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

Fast & Furious (2- Disc Special Edition) [Blu-ray]

 

(Justin Lin, 2009)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Review by Leonard Norwitz

 

Studio:

Theatrical: Universal Pictures

Blu-ray: Universal Studios Home Entertainment

 

Disc:

Region: All

Runtime: 107 min

Chapters: 20

Size: 50GB Blu-ray Disc

Case: Standard Blu-ray Case w/ slipcover

Release date: July 28th, 2008

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 2.40:1

Resolution: 1080p

Video codec: VC-1

 

Audio:

English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
French: DTS 5.1
Spanish DTS 5.1

 

Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish, none

 

Extras:

• Audio Commentary with Director Justin Lin and Actor Paul Walker

• Los Bandoleros – in HD (20:23)

• Under the Hood: Muscle Cars & Imports – in HD (6:55 + 4:59)

• Getting the Gang Back Together – in HD (9:50)

• Driving School with Vin Diesel – in HD (3:50)

• Shooting the Big Rig Heist – in HD (9:47)

• Gag Reel – in HD (5:00)

• Races & Chases – in HD (11:01)

• High Octane Action: The Stunts – in HD (11:22)

• BD-Live 2.0

• Fast & Furious Video Mash-Up (video game)

• Trailers for Fast & Furious franchise in HD (x3) & SD (x1)

• U-Control Picture-in-Picture

• Digital Copy Disc

 

 

The Film: 6
The latest in the Fast & Furious franchise picks up where the first two left off. The director is Justin Lin, who helmed F&F3 Tokyo Drift though, chronologically, the new movie precedes the third – not that it matters very much. You'll remember that undercover cop Brian O'Connor (Paul Walker, still pretty with or without the light beard) lets Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel, possibly stiffer, but still determined) escape at the end of the first movie. While O'Connor heads for Miami in F&F2 to work out his differences with the agency, Dom (offstage) heads for Central America, where we catch up with him at the start of the new movie.

His girlfriend Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) eventually joins him for one last big heist. But the polizia are closing in, and Dom, in his infinite wisdom, leaves Letty behind to better protect her. We can see this is not going to end well – and it doesn't – sooner than expected, which leads Dom back to L.A. where O'Connor is on the trail of a new drug lord (John Ortiz). Are we surprised that O'Connor and Dom find themselves chasing down the same bad guy? Nah. Are we surprised that, to get into his circle, they need to enter a street race – in this case, one that plays like a video game? Nah. Are we surprised that the action comes faster and furiouser? Nah. Are we surprised that some of the threads from the original movie are picked up with a modicum of emotional and dramatic sensitivity? Yeah – I think so.

Dom's sister, Mia (a very hot Jordana Brewster) takes center stage as the female of interest. Laz Alonzo plays Fenix with all the ultra-cruelty PG-13 will allow. The cast is generously supported by your usual bevy of Latina beauties and racy cars.
 

 


 

Image: 8/9
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.

Depending on the locale and time of day, Fast & Furious is deliberately, if not uniquely, filtered. South of the border, the tint is decidedly golden – sometimes intensely saturated, other times grainy and thin. Night and club scenes have their share of color and contrast palette. The mountain tunnel shots are evidently computer-generated as are critical moments in the opening big rig heist sequence. All of this appears to have been transferred without a hitch in bit rates averaging around the mid 30s. No adverse artifacts, specks or enhancements that I was aware of – not that I would have noticed much – the action maintains a considerable pace.

Note: All of the bonus caps are taken from Los Bandoleros, whose Spanish subtitles are in yellow and English subs are in white.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio & Music: 8/6
What would Fast & Furious be without a kick-ass audio track? Wile E. Coyote, maybe, without the girls and the metal. Rest assured: all the growls, snarls, roars, screeches, and metal-to-metal contact you see on screen is ably amplified in DTS-HD MA, placing us right in the driver's seat. Dialogue is nonetheless clear and crisp. Atmospherics are not shortchanged either. There are even some subtler moments that add a lifelike presence to the proceedings. Brian Tyler's music is fairly crash and burn generic, but supports the action as it should.

 

Operations: 7
The menu 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, struggle with and dazzle our brain.

 

 

 

Extras: 8
Most of the bonus features are familiar territory for those following the Fast & Furious franchise on Blu-ray, and are more or less self-explanatory by title. The U-Control Picture-in-Picture includes "Take Control" with Paul Walker & Justin Lin and the Virtual Car Garage. Note that all of the bonus items except the Pitbull music video and one of the F&F trailers (the original) are in HD. The commentary brings along Paul Walker for the first time (if I remember right), but the most interesting bonus item is the short film "Los Bandeleros" (18 minutes, plus 2 minutes of credits) "written & directed by Vin Diesel." Not bad, Vin. It's kind of lacking a coherent story, though it derives from Costa Rican poverty and a presumed reliance on gas, which, somehow, leads to a life of drug running. Letty and Han join Dom in this vignette, whose high contrast and appropriately grainy image, though rendered in 1080p, isn't any better than a decent DVD. One thing it has for certain: an outstanding soundtrack of local color.

 

 

Bottom line: 7
When I think of this movie and Vin Diesel in particular, I can't help but be reminded that the Blu-ray is coming out at the start of the American federal government Cash for Clunkers program – and that one of the reasons this programs exists, we are told, is to get gas guzzling cars off the road. I shall say no more?

For fans of the Fast and the Furious series, the new movie on Blu-ray is a must-have.

Leonard Norwitz
August 6th, 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.


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