Fast and the Furious Trilogy, The (US - BD RA)
Gabe is all Fasted and Furioused out for a while. Tell him if the new one is good...
The Fast and the Furious
Brian (Paul Walker) is a good driver who sloppily tries to join in on a world of illegal street racing in LA, and ends up losing his car. After the race Brian saves the underground’s ‘leader’ Dominic (Vin Diesel) from arrest, and is welcomed into the fold, where he serves as a mechanic, and later starts to fall for Dominic’s sister (Jordana Brewster). But doe-eyed Brian isn’t everything he seems, and the ‘gang’ starts to suspect he may be up to something.
This marks my first look at The Fast and the Furious. I’m not a fan of car porn (though I understand it coming from Southern Arizona, where the lowriders reign supreme), and there hasn’t been a lot of incentive to go out of my way since the film was first released in 2001. Since 2001 director Rob Cohen seems to have gone out of his way to make me not want to see any of his films. The man makes the worst brand of junk food, having somehow tripped over satisfaction when he made Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story, which I’m notching up to good casting. The Fast and the Furious follows the director’s M.O. almost too the letter—too much stupid plotting and things going boom, not enough originality or intrigue. Cohen’s films are like commercials, cramming ninety minutes worth of video and audio information into thirty seconds of screen time. When he slows things down the audience can almost feel his pain as the camera flitters with anticipation of the next speed fix. Sometimes junk food is a good thing, but Cohen’s sensibilities give it a bad name.
However, Cohen has a slightly old-school sensibility when it comes to editing and camera movement, which gives him an edge over some of his contemporaries. The action is lamely slick and over-stimulating, but it isn’t cut to ribbons, and in general I can usually tell what’s going on as cars drive around each other very quickly. Given that, there’s still a surprising dullness to the entire film, and the stupid plot can’t cover it. Sometimes a good story is dulled by bad action scenes ( Batman Begins), other times the action is good enough to wade through a bad story (just about every Michael Bay film), but Fast and the Furious just doesn’t have enough of either good bit to satisfactorily fill the runtime. The casting saves Cohen again to a certain extent, though in the interim most of these actors have gone on to play the same characters so many times it’s become a joke. I’m not entirely clear on what could’ve been done to save the film, but I think another glance at early ‘70s crime films might’ve helped. Or maybe an acknowledgement that Katharine Bigelow already made a perfectly good undercover cop with extreme sports type film called Point Break.
2 Fast 2 Furious
Brian (Paul Walker) is back, but following the events of The Fast and the Furious he’s now a real criminal instead of an undercover cop. After an illegal race Brian is set up by the cops and brought in again undercover to clear his name. Brian is teamed with Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson), and the two ex-cons start a sting against a South American drug lord named Carter Verone (Cole Hauser) using their amazing skills with fast moving vehicles.
Way back in the year 1991 a young black filmmaker was labeled Hollywood’s next big thing—John Singleton. Singleton was one of the few first time directors ever nominated for an Oscar, the youngest director ever nominated for an Oscar (twenty three), and the first black man nominated for a best director Oscar. It was a tall order to stand up to, and Singleton dropped from grace with the speed of a lead brick. Following Boyz N the Hood Singleton dabbled in the boring ( Poetic Justice), the trite Higher Learning, and the shockingly average ( Rosewood), until one day he finally hit pay dirt with a piece of pop-corn fluff—a remake of Shaft starring Samuel Jackson. It was a far cry from best director nominations, but it was entertaining, and had a great car chase towards the end. It wasn’t a huge surprise when Singleton signed on to direct the sequel to Universal’s surprise hit car chase movie, but it was a disappointment by and large.
Singleton does have a professional’s eye, an inarguably better eye than the other Fast and Furious directors. There isn’t too much genuinely memorable about the film visually, but Singleton doesn’t find himself in a rut at any point in the film, even though he repeats many of the more impressive shots. The car chases and races are also probably the best in the series, and feature some good crunchy destruction missing from the other films. This kind of makes 2 Fast 2 Furious the best film in the series by default, but only just. It’s still all basically pornography for teenagers, but it’s a once promising filmmaker making pornography for teenagers, and not the best pornography for teenagers either.
2 Fast 2 Furious features another better than average cast, though Tyrese Gibson is a pretty poor Vin Diesel stand-in, and pretty annoying throughout the film (Ludacris would’ve made for a better sidekick I think). Eva Mendes is kind of slumming it, but is wonderful eye-candy (better than the silly neon cars), and Cole Hauser pretty much steals the show as the series’ first super villain (even if Hauser looks about as Argentinean as Vincent Price). The biggest problem is again the stupid script, which falters to even lower levels than the first film. The other two films are at least amusing in their silliness, but this one is kind of insulting in regards to awful dialogue, and a general lack of narrative.
Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift
After a particularly big street racing mash up, juvenile delinquent Sean (Lucas Black) is expelled from school and sent to live with his father in Tokyo Japan. Sean is quickly up to his old tricks, and discovers Tokyo’s underground racing scene. The only problem is that Sean has never heard of drift racing before, and thusly cannot compete with the underground’s best. But Sean is lucky, because even though he’s been placed in a Japanese school without speaking any Japanese (right…), he meets a bunch of English speaking people who offer him some sound advice.
Tokyo Drift is a really dumb movie that makes the other two Fast and the Furious films appear downright subtle and elegant. There isn’t a single surprise in the entire film. I don’t remember a single character name, in my eyes they just had post-it notes on their heads that read stuff like ‘protagonist’, ‘comic sidekick’, ‘bad girl with a heart of gold’, ‘lower level villain’, ‘mini-boss’, ‘end-boss’, ‘incidental villain’, and ‘role model that’s gonna die at the top of the third act’. Yet the film isn’t frustrating, and basically defines mindless entertainment. It’s overstays its welcome by about fifteen minutes, but it’s all pretty harmless. I’m just as willing to rewatch this one as I am to rewatch the first movie.
Director Justin Lin makes a colourful picture, and has a decent grasp of car action. The stunts aren’t the most exciting, but it’s easy enough to tell what’s going on, and Lin takes special care to establish geography. One small advantage Tokyo Drift holds over the other drift race movie I’ve seen Initial D is that Lin is willing to destroy the pretty cars. Otherwise, the two films are very similar, though I’m not clever enough myself to think of any other ways to film drift racing. The actors are fine, if not a little too devoted to their accents, but is Japan really so short on actors that Universal needed to hire so many Koreans, Chinese, American, and even Latin actors to play Japanese people?
The Fast and The Furious is the oldest of the three films, but it’s really not very old at all. It’s pretty easy to conclude, however, that it is the weakest of the three hi-def transfers. The overall presentation is a bit hazy, and really no more impressive than many good standard definition releases. Details are generally sharper than a DVD can manage (look at all the sweaty brows), but there are clarity issues, and some of the white edges are a bit jagged. Colours are bright, especially all the silly looking neon cars (seriously, how is neon green cool?), and are well separated, even if contrast and black levels are less impressive.
2 Fast 2 Furious has more night time scenes right off the bat, allowing for more contrast, and is generally a cleaner looking film. The overwhelming clarity of the print is a step up from the hazy first film, but it’s still pretty stylized and goofily neon. The increased definition gives away some of the films less impressive car chase digital effects that may have otherwise gone unnoticed, but also give a nice impression of the skin textures of every cast member. Colours begin and end with Devon Aoki’s bright pink car, which I think made my television cry. The bouncy hues make for some confusion during the end of the final car chase, where a very green backdrop looks suspiciously like a plain green screen.
Tokyo Drift isn’t quite as lifelike as 2 Fast 2 Furious, but features more overwhelming bright colours than either other film, which sometimes plays (seemingly purposeful) havoc with skin tones and background images. The transfer features varying compositions and environments, though once the action gets to Tokyo things seem to mostly take place in the night time, which is well represented by deep blacks, rich blues, and vibrant high lights. There are a few minor inconsistencies in the print, most of which appear to have arisen from varying camera types and frame rates, but there’s almost zero noise, and no edge enhancement to speak of. Details are second only to the second film.
All three movies sound better than ever (or so I assume) in new DTS-HD Master Audio soundtracks. All three films open with a delightful collection of noises; noises that wiggle from channel with rather incredible, if not entirely realistic dexterity. The car races are the main attraction, and are all nicely mixed, melding silence and loudness effectively, insuring the whole thing doesn’t just become a jumble of noise. But there is a lot of noise, don’t worry, and it’ll grumble your LFE all over the room like a faulty dryer.
I’ll hazard to guess that The Fast and The Furious has one of the most impressive musical mixes I’ve ever heard. Most films, even those with really aggressive soundtracks, usually just stick the audio in the front three channels. The rear channels are only part of the equation during really big moments, or they’re just echo tracks. The Fast and the Furious fully infuses the goofy dance and hip hop music into every channel. It’s a little over whelming, but it’s still pretty impressive. 2 Fast 2 Furious is possibly the loudest flick in the set, and features even more abstract sound design, but the musical editions aren’t quite as well integrated as those of the first film. Tokyo Drift is the most over-the-top mix, and features some fantastic light touches, such as objects flying past camera and through the channels after the cars demolish them.
The extras on these sets pretty much match the original DVD releases, but have slight augmentations concerning the release of the new film in the series, which is a direct follow-up to part one, apparently. The biggest differences are the U-Control options, which consist of PiP footage that can be found in the featurettes, and tech files on the hero cars. The first film also features a ‘Video Mash-Up’ option, which is like a home editing tool, while the third film features a ‘Custom-Made Drifter’ option, which sticks your home made design into a brief scene in the film somewhat convincingly.
The Fast and the Furious starts with another one of Rob Cohen’s mind numbingly boring director’s commentaries. It’s like listening to Uncle Rob talk about his last trip to the driving range right before he passes out into a sugar coma. The facts are occasionally interesting, but the tone is too much, begging my finger to hit the ‘audio’ button and gain sweet release. I can say whatever I want about Cohen’s abilities, and the tone of his commentaries, but he’s pretty honest, and obviously knows what he’s doing when it comes to the business side of filmmaking (he’s actually a pretty successful producer, despite being a bad director). I was somewhat interested in the facts of cuts necessary to get the PG-13 over an R, because such things generally interest me in all cases.
The extras then move onto a series of featurettes. ‘Dom’s Charger’ is a four minute look at the black charger that will grace the first and latest films in the series, and is kind of an ad for the new movie. ‘Quarter Mile at a Time’ is a ten minute history of street racing, taking things back all the way to the first days of automobiles, and running us through professional drag racing, and up to the modern day (or at least 2001).
This is followed by eight deleted and extended scenes, all with a commentary option from director Rob Cohen. The scenes themselves are rough, dirty, and non-anamorphic, and feature temp sound. The majority of the scenes have been deleted for reason of unneeded information, and are not missed in the final cut. In all, the scene last about six minutes. This is followed by five ‘Hot Off the Street’ scenes, which are also non-anamorphic, rough and dirty, though no Cohen commentary. Then there’s an elongated ending under the title ‘More Than Furious’.
The catalogue extras move on to include Paul Walker’s public service announcement (00:30), ‘The Making of The Fast and the Furious’ (18:00), ‘Tricking Out a Hot Import Car’ (19:15), ‘Prelude to 2 Fast 2 Furious’ (also on the 2 Fast 2 Furious disc), ‘Multiple Camera Angle Stunt Sequence’ (eight angles), ‘Movie Magic Interactive: Special Effects (three angles), ‘Featurette on Editing for the MPAA’ (about avoiding an R rating, 04:30), ‘Visual Effects Montage’ (03:45), two storyboard comparisons (06:50), a 2 Fast 2 Furious sneak peek, four music videos, and a trailer.
2 Fast 2 Furious starts with a dull commentary track with director John Singleton. Singleton slips some actual information into the mix, but mostly describes the on screen action, what the audience should be thinking based on the on screen action, and how great everyone did. Some of the technical bits are interesting, but can be found elsewhere in the extras.
Another parade of new featurettes starts with the all new ‘Fast Females’, a quick (eight minutes) look at all the lead women of the entire series. ‘Hollywood Impact’ runs thirteen minutes and concerns street racing and car stunts throughout film history, or to be more specific, Universal Studio’s film history. Interview subjects also include critics Leonard Maltin and Joel Stien, and films and television shows covered include American Graffiti, Back to the Future, Magnum, PI, Smokey and the Bandit, Animal House, The Blues Brothers, Miami Vice, Knight Rider, the Bourne series, and the Fast and the Furious series. These are the only two extras presented in HD, besides the U-Control options.
The catalogue extras feature a short prelude film that covers Brian’s escape onto the lamb after the events of the first film (six minutes), a collection of deleted and extended scenes complete with introductions from the director and editor (six minutes), outtakes (three minutes), ‘Inside 2 Fast 2 Furious’ (ten minutes), three ‘Actor Driving School’ featurettes (06:30), a quick look at the process of ‘Tricking Out a Hot Import’ with some Playboy bunny (03:20), ‘Super Charged Stunts’ (05:30), ‘Making Music with Ludacris’ (the making of a music video, five minutes), three ‘Actor Spotlights’ (seven minutes), three ‘Car Spotlights’ (nine minutes), two extended ‘Furious Afterburners’ (the same extended scenes, 03:30), and some trailers.
Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift also starts with a director’s commentary, and Justin Lin is the best of the group. Lin is personable, relatively informative, honest (he thinks the cars look pretty silly just like me), and pretty consistent. I also appreciate the director’s comparisons between his incredibly modern film and classic spaghetti westerns, along with his mention of some of the cameo actors’ histories. It’s still not a good movie, but Lin knew what he was doing for the most part, and seems like a nice guy.
‘Making of the Fast Franchise’ starts the new edition extras. It’s a quickish (17:00) rundown of the whole series, edited in a made-for-TV special fashion, and it repeats a lot of the same footage already found on the other discs’ featurettes. ‘Drift: The Sideways Craze’ (one hour) is sort of a commercial/mini-documentary about the art of drift racing. A handful of drifters of differing ages and experience levels are featured, and the facts are presented in a reasonably entertaining manner. It’s a solid extra for sure, but not particularly re-watchable for laymen like myself.
Then the extras get familiar, starting with eleven deleted scenes, all presented non-anamorphic standard def with optional Justin Lin commentary. The scenes run about eighteen minutes, and were all pretty much deleted for pacing purposes. The original behind the scenes featurettes include ‘Drifting School’ (07:30), ‘Cast Cam’ (04:20), ‘Big Breakdown: Han’s Last Ride’ (08:30), ‘Tricked Out to Drift’ (11:00), ‘Welcome to Drifting’ (06:20), ‘The Real Drift King’ (03:40), ‘The Japanese Way’ (09:45), and two music videos.
I’m not a very fond of this series, but these three films are entertaining enough, and look and sound almost perfect in 1080p and DTS-HD Master Audio on Blu-ray Ddisc. Fans probably already bought the set, so my words will fall on deaf ears. The extras are time consuming, but not exactly the most substantial things on the planet, save a few of the newer additions, which might be cause enough for some folks to double dip.
* Note: The images on this page are not representative of the Blu-ray release.
Review by Gabriel Powers
Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13
Release Date: 24th March 2009
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English, DTS 5.1 French, DTS 5.1 Spanish
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Extras: Directors' Commentaries, U-Control Options, 'Dom's Charger', 'Quarter Mile at a Time', 'Fast Females', 'Hollywood Impact', 'Making the Fast Franchise', 'Drift: A Sideways Craze', Deleted and Extended Scenes, Original DVD Featurettes, Trailers, Digital Copy
Easter Egg: No
Director: John Singleton, Justin Lin, Rob Cohen
Cast: Vin Diesel, Jordana Brewster, Paul Walker, Tyrese Gibson, Cole Hauser, Lucas Black, Zachery Ty Bryan
Length: 320 minutes
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