Fast & Furious 6 (US - BD RA)
Gabe enjoys the best 6th film since The Undiscovered Country and Jason Lives...
Since Dom (Vin Diesel) and Brian's (Paul Walker) Rio heist toppled a kingpin's empire and left their crew with $100 million, our heroes have scattered across the globe. But their inability to return home and living forever on the lam have left their lives incomplete. Meanwhile, Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) has been tracking an organization of lethally skilled mercenary drivers across 12 countries, whose mastermind (Luke Evans) is aided by a ruthless second-in-command revealed to be the love Dom thought was dead, Letty (Michelle Rodriguez). The only way to stop the criminal outfit is to outmatch them at street level, so Hobbs asks Dom to assemble his elite team in London. Payment? Full pardons for all of them so they can return home and make their families whole again.
I’ve never been overly fond of the Fast & Furious film franchise, but I do certainly appreciate the continuity-heavy, superhero team-up it has grown into. What began as a boring throwback to ‘60s and‘70s car chase/cops ‘n robbers movies has slowly evolved into the car porn equivalent to Marvel’s Avengers. The fifth film, ridiculously titled Fast Five, was a testament to the franchise’s stick-to-itiveness. It had been built on the intentions of the worst film in the series, Fast & Furious (the fourth one), and reinvigorated the storyline. Returning director Justin Lin and screenwriter Chris Morgan (they’ve been working together on these films since Tokyo Drift) were also tasked with moving the films away from their car-culture ‘limitations’ (that’s studio-speak), which was sort of necessary, anyway, since Fast Five took the whole ‘street racing heist’ thing about as far it could be taken. Even at its best, the franchise was getting kind of stale in terms of what Lin and Morgan could possibly do with the concept. Fast & Furious 6, or Furious 6, as the opening title call it, widens the scope a bit by teaming the crooks and cops together from the beginning and pitting these heroes against an international threat that mirrors them (‘a whole different level,’ as Brian says). It’s the car porn Justice League versus the car porn Legion of Doom, if you will.
Following the boring and over-serious fourth film, the fifth film returned to fun character beats and intentional comedy (though nothing will ever be as funny and the furiously homoerotic second film). Fast 6 also embraces comedy and character over drama and, when things do turn dramatic, no one is afraid of being a little sappy. The series runs on the sentimental theme of ‘family,’ something that requires a certain degree of cornball and something the filmmakers should be happy to embrace. Morgan’s screenplay is anchored in the central mystery of Letty’s reappearance, which simplifies the plot enough to focus on the characters on a semi-episodic level. Everything is tied together in to the end, so it’s very easy to forgive some of the more derivative, coincidental, and silly story aspects. Besides, even Avengers, the ne plus ultra of superhero team-ups has some major issues with derivative and convoluted plotting – issues that seem part and parcel with an ensemble of this type. The film carries on a bit longer than needed (the final set-piece is well executed, but a bit numbing), but not so long that it spoils the quality of the generally tight and exciting whole.
More surprising than the Fast & Furious franchise finding its footing is the fact that Lin finally became a good action director. I suppose it’s not really a surprise, considering he’s made four of these movies now. Tokyo Drift and Fast & Furious weren’t badly directed, but the former lacked danger and the latter featured weightless, unattractive CG sequences. Fast Five was already significant improvement and Furious 6 follows suit. The car chases, shoot-outs, and fist-fights all feel physically accurate, despite the ridiculous nature of some of the stunts. There’s also wince-inducing brutality to the battles, both the human-on-human and machine-on-machine varieties. The PG-13 ensures the aftermath isn’t nearly as bloody as it should be, but the violence still pushes the boundaries of the rating (tastefully so). The centerpiece tank chase finally sees Lin setting a bar of his own, rather than struggling to keep up with the achievements other filmmakers had set several decades ago. I’m not sure I can name a similar scene as well-staged as this one – it strikes a beautiful balance between Paul Greengrass’ shaky-cam Bourne aesthetic and the big CG madness of something like Transformers.
The cast continues settling into their roles admirably. No one particularly stands out above the rest (Ludacris and Dwayne Johnson have some delightful scenes together), which is probably as it should be in an ensemble situation like this. At the same time, it’s very easy to tell the characters apart on more than just a physical level. It should be noted that the casts of these films are wonderfully culturally diverse – a lesson the rest of Hollywood should take to heart.
So far, the Fast & Furious franchise has avoided both the 3D craze and the process of shooting digitally. Lin and returning cinematographer Stephen F. Windon embrace the grit and grain of the Super 35 format (I believe there was an IMAX blow-up at some point), though, like most modern filmmakers, they also embrace the possibilities of digital colour grading. I don’t really recall what the fourth film looked like, but this 1080p, 2.40:1 transfer follows the visual lead set by Fast Five – high contrast colours, anamorphic lenses, and blown-out, super-sunny white levels. Details are occasionally limited by the focus, but the harsh dynamic levels usually ensure complex textures in the extreme close-ups and richly patterned wide-shots. There’s a hint of film-based edge enhancement and a steady stream of fine grain, but nothing oppressive. The only weird artefacts I noticed were what appeared to be digital smoothing effects during some of the close-quarters fist fights. I suppose this could mean that some of these scenes were shot with handheld digital cameras. The palette is divided between the aforementioned sunny daylight shots (lots of pastels and warm hues), fluorescent interiors (teal glows and orange skin tones), and neon nighttime scenes (hyper-vibrant colours and deep, rich blacks). The 35mm base and high contrast photography keep the colours tight with only a few softer (usually background) hue blends, none of which feature prominent banding effects.
Even the bad Fast & Furious movies have fantastically aggressive sound design and, being the most spectacularly action-packed movie in the series yet, Fast & Furious 6 sounds fantastic here in 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. The people in charge of the mix do just about everything they can to give each of the car chases a different aural feel. One chase is a friendly contest through echoing mountain passes that features warm, soft engine sounds echoing from off cliff sides. Another is a violent, bomb and bullet-laden crash course through the streets of London, complete with LFE-rattling bombs exploding, bone shattering collisions and cars flipping through the surround channels. The massive tank vs. car scene is the best of all worlds, including bassy crunch and warm, dynamic ranges. The more basic dialogue sequences and foot chases feature plenty of ambient noise as well (chattering bystanders, buzzing city noise, etc.), giving an effectively realistic sense of space without overwhelming what’s important. First time Fast & Furious composer Lucas Vidal does a good job immersing himself in the franchise’s aesthetic by underlying the action scenes with electronic percussion, flamboyant strings, and driving guitars (no pun intended). Of course, the score is augmented by a load of hip-hop and (surprisingly ‘90s) techno music, which occasionally stands in for the bouncy sound effects of a chase scene. All of the music is given a nice stereo/surround spread.
The extras begin with Lin’s solo commentary track. Lin’s always a good commentator and doesn’t disappoint for his final Fast & Furious track. The space is filled with discussion concerning the pre-production, distilling the massive story into one movie (it was split in two for a period in pre-production), casting the new characters, shooting the massive scale action, saying goodbye to his ‘family,’ and bringing this ‘trilogy’ to an end. Closure is an ongoing theme and the word ‘challenge’ is thrown around a whole lot as well. The commentary is augmented with the Take Control option. This ‘in-movie experience’ features cutaways to Lin, Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, and Michelle Rodriguez, who discuss making the film and the story as it connects to the other films in the series. Unlike other in-movie/pop-up tracks, this one is a separate piece from the film, running only 19:20 (HD).
The disc also features:
- Three deleted scenes (1:40, HD)
- The Making of Fast & Furious 6:
- The Fastest of Them All (10:10, HD) – An introduction to the behind-the-scenes and look at the various locations.
- Reuniting the Team (7:30) – Concerning the heroic side of the cast, the character motivations, and the fanfare that follows their on-screen reunion.
- Letty’s Return (4:40, HD) – Obviously on the return of Michelle Rodriguez’ character, Letty.
- The Mastermind and The Mole (4:20, HD) – A look at the new characters, specifically the ‘mirror universe’ antagonists.
- Planes, Tanks and Automobiles – A breakdown of the prep, logistics, and filming of the film’s four biggest action sequences, including:
- The London Chase (8:00, HD)
- Highway Heist: The Convoy Attack (6:30, HD)
- The Antonov Takedown (the climatic runway attack, 6:20, HD)
- Dom and Letty Race Again (3:40, HD)
- It’s All About the Cars[/I]:
- On the Set with Vin (3:20, HD) – Diesel preps for a highway stunt.
- Gearhead’s Delight (6:30, HD) – A look at the cars showcased in the film, including those found and those fabricated.
- The FLIP Car (5:20, HD) – An additional look (following the Take Control featurette) at the production of the villains’ low-riding mini-tanks.
- Hand-to-Hand Fury (9:40, HD) – Concerning the training, choreographing, and filming involved with the film’s brutal fist-fights.
- First look at Fast & Furious 7
Fast & Furious 6 (or Furious 6) gets my vote as the best film in the series and a great way to wrap-up director Justin Lin’s time with the films. The action is hard-hitting and breathtaking without sacrificing the strong characters that make the franchise work and the ensemble cast surrounded storytelling isn’t only admirable, it’s something Marvel and Warner Bros. might want to look to when it comes to future superhero team-ups. I am fully primed for Fast & Furious 7, though the fate of that film is now hanging in the balance. Obviously, it was a little surreal watching Furious 6 in the weeks following Paul Walker’s sudden and tragic death (the ‘first look’ at Fast & Furious 7 is a scene from Han’s funeral, which makes it all the weirder). This certainly isn’t his best work, but that’s only because he’s somewhat lost in the shuffle of the ensemble cast. My personal pick for a Walker movie that proves he had chops is Wayne Kramer’s Running Scared.
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking the individual images, but due to .jpg compression, they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
Review by Gabriel Powers
Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13
Release Date: 10th December 2013
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English, DVS 2.0 English and DTS Digital Surround 5.1 French
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Extras: Extended Version, Director's Commentary, Take Control, Deleted Scenes, The Making of Fast & Furious 6, Planes, Tanks and Automobiles, Gearhead’s Delight, Hand-to-Hand Fury, DVD Copy, Digital Copy
Easter Egg: No
Director: Justin Lin
Cast: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster, Tyrese Gibson, Chris Bridges, Sung Kang, Luke Evans, Gina Carano, John Ortiz
Genre: Action, Adventure, Crime, Drama and Thriller
Length: 130 minutes
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