, when he butts head with the local Drift King (Brian Tee) and his racing buddies Han (Sung Kang) and Twinkie (Bow Wow). (Sadly, the character of Hostess Cup Cake was dropped for budgetary reasons.) Thrust into the world of "drift racing," which involves skidding your car around deserted city streets like Mario Kart on acid, Sean wrecks the Drift King's car and worse, accidentally kills a friend. Before you can say, "Scared Straight!", Sean turns his back on the lifestyle, but not before setting out to win one big final race to pay back the Drift King -- and more importantly, make the transition from childish hoodlum to a responsible Sunday driver.

'Tokyo Drift' is one of those funny movies that tries to impart a moral lesson while exploiting the audiences' desire for the very thing it is supposedly warning them against. Speeding is bad, kids -- especially on deserted Japanese streets at midnight when your driving a stolen car at 225 mph -- and a life lived recklessly, and without ambition, will quickly lead you down a dark path. As Sean learns the hard way, breaking the law has consequences. Of course, he also looks great doing it, as does everyone and everything in this movie. It's a world that is almost surreal, filled with gorgeous people and hot cars and where, apparently, everyone pools together their lunch money to combat soaring gas prices. There are consequences and moral laws here, but the style and sense of fun is so overcranked that all the teen-pop moralizing goes down as easy as an episode of 'Knight Rider.' If nothing else, 'The 'Fast and the Furious' flicks are the most entertaining PSAs in history. (Movie rating: 3.0/5.0)

The Video: Sizing Up the Picture

For whatever reason, Universal has decided to mix up the codecs on the three 'Fast and the Furious' flicks -- 'The Fast and the Furious' is VC-1, while '2 Fast 2 Furious' and 'The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift' are AVC MPEG-4. In any case, there is nothing new here fans of the HD DVD versions will find -- these appear to be from identical masters as the VC-1 encodes on the previous releases. That is not a bad thing, however, as these transfers remain excellent, and it's hard to improve upon what didn't need much improvement in the first place.

The Fast and the Furious

Universal delivers a rather stunning encode for the first, and still best, film in the series. The source material is pristine, with no blemishes, dirt or other anomalies present. Film grain is present if you look hard enough, though the source material appears to have been heavily processed during post-production. Blacks and contrast are excellent, giving the transfer a great sense of depth and pop, but without overtweaked whites and annoying edge enhancements. Color reproduction is about as vivid as is imaginable -- I'd call it overbearing -- with very strong hues that look like they're about to explode.

Most of the daylight scenes have obvious filter effects on them, such as those fake-looking color gradations in skies. Fleshtones are very orange to me throughout, as if they were overtweaked in post-production. I wonder how much better detail might have been had the transfer been less processed -- as it stands, the transfer has an unreal gloss that, while striking, teeters on the brink of appearing soft. (It's definitely in keeping with the MTV-aesthetic of the film, but such a processed sheen hardly looks natural.) Detail can, at times, be spectacular, with such subtleties as reflections on metallic surfaces and stubble on faces clearly visible. Indeed, 'The Fast and the Furious' remains one of the more three-dimensional high-def presentations around. (Video rating: 4.5/5.0)

2 Fast 2 Furious

'2 Fast 2 Furious' maintains the visual tradition upheld by the other two flicks in the franchise. The cinematic equivalent of day-glo vomit, you're not likely to see colors as unreal as this in any other movie. The incredibly vivid palette is the most dominant feature of the presentation. I don't think I've ever seen hues this unreal, and they are reproduced even more solidly than the first 'Furious' flick. Teetering on the edge of being overpumped, bleeding and chroma noise are miraculously kept in check. The film looks like a rainbow, yet it's the most natural of the three 'Furious' flicks.

All other aspects of the transfer are excellent. The source material is very clean, with not even the slight veil of film grain. Blacks are rock solid and contrast just about perfect. There is nary a shot in the film that does not look wonderfully detailed and three-dimensional. If nothing else, nighttime scenes can look a tad bit softer, but they can match the best Blu-ray presentation out there. I was also impressed by the "picture window" effect of the image -- this is another of those transfers that sometimes looks so real it doesn't feel like video. Topping it all off is a lack of any compression artifacts or posterization. Even the heavy filter effects used in some scenes don't result in any anomalies -- color gradations always look smooth and natural, and even the most fast-action scenes are free from macroblocking. (Video rating: 4.5/5.0)

The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift

'The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift' is another day-glo confection. Color reproduction is excellent, with hues vivid yet free from burn-out or oversaturation. Cleanliness of the source material is superb, with not a single blemish noticeable. Blacks are spot-on and contrast is terrific. I was quite impressed with how well this transfer handles all the shiny chrome and metallic surfaces -- the image is always very sharp but not overly-edgy, and artifacts such as jaggies and halos are not an issue. Depth and detail to the picture is almost uniformly stunning, with that "you are there," picture perfect quality that high-def is all about. It's a close race, but 'Tokyo Drift' ties with '2 Fast 2 Furious' as the best transfer in the set, with 'Fast and the Furious' right behind. (Video rating 4.5/5.0)

The Audio: Rating the Sound

Universal dropped the high-res ball with the previous HD DVD releases of the 'Fast and the Furious' trilogy, and opted only for Dolby Digital-Plus tracks on all three stand-alone releases. This Blu-ray set receives a nice upgrade, with new DTS-HD Lossless Master Audio 5.1 Surround tracks (48kHz/24-bit) on all three films. They are first-rate, demo-ready audio presentations.

The Fast and the Furious

This is a truly enveloping, fully 360-degree aural experience. Surrounds are fully engaged throughout, with discrete effects among the most realistic I've ever heard in a home theater environment. I thought the Dolby Digital-Plus tracks on the HD DVD were great, but the DTS-MA is slightly more open and expansive -- the rear soundfield is stronger in terms of clarity and overall breadth of impact. I could rarely tell where a sound was emanating from, with excellent, seamless pans.

Improved as well is dynamic range. The DD-Plus track offered a step up over the DVD, but here mid- and high-range is even more robust, and low bass tighter. The near-constant rumblings of engines, etc., as well as the pop/rock songs on the soundtrack all benefit from heftier, punchier low bass. Explosions and other bombastic car crash effects also deliver s stronger vibrations, which is quite thrilling. Dialogue is expertly reproduced, with no volume balance issues. (Audio rating 5.0/5.0)

2 Fast 2 Furious

The sound design of '2 Fast' is on par with both 'The Fast and the Furious' and Tokyo Drift.' There is nary a dull moment when the surrounds are not somehow engaged. The racing scenes are, predictably, way over the top. Motors rev, metal clanks and characters scream at each other -- all blaring from all five channels. Imaging is just about perfect -- movement and pans are transparent, and the tiniest aural detail sharp and clean.

Improved on the DTS-MA is more subtle details. Rob Cohen, who helmed the original, smothered even simple dialogue scenes in R&B/industrial music, so '2 Fast 2 Furious' seemed a bit subdued by comparison. Small sonic details are more audible here, however, with the expanded rear channels enjoying better ambiance. The meager score is no longer as muted in the mix. Even in DTS-MA the movie still feels on/off -- it's either over-the-top loud, or not-so-loud, but at least consistency is improved. Dialogue remains well proportioned, and this is nothing if a not a slick mix. (Audio rating: 4.5/5.0)

The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift

The previous HD DVD of 'Tokyo Drift' sounded pretty fierce, but it gets an appreciable upgrade here. Again, it is all about the cars and the crashes. The heft and depth to the dynamic range across the entire frequency spectrum during these scenes is a stand-out -- just about any racing scene in the film is demo-worthy. Fine sonic details and shadings to individual effects are even more distinct and clear in the surrounds -- I could readily make out individual sounds, such as a brake being pushed, or a character changing gears, even amid all the other sounds and the score. Discrete sounds are deployed to the rear channels almost constantly, from the roar of the tires and the crowd noise, to standout uses of dialogue and more score. Pans are predictably excellent with seamless imaging. Dialogue remains perfectly balanced. There are no flaws I could find anywhere with this mix. (Audio rating: 5.0/5.0)

The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff

'The Fast and the Furious Trilogy' comes to Blu-ray as a three-disc set, with each film receiving it's own BD-50 dual-layer disc. Packaging is rather bland -- it's simply three standard Blu-ray keepcases in a simple cardboard overlay. All of the bonus features found on the previous HD DVD versions of the films (which were themselves ports of the various DVD editions) are found here. Video is a mix of 1080 and 480 sources.

The Fast and the Furious

The history of 'The Fast and the Furious' on DVD is a bit confusing. Universal has released two versions on disc -- a feature-loaded single-disc set in 2001, then the follow-up "Tricked Out Edition." However, what was unusual is that the latter didn't just replicate the former and add a couple of new features. Instead, many of the extras on the first edition were repurposed for the "Tricked Out" disc, such as taking featurette material and reediting it into a "branching" video commentary. As with the HD DVD, Universal has combined the two together. (Note that missing from the Blu-ray and HD DVD releases are all the text-based extras on both previous DVD editions of 'The Fast and the Furious,' including the original "Racer X" magazine article that inspired the film, plus all of the DVD-ROM-based extras. Aside from the article, though, none of it is much of a loss.)

  • Audio/Video Commentary - There was a screen-specific audio commentary on the original DVD release that you can listen to here as a standard audio-only track, or as the basis for "Enhanced Viewing Mode." Toggle this on, and while Cohen is commenting on the movie, a little icon will appear at various times that, if selected, will take you to a small segment of video footage. Throughout, Cohen is full of energy, as if he's trying to cram as much information as possible into 107 minutes. While the director may take the subject matter a bit too seriously (he actually compares 'The Fast and the Furious' to a "modern John Ford western"), he's is also refreshingly honest about the film's arguable failures, such as the lame undercover subplot. If it weren't for Cohen's attempts to be hip by throwing in cringe-inducing bits of street lingo (sorry, those over the age of 40 should not be allowed to say things like "dope ass"), I'd say I came away as a bit of fan.
  • Featurette: "The Making of 'The Fast and the Furious'" (SD, 18 minutes) - This is Universal's typical "Spotlight On Location" EPK. Snappy and sleek, we get 2001-era interviews with director Rob Cohen, stunt coordinators Mic Rodgers and Mike Justus, and cast including Walker, Vin Diesel and Jordana Brewster, plus the usual quick-cut behind-the-scenes production footage. Aside from a few laugh-out loud lines ("This is a cast of great depth!" proclaims Cohen), this is totally forgettable fluff.
  • Featurette: "Visual Effects Montage" (SD, 4 minutes) - This is just that, a 4-minute reel mixing blue screen plates, storyboards, composites and CGI renderings, all to the tune of a grating techno beat.
  • Featurette: "The Multiple Camera Angle Stunt Sequence" (SD, 1 minute) - A bit more interactive are two multi-angle peeks at the film's stunts. "The Multiple Camera Angle Stunt Sequence" offers a view of the final stunt car flip (running just 20 seconds) from no less than eight different angles.
  • Featurette: "Movie Magic" (SD, 4 minutes) - This offers various effects "plates" of three scenes, including the final composite.
  • Featurette: "Visual Effects Montage" (SD, 5 minutes) - The best of all of the featurettes. Since the studio mandate was a PG-13 rating, some judicious editing was required to make the film kinetic and exciting while still not too graphic. Cohen and editor Peter Honess take us through an editing session during the process, and this may be the first featurette of its kind I've seen on a DVD or high-def disc. I admired Cohen's straight-forward approach to something that is often considered a dirty little secret in the industry, and it is amazing how obtaining an MPAA rating can come down to a mere few frames -- or choosing between a line with the word "Fuck" in it and a shot of a guy covered in blood. Interesting stuff.
  • Deleted Scenes (SD, 6 minutes) - Eight snips come next, and include an introduction and optional commentary by Cohen. These scenes are fairly interesting if not essential. Some run just a few seconds, and brief original edits of the "Ferrari" and "Race Wars" sequences are also included.
  • Music Videos (SD) - We get three clips, for "Furious by Ja Rule, "Click Click Boom" by Saliva, and an "Edited for Language" version of "POV City Anthem" by Caddillac Tah.
  • Theatrical Trailer (HD) - Rounding it out is the film's original theatrical trailer, in full HD video.

(Supplements rating: 3.0/5.0)

2 Fast 2 Furious

The weakest of the three films in terms of extras, most of the material here is largely promotional. I hardly remembered any of this stuff a moment after watching it.

  • Audio Commentary - The best extra by far is this chat with director John Singleton. I'll admit that I was pretty cynical about Singleton taking on the sequel, but on this track he is quite passionate and lively -- going into considerable detail about the film's high-octane action scenes and his stylistic approach to a rather formulaic concept. Unfortunately, Singleton appears to lose interest near the end, with far too frequent gaps of silence. However, this is the only supplement on the disc where you'll find any truly in-depth information about the making of the movie.
  • Featurette: "Inside '2 Fast 2 Furious'" (SD, 9 minutes) - This should have been a solid making-of documentary, but running a mere 9 minutes, it barely scratches the surface. An extended commercial, nothing more.
  • Featurette: "Tricking Out a Hot Import Car" (SD, 19 minutes) - This featurette is hosted by Playboy Playmate Dalene Kurtis, joined by stunt coordinator Craig Lieberman who shows us how a "hot car" is pimped out. Kurtis is, like, really smart, and says things like, "I love hot guys with hot cars." Too bad, for this is actually kind of interesting stuff despite the tasteless pandering to the T&A crowd.
  • Additional Featurettes (SD, 18 minutes) - Universal has also tacked on six short (1- to 2-minute) "Spotlight" vignettes, each an interview with a cast member (Paul Walker, Tyrese Gibson and Devon Aoki) or a making-of segment on one of the film's tricked-out cars (The Evo III, The Spyder and The S2000). A bit more informative on the technical side of things are the five-minute "Supercharged Stunts" and the three-part "Actors Driving School." Nothing we haven't seen on any of the other 'Furious' discs, here we learn that car crashes are dangerous and require stunt people to shoot. Kids, don't try this at home.
  • Deleted Scenes (SD, 3 minutes) - Next up is a three-minute collection of deleted scenes and additional outtakes. Singleton and editor Bruce Cannon offer an introduction and explanation of each segment. Everything here is an expanded version of an existing scene or a character bit, but then that's the least interesting part of '2 Fast 2 Furious.' The quality of the scenes is also rough as all come from AVID dubs, complete with timecode and raw production sound.
  • Short Film (HD, 3 minutes) - Last and least is the uninspired "Turbo-Charged Prelude to '2 Fast, 2 Furious.'" Shot exclusively for the "Tricked Out Edition" DVD, this "electrifying" short is supposed to bridge the original flick with the sequel. However, what is essentially a montage of Walker driving in a car feels more like a long outtake than a narrative short film. Pretty forgettable.
  • Theatrical Trailer (HD) - Lastly, we get the film's theatrical trailer in full HD.

(Supplement rating: 2.5/5.0)

The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift

Perhaps the best package of extras for any film in the set, these materials at least try to offer substance and not just style. All the video is also presented in full 1080, and looks great.

  • Audio Commentary - First up is an audio commentary with director Justin Lin. He is almost overflowing with enthusiasm for his cast and fellow filmmakers, perhaps to a fault, but imparts plenty of production details and is honest about his film's modest ambitions. Even Lin admits that the story is largely a threadbare structure in which to hang a bunch of cool car racing sequences, and discusses some of his more interesting aesthetic decisions, from choosing to shoot all of the "drifting" sequences without the benefit of CGI, to casting a non-Asian in the role of Lucas Black's girlfriend. No, this track will not suddenly convince you that 'Tokyo Drift' is a great movie, but it certainly made me a fan of Lin.
  • Featurette: "Welcome to Drifting" (HD, 6 minutes) - A basic intro to the sport of drifting, which sets up the background for the film. As with all the featurettes, this is culled from your usual collection of on-set cast and filmmaker interviews.
  • Featurette: "Cast Cam" (HD, 3 minutes) - Unfortunately, "Cast Cam" is a disappointment. Though it purports to include lots of cast-shot behind-the-scenes footage, we rarely have any idea who is holding the camera, and nothing they photograph is all that interesting.
  • Featurette: "Trick Out to Drift"/"The Big Breakdown" (HD, 14 minutes) - "Trick Out to Drift" and "The Big Breakdown" go together, spotlighting the various cars used in the film, as well as dissecting the film's centerpiece car crash scene, here dubbed "Han's Last Ride."
  • Featurette: "The Real Drift King" (HD, 3 minutes) - "The Real Drift King" interviews Keiichi Tsuchiay, perhaps the world's greatest living drift racer. In fact, Tsuchiay, who also served as stunt driver on the film, is so good he couldn't make some of the stunts look amateur enough to match the character's level of inexperience.
  • Featurette: "The Japanese Way" (HD, 10 minutes) - "The Japanese Way" is the last featurette, and focuses on shooting a big-budget street racing pic in a country that is not all that hospitable to issuing little things like permits. So many funny incidents ensued, like they filmmakers attempting to outfox the authorities during unauthorized late-night shoots. "The Japanese Way" is probably the most entertaining vignette on the disc.
  • Deleted Scenes (SD, 15 minutes) - Next up are nearly a dozen deleted scenes and/or scene extensions. Lin drops in for some commentary, and for once I actually liked a few of these deletions. Characters get a bit more fleshed out -- as you would expect, no big action scenes that were cut -- and I enjoyed the expanded interaction between The Drift King and his minions, which I think would have enhanced the film. As for the quality, they are presented in fairly good standard-def video.
  • Music Video (SD) - We get a promotional clip for "Conteo" by Don Omar, though I forgot the song completely within seconds of it finishing.
  • Theatrical Trailer (HD) - Finishing off the disc is the film's theatrical trailer (which wasn't on the HD DVD) in full HD.

(Supplement rating: 2.5/5.0)

HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?

All three 'Fast and the Furious' films came to HD DVD with a helping of exclusive features. Universal has gone one better here, retaining all those same features plus throwing in a few new goodies. The emphasis is on previewing the new, upcoming 'Fast & Furious' sequel (due to hit theaters in April 2009) but there is a decent amount of fresh material to make it worth wading through the promo twaddle.

All Discs

  • Tech Specs (U-Control) - All three discs in this set contain a basic set of exclusive features. First is "Tech Specs," which allows you to check the stats of the main vehicles in the film. You can even check insurance damage rates as the cars battle it out. Better get Geico!
  • MyScenes - Pretty standard with Universal Blu-ray titles, you can bookmark your favorite scenes for access after you eject the disc from your player.
  • D-Box - Want a jolt to your ass? Hook up any of these Blu-rays to a D-Box motion home theater seat, and enjoy away...
  • BD-Live - Finally, Universal has BD-Live-enabled all of the discs in the set. At press time, no new content has been announced, but watch this space...

The Fast and the Furious

  • Featurette: "Dom's Charger" (HD, 4 minutes) - Fresh to the Blu-ray, this is a short tribute to Vin Diesel's beloved car, as seen in the original film. As with all the new featurettes on these three Blu-rays, this material is culled from a mix of old EPK interviews, a few new fresh interviews with director Rob Coen, producer Neal H. Moritz, and some of the tech crew.
  • Featurette: "Quarter Mile at a Time" (HD, 10 minutes) - A continuation of the above featurette, this is a pretty interesting look at the fad of real street racing. A series of historians and enthusiasts are interviewed, plus some vintage racing footage which is kinda neat. This is the best of the exclusive content.
  • "The Fast and the Furious Video Mash-Up" (HD) - This is a rather unique feature, a sort of "video jukebox." After agreeing to Universal's Terms of Use (whatever), you can select background music, a series of pre-selected clips, and an ending, then the Blu-ray will seamlessly edit and play it back for you. If you enjoy the montage you make, you can even save it and/or send it to a friend (BD-Live-compatible player required). I'm not a huge fan of these types of features, but it works well and is fun for at least a few minutes.
  • Picture-in-Picture (U-Control) - As I stated in my original HD DVD review of 'The Fast and the Furious,' this PIP track is a disappointment. All it really consists of is a video interview with director Rob Cohen. There is little in the way of additional behind-the-scenes footage and other material, making it like listening to an audio commentary while watching the director's head in a box. It's fine, but why go PIP if you are going to offer nothing of visual interest?

(HD Bonus Content rating: 2.0/5.0)

2 Fast 2 Furious

  • Featurette: "Fast Females with a Sneak Peek at the New 'Fast & Furious'" (HD, 8 minutes) - New to the Blu-ray, this is an overview of all the female characters in the 'Fast and the Furious' flicks. It's sort of amusing to hear cast and filmmakers discuss the great depth of these women, as they really have never been integral to the action and usually play more like accessories to the men. Again, as for being a preview of the new 'Fast & Furious,' this pulls from the same old EPK interviews.
  • Featurette: "Hollywood Impact" (HD, 13 minutes) - Another new featurette, this looks at the 'Fast and the Furious' films and their place in the genre of the action and car movie. We get some EPK interviews, plot recap, and new comments from film critic Leonard Maltin, fellow Time Magazine critic Joel Stein, and others. This isn't a bad featurette, and I enjoyed seeing Maltin at least try to take the 'Furious' films seriously alongside, say, 'American Graffiti.' Worth a watch.
  • "Animated Anecdotes" (U-Control) -- A standard pop-up trivia track with various (and pithy) fun facts. It's pretty decent as a compendium of behind-the-scenes and production info, and works best if watched along with John Singleton's audio commentary rather than by itself.

(HD Bonus Content rating: 1.5/5.0)

The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift

  • Featurette: "Making the 'Fast' Franchise" (HD, 17 minutes) - As with all the new featurettes on these discs, this retrospective of the 'Fast and the Furious' films is made up largely of old EPK material, plus tons of film clips. Unfortunately, much of this ground is covered in more detail in all the other supplements on the disc, so this is like a "digest version" of the franchise. By the time I got to this featurette, I was plenty bored.
  • Featurette: "Drift: A Sideways Craze" (HD, 60 minutes) - This is the real surprise of this entire box set. Clocking in at a full hour, this is a great documentary on the "drifting craze" fictionalized in 'Tokyo Drift.' A host of real-life drifters are interviewed, and there is a ton of racing footage. I'm not all that interested in the phenomenon, but I found this doc informative and entertaining. This is a substantial addition to this disc, and I'm surprised Universal hasn't played up its quality more in the set's advertising and back packaging.
  • GPS Mapping (U- Control) - Ported over from the original HD DVD, I never got into this feature. During the climactic chase, you can call up real-time GPS info on the cars being demolished. I dunno -- it's about as much fun as using the GPS on your own car stereo...
  • Storyboards (U-Control) - There is no dedicated PIP track to be found on 'Tokyo Drift,' but you can call up animated storyboards for select action scenes in the film.

(HD Bonus Content rating: 3.0/5.0)

Final Thoughts

Like most movie franchises, the 'Fast and the Furious' series is a mixed bag. I enjoyed 'The Fast and the Furious' on a guilty-pleasure level, was bored by '2 Fast 2 Furious,' and found 'The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift' slightly better than I expected. None are masterpieces, just good car porn. This Blu-ray set is pretty sharp, however, with great video and audio. Only the supplements falter a bit -- they lean towards the promotional, save for some new featurettes and a 60-minute doc on the 'Tokyo Drift' disc. Given how good this set looks and sounds, however, this Blu-ray collection is an easy sell for fans of the franchise.

Technical Specs

  • Blu-ray
  • BD-50 Dual-Layer Discs
  • Three-Disc Set
  • Bonus View (Profile 1.1)
  • BD-Live (Profile 2.0)
  • D-Box Enhanced

Video Resolution/Codec

  • 1080p/VC-1
  • 1080p/AVC MPEG-4
  • 480p/i/MPEG-2 (Supplements Only)

Aspect Ratio(s)

  • 2.35:1

Audio Formats

  • English DTS-HD Lossless Master Audio 5.1 Surround (48kHz/24-bit)
  • French DTS 5.1 Surround (768kbps)
  • Spanish DTS 5.1 Surround (768kbps)

Subtitles/Captions

  • English SDH
  • French Subtitles
  • Spanish Subtitles

Supplements

  • Audio Commentaries
  • Featurettes
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Music Videos
  • Short Film
  • Theatrical Trailers

Exclusive HD Content

  • Picture-in-Picture
  • BD-Live
  • D-Box