Fans of the 'Fast and Furious' franchise who were eagerly awaiting the Blu-ray release of 'Fast & Furious 6' had their enthusiasm dampened when news broke that franchise star Paul Walker had died in fiery car accident. Subsequently, Universal has announced that "a percentage of proceeds from the upcoming home entertainment release of 'Fast & Furious 6' will be donated to Paul Walker’s non-profit, Reach Out WorldWide, a network of professionals with first responder skill-sets who augment local expertise when natural disasters strike in order to accelerate relief efforts. Paul Walker’s family has requested that in lieu of flowers or other gifts, donations be made to support Paul’s charity. To learn more about the efforts of Reach Out WorldWide or make a direct donation, please visit www.roww.org."
I am a recent convert to the 'Fast and Furious' franchise. After hearing in March that the seventh movie had been announced even before the release of the sixth, I decided it was time to see what all the fuss was about. Although I didn't think much of the story and characters in 'The Fast and the Furious,' I thought the stunts and action were handled quite well. '2 Fast 2 Furious' found Walker heading out on his own to Miami but suffered like many sequels do, from being a copy of the original. Appearing as though the producers found a script lying around that they could just slap their banner on, 'Tokyo Drift' finds a new character Sean (Lucas Black) take the franchise to Japan. A cameo at the end was the only thing revealing the movie existed in the same movie universe. With Vin Diesel on board as a producer, 'Fast & Furious' righted the ship and saw the franchise return to what it did best. 'Fast Five' took things in a different direction, gathering characters from the first two movies and becoming a heist movie, like 'Ocean's 11'. The conflict was increased with the inclusion of Diplomatic Security Service agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) in pursuit of the gang.
The seeds for the 'F&F6' story were sown in Five's epilogue. Although proclaimed dead in 'F&F', Dom's girlfriend Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) is discovered alive and working with a criminal gang in Europe, led by Owen Shaw (Luke Evans). After an attack on a Russian military convoy, Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) approaches Dom (Vin Diesel) for help. Dom agrees to get the whole gang back together on the condition that they receive pardons.
Shortly after arriving in London, they fail to stop a job by Shaw. As he and the gang learn Shaw is stealing components to create a power-disabling device he can sell, Shaw and his gang learn Letty has a connection to Dom. However, she has no memory of him because instead of dying after an accident, as everyone believed, she escaped with amnesia. Though I can't remember the scene exactly from two movies prior, I don't believe the filmmakers left themselves an out and am almost certain they cheated and created new material to change the story.
As the gangs, who are very well matched, continue to cross paths, Letty grows confused in reaction to the way each group treats her. And what helps seal the deal for her is a jaw-dropping, physics-defying moment during a crazy chase when Shaw is willing to sacrifice her to escape while Dom is willing to sacrifice himself to save her. I should mention that sequence involves Dom's team chasing after Shaw, who drives a tank down a motorway, smashing through and firing its gun at any car that gets in his way. It's exciting and caused a good bit of destruction, so I presumed it would end with Shaw's capture. Thankfully, I was wrong, and the filmmakers upped the ante even higher for a spectacular sequence that involved the good guys trying to stop Shaw and his people from leaving on a transport plane. Setting aside the logistics of how long that runaway must have been, everyone of the F&F team gets into the act and shines.
This is director Justin Lin's fourth, and for now final, movie in the franchise, and he goes out on top. He uses all the elements that have been successful: over-the-top action, humor, and camaraderie between the characters, and of course, good-looking cars and girls, and overcomes most of what didn't. While 'Fast Five' was a bit bloated during its over two-hour length, 'FF6', which runs just as long, is paced better and doesn't drag. The movie's main flaw is the villain. Evans doesn't have much presence or charisma as Shaw, and the character comes off as one-dimensional and rather forgettable. But to be fair, there's not a whole lot of characterization to the good guys either.
Once again, the epilogue hints at what was to come and suggests a great villain played by a well-known action star, but all that is unfortunately up in the air now as production on 'Fast & Furious 7' has been halted as they determine how to handle the loss of Walker.
It may have been easy to dismiss the first few installments, especially after 'Tokyo Drift' nearly sank the franchise, but with 'Fast & Furious' and 'Fast Five' pushing the series' domestic box-office total to nearly $700 million and over $1.5 billion worldwide, there's no denying its success. Even more astonishing is how 'Fast & Furious 6' bucks conventional wisdom about sequels and is my favorite of the series so far.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Fast & Furious 6: Extended Edition' is on a 50GB Region A Blu-ray disc comes with a DVD, and paperwork for an UltraViolet download. They sit in a standard blue case which comes with a slipcase. There are trailers for 'Kick-Ass 2', 'Fast & Furious 6' :The Game, Transformers: The Ride 3D, and 'Riddick'.
The video has been given a 1080p/AVC-MPEG-4 encoded transfer displayed at 2.35:1. The colors appear in bright, vibrant hues, especially noticeable from the cars and clothing like bikinis. The casts' various fleshtones appear consistent throughout. Blacks are rich but lean towards crushing when black cars drive through darkened streets at night. Shadow delineation is not strong. For example when Hobbs is walking through the hallways of Interpol, faces lose their features in the shadows.
Objects are sharp and well defined. Great depth is seen in the many car-chase sequences, especially when vehicles are darting in and out of traffic. The detail on display reveals very fine textures, such as in the women's clothing and surfaces such as walls and floors. In one scene, Tyrese' nose ring hole is evident. There's a limited amount of banding that pops up around lights, but it's negligible.
The audio is available in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and delivers a reference-quality experience. A very loud roar of what turns out to be two engines fills the surrounds, augmented with a great bottom end from the subwoofer. The viewer is immersed in the sounds of two cars speeding along a freeway before they move out of frame and into the rears. The scene then cuts to a high, overhead shot where the engines become a soft purr as a seagull cawing can be heard. Only a few moments in and the track reveals how wide its dynamic range is.
Throughout the chase scenes, the vehicles make full use of the soundfield as they travel through the different channels. The fights are accentuated and exaggerated with forceful effects. Sounds that are quieter and softer have their place as well. Bullets can be heard pinging of cement and slicing through the air. Glass breaks and shatters, tinkling onto the pavement.
Bass almost never gets distorted. One establishing shot had it turned up too high as waves crash. Dialogue is clear and all the elements are well balanced together. During the establishing scene before Dom and Lety's race, the music is cranked up louder than the rest of the movie.
While the story is as simple and lightweight as the characters, nothing delivered better action than 'Fast & Furious 6', due in large part to the practical work of the stunt team. If you like fists, bodies, and cars fly though the air, this is the movie for you. The Blu-ray allows you to simulate the theatrical experience with its great video and reference audio. Highly recommended.