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Fast & Furious(2009)
When tragedy returns fugitive ex-con Dom Toretto to Los Angeles, his long dormant feud with FBI agent Brian O'Conner threatens to reignite--until they discover a common enemy. Dom and Brian declare a precarious truce as they try to outmaneuver their adversary and exact revenge. From convoy heists to precision tunnel crawls across international lines, the two men push the limits of what is possible behind the wheel as they live for speed, drive for the rush and break all the rules!
For more about Fast & Furious and the Fast & Furious Blu-ray release, see Fast & Furious Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on July 20, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Jordana Brewster, John Ortiz, Laz Alonso, Michelle Rodriguez
Director: Justin Lin
» See full cast & crew
Fast & Furious Blu-ray Review
Slow & Serene.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, July 20, 2009
Maybe you're the bad guy pretending to be the good guy.
Fast & Furious plays out neither quickly nor furiously. A complete letdown in every frame, the film fails to capitalize on the reunion of the primary characters from the first film, cementing the notion that it is story, not characters, that make a movie. The plot of Fast & Furious is as bland as a no-name frozen dinner, and the racing sequences are but a hodgepodge of CGI that never looks all that convincing. Adding insult to injury, there's absolutely nothing original in this outing; the racing scenes are all but recycled from the other films (and as alluded to earlier, look no better), the story plays out like a rough draft of what 2 Fast 2 Furious probably would have been had Vin Diesel returned for that movie, and, unlike The Fast and the Furious, there's no emotional core to polish the rough edges, round out the characters, and add weight to the racing scenes. Partway through the film, it becomes clear that Fast & Furious is but an exercise in futility, a movie that seems constructed not because it has a good story to tell but because it has actors it wishes to place on the screen and under a banner that's proven to move tickets and home video units.
Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel, Pitch Black) is up to his same old tricks, this time in the Dominican Republic where he's hijacking big rigs hauling gasoline. When the authorities turn up the heat and Toretto decides to get out of the kitchen, he flees to Panama City where he learns of the untimely death of his girlfriend, Letty (Michele Rodriguez). Toretto returns to Los Angeles in hopes of tracking down her killer. He's led to a drug kingpin named Braga (John Ortiz) who just so happens to be searching for drivers to funnel drugs between the United States and Mexico. Toretto's up for the job, hoping to infiltrate the organization and exact revenge on Letty's killer. The one contingency Toretto fails to plan for is the return of his old friend, Brian O'Conner (Paul Walker, Into the Blue), who himself is working undercover in hopes of infiltrating and, ultimately, taking down Braga's criminal organization. The two find themselves at odds as they maneuver towards the drug lord's inner circle, finding themselves in a dangerous game with the highest of stakes and chaos at every turn.
The Fast and the Furious' success is driven by a conglomeration of star power, high-speed racing, emotional undertones, and maybe even a sprinkling of novelty. Concepts such as honor, loyalty, and family serve as that picture's foundation, and are spurred on by a smart plot and surprisingly strong acting from its leads. All of what made The Fast and the Furious a very good movie is absent in Fast & Furious, save for the cast, and the result is a lackluster effort that manages to do virtually nothing of note in its entire 107-minute runtime. Bland car races and chases that, fortunately, suffer only from "franchise fatigue" rather than any lack of technical know-how on the part of the filmmakers; a stale and forced plot; and one-dimensional acting; define the experience. It's painfully obvious that the movie banked heavily on the return of Vin Diselel, Paul Walker, and Jordana Brewster, but to no avail. Fast & Furious leaves the franchise with an entry that does next to nothing to move it forward and is likely to leave audiences with a burning desire to see it come to an end rather than continue onward with a deluge of related, but not at all interesting, pictures. Will the Fast and the Furious franchise be the next to fall into direct-to-video obscurity?
As to what's actually on the celluloid rather than what's been unceremoniously left off, Fast & Furious desperately tries to come off as more meaningful than it really is. Like the rest of the experience, there's nothing here to suggest that the film was either a crucial entry into the series or a springboard for future Fast and Furious endeavors. At every turn where the film has the opportunity to either rekindle the magic from the first film and/or develop its characters to a greater degree, it takes the easy way out and instead turns its attention to neon-colored cars, scantily-clad girls, high-tech gadgetry (the film's one true "racing" scene is plagued by a terribly annoying GPS system that's another one of those failed attempts at comic relief that movies like this so often shoot for), and inane dialogue. Unfortunately, the biggest offender (no, not literally) is Vin Diesel's Toretto. For a man that should be grieving a terrible personal loss, he instead plays through most of the movie like he's trying to take down someone that keyed his ride rather than mowed down his girl. His character in this outing epitomizes the entire experience: lacking in depth and sense of purpose. The other primary characters could have been replaced by any other serviceable actors without much of a hiccup to the feel of the picture. Meanwhile, Justin Lin's (The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift) direction does nothing to either elevate or harm the film. He captures what's required of the script and tells the story as competently as possible but, as expected, he cannot truly improve on a terribly mediocre and completely derivative story.
Fast & Furious Blu-ray, Video Quality
Fast & Furious pulls onto Blu-ray with a fair 1080p, 2.39:1-framed transfer. This transfer doesn't rival the best the format has ever seen, nor does it look better than any of the previous films. The image often looks flat and lifeless, accompanied by a few instances of troubling banding and overpowering blacks that, while deep and true, sometimes dominate the image and drown out the details of several shots. The image takes on a consistent golden hue save for several scenes inside the L.A. FBI field office where the film suddenly appears cold and steely, devoid of the flamboyant colors that define the remainder of the film. Flesh tones tend to mirror the yellow/golden hue, often pushing towards a shade in that general vicinity of the color wheel. The image features little in the way of visible film grain at normal viewing distances, though a few shots do reveal it in heavy amounts. The transfer is also free of any distracting pops, lines, dirt, or any number of anomalies. Detail often appears rather impressive, particularly in facial close-ups where unshaven cheeks take on a textured, lifelike appearance. Colors are bold throughout; whether the bright neon shades of the racers or the dusty brown desert terrain along the U.S.-Mexico border, the transfer handles the wealth of shades expertly. All told, this is a solid visual offering that more often than not manages to impress.
Fast & Furious Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Fast & Furious thumps onto Blu-ray with an eardrum-shattering DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack. "Loud" doesn't always equate with "clear," and in this case, truer words have never been spoken. Several times throughout the movie, the pulsating music and crushing sound effects blend together at a high volume that seems like a jumble of piercing sounds that lack much definition. Still, there are plenty of instances where the track handles all that is thrown at it expertly. The opening attack on the gas tanker sets a nice pace for the remainder of the soundtrack. The big rig rumbles through the listening area to wonderfully realistic directional effect, and subsequent gunshots and explosions pack a hefty wallop. Racing sequences excite the senses with an immersive sound field. The action takes place on busy Los Angeles streets where the racers must contend not only with one another and their environment but hundreds, if not thousands, of additional vehicles attempting to lawfully maneuver from one place to the next. Squealing tires, roaring engines, and honking horns play all over the soundstage and place the listener in the passenger's seat of the high-speed racers. The music, too, plays an important role in the film, and generally, the bass-heavy techno beats don't disappoint, each tending to rattle the floorboards and providing the subwoofer with an arduous, sweaty workout. Dialogue, as expected, is delivered flawlessly. The aggressive nature of the soundtrack does an adequate job of occasionally masking the film's shortcomings, but even the best of audio tracks can't completely eliminate the stench of a needless movie.
Fast & Furious Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Fast & Furious rolls onto Blu-ray with a good supplemental section. One of the most intriguing features is Los Badoleros (1080p, 20:23), a short film written and directed by Vin Diesel that bridges the gap between the first two The Fast & the Furious films and this latest outing. Otherwise, the disc features a rather standard assortment of goodies with one nice surprise, and the package is headlined by a commentary track with Director Justin Lin. The director discusses the project rather thoroughly, speaking on the growth of the franchise, the characters, the timeline (Fast & Furious actually takes place before Tokyo Drift), the integration of music into the film, the inclusion of the actors into the development of the story, shooting locations, and all of the other expected angles that tend to receive attention in Action movie commentary tracks. Fast & Furious is also U-Control enabled. Take Control features Paul Walker and Justin Lin popping up from time to time in front of the movie on a feature that looks similar to Warner Brothers' "Maximum Movie Mode" which premiered on their Blu-ray release of Watchmen. The participants often pause the film, zoom it in-and-out, rewind it, and otherwise manipulate it as they take viewers in-depth into the process of making the movie. A great feature and far more interesting than a standard commentary track, Take Control may in the future be renamed Take a Film Class. It's that engaging, interesting, and worthwhile. Hopefully more studios will embrace this sort of feature in the future, particularly as a replacement for the standard audio-only commentaries that are now threatened with extinction by far superior means of delivering the information. Also available is Virtual Car Garage and Tech Specs, a pop-up window that delivers text-based information on the many cars seen in the film.
As to the more traditional features, there are several, beginning with a gag reel (1080i, 5:00). Under the Hood -- Muscle Cars (1080i, 6:55) and Under the Hood -- Imports (1080i, 4:59) take a closer look at the vehicles found in the film. Getting the Gang Back Together (1080i, 9:50) looks at the process of reuniting the primary actors from the first film and features cast and crew interview snippets that touch on several subjects related to the film. Driving School With Vin Diesel (1080i, 3:50) is a short piece that features a look at Vin Diesel learning stunt driving techniques to create a more realistic look and feel for the film. Shooting the Big Rig Heist (1080i, 9:47) takes a close look at the difficult process of creating the film's action-packed opening segment. Races and Chases (1080i, 11:01) takes viewers behind-the-scenes of several of the "fast and furious" racing and driving scenes in the film. High Octane Action: The Stunts (1080i, 11:22) examines in greater detail the work behind creating some of the film's most dangerous stunts. South of the Border: Filming in Mexico (1080i, 2:55) briefly examines the process of shooting a big-budget movie in a small border town. Also included is the music video "Blanco" by Pitbull featuring Pharrell (480p, 4:11).
Virtual Car Garage allows users to view several cars from the film in a 360-degree field-of-view. This feature can also be controlled with an Apple iPod Touch or iPhone through the downloadable application "Fast & Furious Virtual Car Garage 2.0 App." 'Fast & Furious' Video Mash-Up allows users to create a "mix" of their favorite scenes and music from the film to send to friends. Also included on disc one are 1080p trailers for all four films in the Fast and the Furious franchise. This disc is also BD-Live (Blu-ray profile 2.0) enabled and D-Box ready. Disc two of this set features a digital copy of Fast & Furious. Sampled on a second-generation iPod Touch, the video suffers from excessive blocking and banding in darker scenes, but otherwise sports solid colors and detail in the brighter sequences. The audio presentation is solid across the board. The music plays clearly, dialogue delivery suffices, and sound effects travel from side to side with ease.
Fast & Furious Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Franchise fatigue, an unoriginal story, and the absence of any strong emotional core are but a few of Fast & Furious' shortcomings that, all tallied together, make for one of the year's most disappointing pictures. It's clearly the latter -- the lack of an emotional core -- that's the primary culprit. The Fast and the Furious is an otherwise lackluster picture saved by its strong characterization and good story that together engender a sense of danger during the racing scenes and compassion for the characters and their plights. Fast & Furious, however, delivers neither, and the result is a film that feels vapid. Its loud soundtrack, special effects, and the reunification of the original film's primary cast can only go so far in masking the plot's shortcomings, and it takes precious little time to figure out that Fast & Furious is but a shallow copycat of the first two films, stealing the plot from 2 Fast 2 Furious and leaving all the small details that made The Fast and the Furious a success tucked away in the garage. Universal's Blu-ray release of Fast & Furious delivers the goods. Featuring a strong but occasionally flawed 1080p transfer, an expectedly loud and aggressive lossless soundtrack, and a hodgepodge of bonus features, including the wonderful Take Control, fans should have no reservations about picking this one up, but newcomers to the film should give it a rent.
Fast & Furious: Other Editions
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Fast & Furious Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Fast & Furious Specs Updated - June 3, 2009
Universal Studios Home Entertainment has updated the technical specs and special features for the upcoming Blu-ray release of 'Fast & Furious', which is due to hit store shelves on July 28th, day-and-date with the DVD release. Video will be presented in 2.40:1 ...
• Universal Details Fast & Furious Blu-ray - May 18, 2009
In an announcement to retailers, Universal Studios Home Entertainment has disclosed that they will release 'Fast & Furious' on Blu-ray on July 28, day-and-date with the DVD. This will be a two-disc special edition with a digital copy included. The film will ...
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