Blu-ray
Highly Recommended
4 stars
Amazon
$19.98
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Overall Grade
4 stars

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

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

Fast & Furious

Street Date:
July 28th, 2009
Reviewed by:
Drew Taylor
Review Date: 1
July 20th, 2009
Movie Release Year:
2009
Studio:
Universal Studios Home Entertainment
Length:
107 Minutes
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG-13
Release Country
United States

The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take

I'll admit it: I'm an unabashed fan of the 'Fast and Furious' franchise.

Since its junky, inauspicious beginnings as a mildly entertaining 'Point Break' ripoff in 2001 titled simply 'The Fast and the Furious' (even the name was stolen from a drive-in classic, a forgotten 1955 American International Pictures movie), I've been hooked. Part of the movie's appeal came from the inside peek it offered into the world of underground street racing; another part was the fierce intensity of Vin Diesel who, depending on how you looked at him, resembled either a hit man or a cuddly teddy bear; but most of the draw came from the sheer, 100-miles-an-hour fun of watching cars driving really, really fast and smacking into each other.

John Singleton's sequel, the silly '2 Fast 2 Furious' (2003) lost Vin Diesel and instead stuck with the first film's Paul Walker. They transposed the action from L.A. to Miami, which made for even more garish colors, but while it was still a lot of fun to watch, much of the freshness was gone (and Tyrese didn't make for quite the same tough guy foil). Thankfully, by the third film, new blood had been transfused in the form of director Justin Lin, who took the action to Tokyo and gave us the most entertaining entry in the franchise, 'Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift.'

That third film lost the 'Point Break' shtick and instead told the coming-of-age story of a rebellious American teen (Lucas Black) sent to live with his father in the faraway land of Tokyo. It was energetic, stylish, and just what the franchise needed. And in the closing moments, a familiar face returned to kick it into overdrive (This is the first of many car puns. You've been warned) - Vin Diesel. The man was back.

And so, 'Fast & Furious' was born, with 'Tokyo Drift' director Justin Lin back in the driver's seat, and original cast members Vin Diesel and Paul Walker (along with Michelle Rodriguez and the lovely Jordana Brewster). The tagline said it all - "New Model. Original Parts." The storyline this time shifted gears yet again to become a kind of muscle car noir. After a wonderful prologue set in the Dominican Republic, with the old gang stealing gas from a land train, Vin Diesel is thrust back into the United States following the murder of an old flame. So there's a revenge plot, with Vin searching for justice, a return to the first film's bromantic rivalry (Walker is looking for the killer too, since he is of course an international drug dealer with ties to underground street racing), and lots and lots of car racing.

While 'Fast & Furious' (the ampersand tells you it's the fourth movie, or something) lacks that neon-tinted kick that 'Tokyo Drift' had, it's still a whole lot of fun. The entire movie hinges on familiarity, since that was supposed to be the big draw, and yes, it is a total blast to see the old crew back together. But there's enough new here to keep things fresh and exciting. For one, it's a more international movie. Besides the South American-set prologue, there are a couple of cross country rallies, with a team of racers making an illegal run to Mexico (and back) through a series of secret bootleggers' tunnels. There's also a neat road race through the streets of Los Angeles that's inter-cut with GPS directions that feels somewhat fresh.

I mean, come on, this is the fourth film in a franchise that has never been prized for its originality. What works, works marvelously (the noir-y setup, the returning cast members, and the races); what doesn't work doesn't seem like a spectacular failure, either. (There's a little too much brooding and pontificating on Vin Diesel's part, and the bad guy is about as threatening as a mattress manufacturer's warning.) Still, this is a solid entry, and just what the franchise needed - the return of the original cast members who made the first film so special with just the right amount of freshness behind the camera (thank you, Mr. Lin). While this may not be the best film in the series (I still love 'Tokyo Drift' something fierce), it is an undeniably enjoyable bit of slick, trashy, fuel-injected B-movie fun. There are way worse ways to spend a Saturday night.

The Video: Sizing Up the Picture

Under the hood, 'Fast & Furious' comes equipped with a wonderful VC-1 1080p transfer (aspect ratio: 2.40:1). This is, technically speaking, a hot rod.

The 'Fast & the Furious' series has always been known for its color - both in the brightness of its cars and the ethnicities of its cast members (one of my favorite things about the series is the presence of its multi-cultural mix of gear heads, without ever explicitly mentioning it). And, both look gorgeous here.

Skin tones - no matter the shade - are dead on, while the colors of the cars really pop. The movie looks just as good during the night sequences as it does during the daytime scenes, with deep black levels and no washout or bleeding. Everything looks great. There aren't any technical issues to speak of, either. While there isn't a whole lot of CGI work in the film (director Justin Lin prides himself on this), there appear to be some computer generated backgrounds, particularly in the tunnel that connects our fuel-injected drug runners from Mexico to America. These backgrounds look so ridiculously phony in high definitionā€¦ but that's not the transfer's fault.

Overall, this is a pretty peerless transfer and one that will certainly give you quite a bang for your buck.

The Audio: Rating the Sound

On the audio side, things are just as turbo charged. This DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix is the stuff that neighborhood protests are made of.

Literally from the opening sequence, in which a land train of gas tankers rumbles across the screen, the mix is given a constant workout, with wonderful surround support. This is a movie called 'Fast & Furious' and people buying this Blu-ray will want to not only see but also hear the most kick-ass stunt racing imaginable. And those coming to this disc for that will not leave disappointed. The handful of action sequences really roar to life, with loudness and intensity that makes you feel like you're in the passenger's seat.

Engines growl, cars smash together, gunfire pops, explosions engulf and everything is clear and well prioritized. Even though this aggressively mastered mix favors sequences of extreme calamity, it doesn't leave out the simpler scenes. Dialogue is clean and mostly front-centered, while everything is given a nice amount of atmosphere.

One of the coolest scenes is one in which Vin Diesel sort of "relives" the crash and murder of his old love, with a ghostly car flipping over him as he surveys the murder site. It's really cool and is a nice and subtle mix of elements.

Music also sounds nice - both the score by Brian Tyler and the soundtrack, composed of a mix of urban sounds (and overseen by The Neptunes' genius Pharrell Williams).

While some might complain that this mix is a bit too bombastic, really, it's what people want. And I'm fairly certain that some of the quieter, more meditative moments in the movie will weigh down all the sound and fury. It's hard to think of a more surround sound demonstration-worthy disc than this.

Also included on this disc are audio tracks in French DTS 5.1 and Spanish: DTS 5.1, as well as subtitles in English SDH, French, and Spanish. Race on!

The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff

Universal has lined up an impressive array of special features for this deluxe edition of 'Fast & Furious.' In addition, it should be noted that there is a bonus disc with a digital download copy. I'm always dubious of "2-disc special editions" where the second disc is just the download disc. I mean, is that really all that special? That being said, Universal loaded this disc to the gills, with almost everything in HD, and even threw in some super sweet Blu-ray exclusives! If there's one complaint, it's that a lot of these features are very, very similar, and one wonders if they could have been blended into a larger, cohesive documentary (which you could then select the scene/topic of interest that most intrigues you). Still, this is a minor quibble.

  • Commentary with Director Justin Lin Over and over again in the special features section of this disc, the cast and crew sing the virtues of Justin Lin as a director. On the top of that list is his coolheadedness and his refusal to get worked up by the many demands of big budget studio filmmaking. That kind of tranquility is also brought to his commentary track which, while it may be nice to work for a guy like this, doesn't exactly make for enchanting listening. This is especially true since much of the same ground is covered elsewhere in the section (more on that in a second). This commentary can be easily skipped.
  • Gag Reel (HD, 5:00) It is what it is: people flubbing their lines, special effects going awry etc. Not exactly the most gut-busting collection of bloopers I've ever seen, but amusing enough.
  • Los Bandoleros (HD, 20:23) This is actually pretty cool. It's a short film written and directed by Vin Diesel that serves as a sort of prequel to the prologue sequence at the beginning of the film. It's about fifteen minutes long, features Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, and the guy that plays Han, and gives a bit of context and back story. It's not going to radically change your viewing experience, but it's a cool little extra.
  • Under the Hood - Muscle Cars (HD, 6:55) This is a feature, mostly centered around the Vin Diesel character's cars, as told through various talking head interviews with cast and crew members. Many of the cast and crew stress that the cars are an extension of the characters, so it was important to bring back the character's cars, just like they brought back Vin. Serious car junkies will get a kick out of this for sure.
  • Under the Hood - Imports (HD, 4:59) Similarly, this feature looks at the import cars that define Paul Walker's character, including a Subaru and a Nissan, which might not look impressive but pack some serious power under the hood.
  • Getting the Gang Back Together (HD, 9:50) Like almost all the featurettes on this disc, this one features talking head interviews with various cast and crew members, this time on the subject of bringing back the original cast from the first 'Fast & Furious' movie. While they seem to make it out to be a kind of goodhearted, Herculean effort, it probably wasn't all that difficult, especially since many of the cast members (including Vin Diesel and Paul Walker) hit career highs with the original film. Then again, you don't hear the word 'desperation' much in glossy special features.
  • Driving School with Vin Diesel (HD, 3:50) This is a dopey little feature that shows Vin Diesel driving around in the stunt cars. Some people might think this is exciting and fun, but I found it pretty dull.
  • Shooting the Big Rig Heist (HD, 9:47) This is a really fascinating look at the opening gas tanker heist. The film's producer says it took "weeks and weeks" and it looks incredibly complicated. It's also amazing how gung-ho Michelle Rodriguez is at performing her own stunts. Overall, this is a nice feature that's as interesting as it is entertaining.
  • Races and Chases (HD, 11:01) Again, we get members of the cast and crew talking about the importance of the racing sequences, how they were accomplished, as well as what they mean thematically for the story. There's some neat stuff about how they accomplished the centerpiece race - an urban street race between Vin and Paul Walker that's framed by a GPS screen.
  • High Octane Action: The Stunts (HD, 11:22) Yet more information about how the various stunts were performed, including the cross-country race. If anyone is still interested in how these things were done - then this is for you. It's been pretty exhaustively covered thus far, yet here we are, with eleven more action packed minutes of information.
  • South of the Border - Filming in Mexico (2:55) This is a really cute little feature that I wish was longer. Basically, it's about director Justin Lin bringing the entire cast and crew down to Mexico for the climactic race. They filmed in a town that had a population of 3,000 and had never seen a Hollywood movie crew before, and it's pretty outstanding to see their reaction to international mega-star Vin Diesel invading their tiny town. Very cool stuff.
    Pitbull, "Blanco" Music Video (HD, 4:11) Video for the song that opens the movie, produced by Pharrell Williams. Not really worth watching, especially since the song plays over the menu screens.

HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?

Universal has really stepped up to the plate with the HD features on this disc (even though I shouldn't be mixing my metaphors - I'll try to stick to bad car puns). There are two viewing options within the U-Control feature, and some nifty interactive stuff for tech-savvy gear heads that are also huge movie fans. So, let's get into it, shall we?

    U-Control There are two viewing options within U-Control. The first is called 'Take Control.' It's hosted by director Justin Lin and lead actor-bot Paul Walker and works like the recent 'Watchmen' commentary, wherein the director and actor appear on screen, talking about aspects of the movie, can pause the movie, play special features, the whole nine yards. It's a really interesting way to watch the movie, and is a preferred route to Lin's solo commentary track. While this feels like a bit more of a gimmick than the 'Watchmen' track, it's still an interesting glimpse into where Blu-ray commentary tracks are headed. The other option is the 'Virtual Garage & Tech Specs,' wherein specs for each car will pop up on screen (example that I hastily wrote down: "1987 Buickā€¦"). This must be a coup to car aficionados but I really didn't have a lot of love for it. You can also access the 'Virtual Garage' separately, where you can look at all the cars from the movie in 360 degrees.
    'Fast & Furious' Video Mash-Up This is something that requires BD-Live connectivity and I wasn't sure exactly how it worked, but the gist of it is that you make your own 'Fast & Furious' music video using bits that they provide you online. Again: this could be fun if you're a 'Fast & Furious' super fan. While the effort is appreciated, the interface leaves much to be desired.

It should also be noted that this disc features extensive D-Box support. I myself do not have a mechanism that shakes my chair around, but those that do are in for a treat. 'Fast & Furious' was the first film to premiere in a D-Box theater (in Los Angeles and Phoenix, I believe), with an entire theater rumbling along to the actions of Vin and Paul Walker!

This disc is also BD-Live enabled.

Final Thoughts

It's hard not to bestow a highly recommended stamp on this baby. While the movie itself isn't a masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination, it is a whole lot of fun. The AV is superb and the collection of extras is truly impressive. Race to the store for this one!

Technical Specs

  • Blu-ray
  • BD-50

Video Resolution/Codec

  • 1080p/VC-1

Aspect Ratio(s)

  • 2.40:1

Audio Formats

  • English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • French: DTS 5.1
  • Spanish: DTS 5.1

Subtitles/Captions

  • English SDH
  • French
  • Spanish

Supplements

  • Commentary with Justin Lin
  • Races and Chases
  • High Octane Action: The Stunts
  • South of the Border - Filming in Mexico
  • Pitbull, "Blanco" Music Video
  • Gag Reel
  • Los Bandoleros
  • Under the Hood - Muscle Cars
  • Under the Hood - Imports
  • Getting the Gang Back Together
  • Driving School with Vin Diesel
  • Shooting the Big Rig Heist

Exclusive HD Content

  • Virtual Car Garage
  • U Control - Take Control
  • U Control - Virtual Garage and Tech Specs
  • Video Mashup
  • BD-Live Enabled