Back in 2001, people were going nuts over this new movie called The Fast And The Furious. At the time, I managed a video store. Customers and employees alike were ranting and raving about this flick. I wasn’t quite sure what was so significant about it, considering that the filmmakers couldn’t even come up with an original title (Roger Corman used the same title in a movie he producer/wrote in 1955). I figured I would hate it for sure, especially seeing as how I was a very cynical and jaded filmgoer (a condition that hasn’t improved) who hadn’t anything new and noteworthy in the world of cinema for several years. But my biggest apprehension of all was the source of said praise for the movie — these were the same yokels and high schoolers that told me The Matrix was the best movie ever (FYI: The Matrix really sucked).
So anyway, I wound up watching The Fast And The Furious and quickly declared it to be crap. There was nothing new to it at all: the story had been done before. This time, however, the plot was pumped up with steroids and adrenaline. There was nary a trace of estrogen to be found in the film’s cast (well, with the exception of Paul Walker, of course). Most of the movie centered around a blaring soundtrack, cops and robbers, and extraneous automobilic-type stuff that is commonly associated with Latino and Asian men (oh, and guys going through puberty in-general). But, worst of all, there was this big, beefy, dumb guy in the lead by the name of Vin Diesel (seriously, that’s a name?).
Needless to say, I avoided the next two movies. But with the series’ fourth and most recent (but probably not last) feature, Fast & Furious, I decided I’d give the franchise another chance, as well as its four “stars” (the term is debatable, according to Jack Horkheimer), neither of whom have appeared together since the first film (they really don’t appear together in this one, either — technically — but that‘s neither here nor there).
So how did Fast & Furious fare with me? Actually, it wasn’t that bad! Sure, this one also goes for the style over substance method of filmmaking that seems to be so popular these days. And, much like its predecessors, Fast & Furious relies on its stunts and music to keep itself flowing. All one really need do is suspend their disbelief just enough. I tried that with the first one, incidentally, but it didn’t work. Fast & Furious, on the other hand, was more “believable,” if you will. Justin Lin seems like he may be a more competent a director than that Rob Cohen guy from the first film, and after eight years, even the lead actors have improved.
Story-wise, Fast & Furious begins with a “prologue” that appears to take place before The Fast And The Furious: Tokyo Drift, wherein Dom (Vin Diesel, who also co-produced) and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) are living it up in the Dominican Republic. When the authorities begin to get too close to Dom once again, he bails — leaving Letty to head back up to L.A. to stay with Dom’s sister, Mia (Jordana Brewster). Several years later (at least I think it was several years later: there’s an awful lot of deliberating on the Internet over that), Dom returns to the underground street racing world of Los Angeles, intent on seeking revenge over the death of a loved one.
There, Dom gets a chance to repair and reignite his bromance with FBI guy Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker). The two even compete against each other in an effort to find out the identity of an underworld figure who — well, look, if you had to depend on the story alone, you’d find yourself sinking quicker than you would if you were in a boat made by The Three Stooges. So just enjoy the sights and sounds instead.
On Blu-ray, the sights and sounds of Fast & Furious are in top form. This BD-50 disc presents the movie in a jaw-droppingly gorgeous VC-1/1080p widescreen transfer (2.40:1). The colors and contrast of the main feature are damn-near perfect, and never lose their balance. On the audio end of the Blu-ray spectrum, the main soundtrack is an awesome DTS-HD Master Audio Lossless 5.1 mix that literally rocks the house and makes ample use of those two rear speakers (definitely a plus). This is the best Blu-ray aurally and visually I’ve come across so far this year, hands down. Accompanying soundtracks include DTS 5.1 French and Spanish. Subtitles are available in all three previously-mentioned languages.
Special features are plentiful here. There’s an audio commentary with director Lin; a bonus 20min feature entitled Los Bandoleros that was written and directed by Vin Diesel (yes, he fancies himself a filmmaker, too) and bridges the backstory gap for you; a not-as-funny-as-it-should-be gag reel; a music video; trailers for the whole franchise (the first of which is non-anamorphic for some reason); and a plethora of featurettes, most of which failed to appeal to a non-car/non-series enthusiast such as myself.
A couple of HD exclusive goodies include two U-Control features that enable the viewer to go behind-the-scenes while watching the film. The first, “Take Control,” is hosted by Paul Walker and Justin Lin. The second is “Virtual Car & Tech Specs.” While these again, did not appeal to me (mostly due to the subject matter), it’s still put together a whole hell of a lot better than New Line’s short-lived InfiniFilm gimmick.
For the video mash-up enthusiasts (I prefer music mash-ups, personally, as they take a little more skill), you can sign your life away and accept to the terms laid out therein in order to assemble your very own thirty-second music video. Choose several five-to-ten-second clips from the movie (which have been assembled to keep even those with nanosecond attention spans attentive), add some generic music from the film’s less-than-memorable incidental soundtrack — et voilà! — you can now share your already-copyrighted video with your friends on BD-Live! It should go without saying that a majority of these special features will seem utterly pointless and silly to anyone over the age of 17.
OK, so the bottom line here: Fast & Furious isn’t a masterpiece on any level. It also contains way more CGI that any film should (especially when Justin Lin is said to pride himself on the limited usage of such). But, all in all, Fast & Furious still emerges as better-than-average popcorn movie fare. It was certainly more enjoyable than the first film. Plus, the Blu-ray presentation kicks some major ass — so, even if you don’t like the series, you should pick it up anyway.