L  e  n  s  V  i  e  w  s

A view on Blu-ray and DVD video by Leonard Norwitz

The Fast and Furious Trilogy [Blu-ray]

 

The Fast and the Furious

Directed by Rob Cohen, 2001

 

2 Fast 2 Furious

Directed by John Singleton, 2003

 

The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift

Directed by Justin Lin, 2006

 

 

 

Review by Leonard Norwitz

 

Overview:

It would seem that car chases and street racing were made for the home theatre experience – all the more so in high definition picture and sound.  From Bullitt and The French Connection, to The Bourne Trilogy, Ronin and the Transporter movies, to fantasy films like The Dark Knight and Wanted, to classic chase films like Vanishing Point and The Road Warrior, the extended genre has made its presence felt.  These movies have a particular seductive draw, especially for those fortunate enough to have large displays or front projection and dynamic surround sound.  The Fast and the Furious franchise seems to have been deliberately devised with this after-market market in view.

 

Timed to coincide with the release of the fourth installment of the Fast franchise, and hot on Vin Diesel's exhaust from Pitch Black and Chronicles of Riddick, Universal delves once more into their HD-DVD library to bring to Blu-ray life the movie and the first two sequels, now billed as The Fast and the Furious Trilogy - even in the face of the new Fast and Furious 4 that will reunite Vin Diesel and Paul Walker with the director of Fast 3: Tokyo Drift

 

The HD-DVD editions, released in September of 2006, only a few months into the high-definition software wars, were very well received in respect to image and sound quality, the latter not yet availed of lossless audio.  Even if there were no other "upgrades" for the new Blu-ray set, a well produced DTS HD-MA track for all three movies would be reason enough for die-hard fans of the franchise to switch, and those that stuck with the Sony camp or are new to HD to check it out.  As it is, the Blu-ray trilogy offers a number of new extra features, some in high def, plus U-Control invested in all three movies (keep in mind that the HD-DVD had 30 GB capacity vs. the BR's 50), and a Digital Copy Disc for each movie.

 

I've had the unique opportunity to watch these three movies for the first time on successive nights on Blu-ray in one of the best home theatre setups in town (he said in all humility) and I have to admit I found a certain appeal despite their obvious, one might say, deliberate, lack of value beyond the visuals, the noise, the babes, the music, the chase – in short, the thrill – for none of these movies are very long on screenplay or character.  Nor should they be.

 

I imagine that, despite their similarities, each viewer will have their favorites based on the way the races are contrived and edited, on the cars and their paint jobs, the babes – not just the ones front and center, but those massaging the cars and lusting after the players and the winners, and of course, the music and the way it is mixed into the effects.  So for me, F&F1 and F&F3 are the clear winners here.  F&F2 has some good ideas and the presence of Ms. Mendes and Mr. Tyrese, but its reliance on a monotonous drum track for two of the chases and the absence of a fully fleshed out race makes it less interesting.  F&F3 has a good deal going for it: a new locale, new women, and a different form of racing altogether (to say nothing of driving on the left side of the street in left and right drive cars – that our hero somehow gets the knack of all too easily), and by far the most varied music in the most dynamic mix of the bunch.

 

 

The Fast and the Furious

Directed by Rob Cohen

2001

 

Studio:

Theatrical: Neal H. Moritz

Video: Universal Studios Home Entertainment

 

Review: Leonard Norwitz

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 2.35:1

Resolution: 1080p

Codec: VC-1 @ high 20s-low 30s

Capacity: BD-50

Supplements: English 2.0 Dolby Digital @ 1080i & 480i/p

Runtime: 107 minutes

Chapters: 20

 

Audio:

English DTS HD-Master Audio 5.1; Spanish & French DTS 5.1.

 

Subtitles:

English SDH, Spanish & French

 

Extras (Hi-Def): (NOTE: 'NEW' features are marked in RED)

 

• Dom's Charger (4:22)

• Quarter Mile at a Time (9:44)

 

Extras (SD)

* Commentary with Director Rob Cohen

* The Making of The Fast and the Furious

* (8) Deleted Scenes

• Extended Scenes

• Alternate Ending

* Paul Walker Public Service Announcement

* Tricking Out a Hot Import Car

* Turbo Charged Prelude to 2 Fast 2 Furious

• Sneak Peak at 2 Fast 2 Furious

* Multiple Camera Angle: Stunt Sequence

* Editing Featurette

* Movie Magic Interactive

* Visual Effects Montage

• Storyboards to Final Feature Comparison

* 4 Music Videos [didn't HD-DVD have 3 ?]

* Theatrical Trailer

• Speed News Wrap (Easter Egg)

• Crash Montage (Easter Egg)

• D-Box Enabled

• Digital Copy Disc

 

Exclusive to Blu-ray:

• U-Control:

• Picture-in-Picture: cast & crew interviews [as versus the "Instant Access track on the HD-DVD]

• Tech Specs

• BD-Live 2.0

 

Standard Blu-ray Case

Street Date: March 24th, 2009

 

The Movie: 6

It's illegal drag racing on the streets of East Los Angeles.  The hottest cars - real and virtual - the hottest babes of all races and cultures, an undercover cop who finds the racing life a little too seductive for his own good.  Here's the movie that initiated the franchise, kick-started the career of Vin Diesel, and made home theatre enthusiasts all over the world very happy. 

 

Brian O'Connor (Paul Walker) is an undercover cop working his way into the world of illegal street racing to try to learn what's become of the contents of highjacked trucks.  There's some serious money invested in and gambled on these sleek , tricked out cars, and following that money leads O'Connor to Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) by way of his sister Mia (Jordana Brewster).  But there is another group of much badder asses led by Johnny Tran (Rick Yune) burning rubber and cars as pleases them – but which is responsible for the highjackings – if either?

 

 

 

Image: 9/9

The first number indicates a relative level of excellence compared to other Blu-ray video discs on a ten-point scale.  The second number places this image along the full range of DVD and Blu-ray discs.

 

All three Fast & Furious movies have demonstration level image quality.  Perhaps because for no good reason I expected less, I was very impressed with the image.  For the longest while I was having trouble finding my critical hat, but then, especially with the prayer scene at the backyard bar-b-q, its orange filtration began to creep into my perceptual consciousness.  In any case none of this would have been the fault of the transfer, which I imagine is faithful to the director's intentions.  Black levels and contrast are spot on and I found no evidence of annoying artifacts when I could slow things down long enough to think about it.

 

 

 

 

 

Audio & Music: 9/7

I can see why they call this music "Rave."  It's the perfect supportive soundscape for the crunching visceral experience that is The Fast and the Furious.  The truck highjacking that starts off the movie is enhanced with some impressive deep growls that will make your tokus tingle and your gut tighten.  I can't imagine this being as impressive without the benefit of uncompressed audio, as it did not have in the HD-DVD (whose audio received general applause at that).  There is a presence to the goings on, whether subtle or explosive, that is downright tangible at times.

 

Operations: 8

Universal's U-Control, which we now take more or less for granted, is the new feature here, since it was not yet employed in the HD-DVD.  The menu, which we get to at once upon loading, is laid out like other Universal Blu-rays. Arrows tell you which way to direct your remote, and the bonus feature instructions are detailed and intuitive. The chapter menu includes buttons for U-Control in case you want to approach those functions from that point.  And, there are the usual number of U-Control opportunities to invite, delight and confuse. 

 

Extras: 7

The numerous features in standard definition that appeared on DVD and/or HD-DVD also appear here (I won't review these, except to express my amusement at Rob Cohen's assertion that the beginning of his movie was "stolen" from John Ford's Stagecoach.  The audacity of the comparison is equaled by the fact the scene he compares his movie to in some detail doesn't exist in John Ford's movie.)  On the new Blu-ray there are also two new featurettes in high-def, U-Control interactive access, D-Box enablement and a Digital Copy Disc.  The new featurettes are: "Dom's Charger," which struck me as a little disorganized, as if it didn't know if it wanted to be about the Charger, where they created the impression of one car out of many, or simply an promo piece for the coming F&F4.  "Quarter Mile at a Time" is a quasi-documentary about street racing from its beginnings with Henry Ford, into the days of booze-running Prohibition, to what has become a global phenomenon.  Ostensibly in HD, a considerable amount of this segment consists of archival footage, so don't get your hopes up.

 

 

2 Fast 2 Furious

Directed by John Singleton

2003

 

Studio:

Theatrical: Neal H. Moritz

Video: Universal Studios Home Entertainment

 

Review: Leonard Norwitz

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 2.35:1

Resolution: 1080p

Codec: AVC @ mid 30s

Capacity: BD-50

Supplements: English 2.0 Dolby Digital @ 1080i & 480i/p

Runtime: 108 minutes

Chapters: 19

 

Audio:

English DTS HD-Master Audio 5.1; Spanish & French DTS 5.1.

 

Subtitles:

English SDH, Spanish & French

 

Extras (Hi-Def):

• Fast Females (7:54)

• Hollywood Impact (13:23)

 

Extras (SD)

* Commentary with Director John Singleton

* Inside 2 Fast 2 Furious

* Deleted Scenes

* Outtakes

* Tricking Out a Hot Import Car (also on F&F1)

* Prelude to 2 Fast 2 Furious (also on F&F1)

• Sneak Peak at 2 Fast 2 Furious

* Actor Driving School

* Supercharged Stunts

• Making Music with Ludacris (4:59)

• Furious Afterburners (3:23)

* Actor Spotlights: Tyrese Gibson, Paul Walker, Devon Aoki

* Car Spotlights: The Spyder, The Evo VII, The S2000

• D-Box Enabled

• Digital Copy Disc

 

Exclusive to Blu-ray:

• U-Control:

• Picture-in-Picture cast & crew interviews

• Tech Specs

• Animated Anecdotes

• BD-Live 2.0

 

Standard Blu-ray Case

ASIN: B001QWQJ3S

Street Date: March 24, 2009

 

Comment:

Singleton says he was going for a different look as versus the first F&F movie – his influences being Japanese anime, the old Speed Racer cartoons, and the Grand Turismo video game.  However, I felt his movie was the least creative of the three.  Its setup deliberately duplicates the first movie from the nighttime street race through to O'Connor's arrest so that this time he will be taken in as an ex-cop on the run instead of a cop working undercover.  It's a punch line that doesn't support the weight of repetition.  The new locale (Miami) certainly offers a new look to the movie and Singleton capitalizes on this with a burnished daytime color palette, but the plot is weak, even for something as mindless as this, and everything strikes us as forced.  So much about the final crash is ludacris, except the actor who is somewhere else getting a speeding ticket.

 

 

 

The Movie: 5

Our erstaz undercover cop (Paul Walker, never prettier) is now on the run, a veteran driver and king of the streets, but the feds want him back in the game.  For his driving teammate, O'Connor picks a schoolhood friend (Tyrese Gibson, never cooler) that he sent up in his first days on the force.  Bad blood, however, doesn't get in the way when the prize is a record expunged.  The case before them is not quite clear – to anyone including us - but I didn't find that it mattered much.  What is important is that Monica Fuentes (Eva Mendes, never sexier) has been working undercover with the criminal element (Cole Hauser, never more menacing) for a year and, like Sean, may have gone native.  Who can you trust?

 

Image: 9/9

The first number indicates a relative level of excellence compared to other Blu-ray video discs on a ten-point scale.  The second number places this image along the full range of DVD and Blu-ray discs.

 

All three Fast & Furious movies have demonstration level image quality.  It is possible that my newly painted video screen still has a way to go before it no longer imposes its own say about the image, for in this movie it seemed that skies and other bright areas were a little more pixelated than they should be.  But take this observation under advisement.  Given the Miami locales, the daytime color palette is understandably vivid – a cliché perhaps, thanks to Miami Vice and Coppertone ads.  It fits the business at hand.  No artifacts or enhancements observed.

 

 

 

 

Audio & Music: 8/6

This struck me as the weakest of the three movies, partly because of the lame drum track for a couple of the chase sequences and partly because so much of the middle of the film lacks the huevos of the first movie.  Imaging and effects are all in place, but overall it struck me as thinnish for much of the movie.  I say this only in comparison to the first movie, since Tokyo Drift has a different kind of racing to deal with.

 

Operations: 8

Like the first  Fast and Furious, Universal's U-Control is the new feature here, since it was not yet employed in the HD-DVD.  The menu, which we get to at once upon loading, is laid out like other Universal Blu-rays. Arrows tell you which way to direct your remote, and the bonus feature instructions are detailed and intuitive. The chapter menu includes buttons for U-Control in case you want to approach those functions from that point.  And, there are the usual number of U-Control opportunities to invite, delight and confuse.

 

Extras: 7

In addition to the numerous features in standard definition that appeared on DVD and/or HD-DVD (which I will not review here), there are two new featurettes in high-def, several U-Control interactive access, D-Box enablement and a Digital Copy Disc.  The new featurettes are: "Fast Females" is a look at the women of the Fast franchise in which Jordana Brewster, Michelle Rodriguez, Eva Mendes, Devon Aoki and Nathalie Kelley talk about their characters; and "Hollywood Impact," where Leonard Maltin takes us on a ride of movies that celebrate our love of driving cars from American Graffiti through the Bourne trilogy.

 

The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift

Directed by Justin Lin

2006

 

Studio:

Theatrical: Neal H. Moritz

Video: Universal Studios Home Entertainment

 

Review: Leonard Norwitz

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 2.35:1

Resolution: 1080p

Codec: AVC @ low-mid 20s

Capacity: BD-50

Supplements: English 2.0 Dolby Digital @ 1080i & 480i/p

Runtime: 104 minutes

Chapters: 20

 

Audio:

English DTS HD-Master Audio 5.1; Spanish & French DTS 5.1.

 

Subtitles:

English SDH, Spanish & French

 

Extras (Hi-Def):

• Making of the Fast Franchise (17:02)

• Drift: A Sideways Craze (60:00)

 

Extras (SD)

* Commentary with Director Justin Lin

* Deleted & Extended Scenes

* Cast Cam

* The Big Breakdown: Han's Last Ride

* Tricked Out to Drift

* Drifting School

* The Real Drift King

* The Japanese Way

• Welcome to Drifting (6:14)

• Custom Made Drifter

• 3 Music Videos (there was 1 on the HD-DVD)

• D-Box Enabled

• Digital Copy Disc

 

Exclusive to Blu-ray:

• U-Control:

• Picture-in-Picture cast & crew interviews

• Tech Specs

• Storyboards

• GPS

• BD-Live 2.0

 

Standard Blu-ray Case

ASIN: B001QWQJ3S

Street Date: March 24, 2009

 

 

The Movie: 6

While F&F2 is clearly a sequel, F&F3 is a standalone simplex that explores a quite different form of street racing: drifting, about which there is a new extended bonus feature in HD.

 

From the streets of East Los Angeles to Miami , and now Tokyo, where drift is the name of the game and the anime and live action Initial D, the obvious influence.  Sean Boswell (Lucas Black, at 24 an unconvincing 17-year old, but otherwise exuding the requisite teen angst) has been sent to Tokyo to live with his father in lieu of a stint in jail for one too many illegal street races – the most recent with some serious property damage.  Dad, who left the family when things got tough, insists Sean attend school and stay away from cars.  Sure.  You bet.  Anything you say.  Before the day is up Sean meets fellow students, "Twinkie" (Bow-Bow), Sean's guide though everything pop-Japanese, and Neela, a striking Australian/Japanese girl (Nathalie Kelley, who is actually Argentian/Irish, raised in Australia) who just happens to be the girlfriend of DK - that's "DK" for "Drift King" – (Brian Tee) a man with some serious attitude about everything.

 

A challenge naturally ensues and Sean finds he is mightily outclassed by the subtle requirements of high speed hairpin turns – in short, drifting, which he eventually learns from the independent and classy Han (Sung Kang, who speaks clearer English than anyone else in the cast), whose car Sean wrecked in the race.

 

Much is made of the concept of being an outsider in a cultural as tight as this since both Neela and Sean fit the bill, but the motivating underdrama is about turf and face, whose loss DK suffers at the hands of Han in the presence of his Yakuza uncle (Sonny Chiba).  Explosive results ensue.

 

Image: 9/9

The first number indicates a relative level of excellence compared to other Blu-ray video discs on a ten-point scale.  The second number places this image along the full range of DVD and Blu-ray discs.

 

All three Fast & Furious movies have demonstration level image quality.  This one, perhaps because of its many locations and day and night shooting may be presented a little softer and smoother than the others - possibly some post-processing prior for the movie itself.  In any case, we're not talking anything noxious here. I speculated about some judicious use of DNR, but gave up on the idea. The neon look of reflected and painted surfaces is to die for.  Contrast and black levels are spot on.  The nighttime race down the mountain is well preserved.  A dynamite picture.

 

 

 

 

 

Audio & Music: 10/8

This is the audio mix that I found was the best and most varied of the three Fast & Furious movies: the racing effects are powerful and dynamic, with scrapings, crashes, tire screeches and engine whirrings all mixed with spectacular surround involvement, including the music.  Different from the first two movies, the music here is of a similar level of clarity regardless of genre, which, while all over the map of international pop, is right on the mark for each action sequence as well as background, foreground and connecting material.  The dialogue is clear and, along with any other effects appropriately equalized for each venue.

 

Operations: 8

The menu, which we get to at once upon loading, is laid out like other Universal Blu-rays. Arrows tell you which way to direct your remote, and the bonus feature instructions are detailed and intuitive. The chapter menu includes buttons for U-Control in case you want to approach those functions from that point.  And, there are the usual number of U-Control opportunities to invite, delight and confuse.

 

Extras: 8

Universal's now commonplace interactive access to PIP material, "U-Control", first saw the light right about the time of this title's appearance on HD-DVD.  The first two Fast and Furious titles had no U-Control, but on the new Blu-ray Trilogy all three movies are so blessed. 

 

In addition to the numerous features in standard definition that appeared on DVD and/or HD-DVD (which I will not review here), there are two new featurettes in high-def (just as there are on the new Blu-ray editions of the first two movies), plus D-Box enablement and a Digital Copy Disc.  The new Blu-ray exclusive featurettes are: "Making of the 'Fast' Franchise," which goes behind the scenes and reviews the locales for each of the four movies; and "Drift: A Sideways Craze," an hour long documentary in excellent quality high definition that tracks the careers of three professional drift drivers.  This is clearly the best of all the extra features on the disc.

 

"Welcome to Drifting" is new to both the DVD and the Blu-ray and is still worthy if not a little redundant as it explores the technique involved in not being in control while being in control.  Even so, it's a good place to start before watching the movie. "Custom Made Drifter" is a clever piece of computer graphics: pick the paint, highlights and wheels of your car and watch it make circles around the chic's car just as it did on the movie – but with your customized car.

 

 

 

 

Extras:

 

 

 

Recommendation: 8

Certainly The Fast and the Furious movies are not designed to stimulate the higher intellect but to massage the primal needs.  In this the Blu-ray trilogy nails the image and particularly the sound to perfection.  With a handful of new extra features and the inclusion of U-Control for all three movies, this is a must have for car porn addicts.

Leonard Norwitz
March 29th, 2009

 


 

About the Reviewer: I first noticed that some movies were actually "films" back around 1960 when I saw Seven Samurai (in the then popular truncated version), La Strada and The Third Man for the first time. American classics were a later and happy discovery.

My earliest teacher in Aesthetics was Alexander Sesonske, who encouraged the comparison of unlike objects. He opened my mind to the study of art in a broader sense, rather than of technique or the gratification of instantaneous events. My take on video, or audio for that matter – about which I feel more competent – is not particularly technical. Rather it is aesthetic, perceptual, psychological and strongly influenced by temporal considerations in much the same way as music. I hope you will find my musings entertaining and informative, fun, interactive and very much a work in progress.


The LensView Home Theatre:

 

BLU-RAY STORE        ALL OUR NEW FORMAT DVD REVIEWS

 





 

Hit Counter

 

DONATIONS Keep DVDBeaver alive:

Mail cheques, money orders, cash to:    or CLICK PayPal logo to donate!

Gary Tooze

Thank You!