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Fast & Furious (2009)

Universal Studios Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 7/28/2009

All Ratings out of
Extras: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 7/22/2009

Has this ever happened to you? You tell someone that you're going to see a movie. They ask you why you want to see it. The only answer that you can come up with is, "It looks good." We've all said it. But, do you realize just how baseless that answer is? There must be some specific reason which compels people to leave their homes and venture out to see a particular film. In the case of Fast & Furious, I would love to know what compelled the American viewing public to see this movie to the tune of nearly $71 million dollars on its opening weekend. Is street racing still that popular? Is it Vin Diesel? Is there anything about this movie that justifies that sort of number?

Fast & Furious is a direct follow-up to the 2001 vehicle The Fast and the Furious, and it sort of ignores the two intervening sequels. Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel) the street-racer cum thief has relocated to the Dominican Republic in order to escape prosecution in the United States. He and his girlfriend, Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), are still performing high-speed robberies. However, Dom decides that he and Letty should part. She returns to the U.S. and is murdered. Risking his freedom, Dom returns to Los Angeles to investigate. Meanwhile, FBI agent Brian O'Conner (Paul Walker), who once went undercover as a street racer in order to break up a crime syndicate, is investigating a Mexican drug lord who recruits street racers to transport his products. Brian goes undercover (again) and gets invited to a recruitment race. He's surprised to see Dom there. They decide to work together -- Brian to stop the drug trafficking, and Dom to find Letty's killer. Both will need their driving skills to survive.

If you are surprised by how much plot was described in the above paragraph, you're not alone. I'm sure that there are plenty who expected Fast & Furious to only be about fast cars, but there's more...much more...too much more. As with my recent review for Push, I hate to accuse any action movie of being over-written, but that's certainly the case here. Perhaps this was an attempt to garner some credibility for what most would assume to be a shallow film. But, the turns in the script don't add up to much and the one twist isn't all that surprising.

This results in a movie which takes itself far too seriously. Again, were most audience members in line thinking "I want to see some cool cars!", or was it, "I hope to see a brooding drama." Again, perhaps this was a conscious decision to elevate the movie above its predecessors, but we've got the death of a major character, drug cartels, and attempted executions. Of course, this only leads to brooding by Diesel and Walker.

Taken all together, what is the result of this overwritten and dark movie? It's laughable. I'm not a street-racing enthusiast, so this movie isn't aimed at me, and I didn't like The Fast and the Furious, but I was still disappointed in this weak entry. This is made all the worse by the fact that the opening scene is very well done and undeniably exciting. Unfortunately, it's the high-point of the movie. Following this stunt-filled, high-adrenaline scene, the movie begins to take itself far too seriously and quickly loses momentum. At 107 minutes, the movie is far too long and even the most patient viewer will begin to count the minutes between racing scenes. And after all of this, the movie has a down ending.

Again, I realize that Fast & Furious isn't aimed at me, but I was lost from the title. You simply realize the two occurrences of the word "the" from The Fast and the Furoius and you've got the name of a sequel? How does that work? Truth be told, I admire the movie for trying some different things. There's only one true street-race and the idea of a smuggler using racers as mules is an interesting one. Director Justin Lin can certainly shoot an action scene, but he's lost during scenes. And that's what kills the movie. The film would have been much better (and at least somewhat fun) if it had left the drama in the dust.

Fast & Furious lives life a quarter mile at a time on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Universal Studios Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc offers a VC-1 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 30 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing virtually no grain and no defects from the source material. The colors look fantastic and the image is well-balanced -- never overly dark or bright. The depth, most notably in the desert scenes, is very good, as is the level of detail. The image simply has a superior crispness to it which DVD can't match. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.5 Mbps. This track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. In short, the audio here is quite impressive. As one would imagine, the car chases/races sound great. The audio in these scenes fills the speakers and really puts the viewer in the driver's seat. The stereo effects are outstanding, as the cars move from one side of the screen to the other. Similarly, as they pass us, the surround sound is well-placed and strong. The roar of the engines and some explosions excite the subwoofer. Overall, a solid presentation.

The Fast & Furious Blu-ray Disc contains a staggering amount of extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Dirctor Justin Lin. The Disc has 5-minute GAG REEL. "Los Bandoleros" (21 minutes) is a short film which acts as a prequel to the movie -- it shows Dom putting his crew together for the opening heist. (It also plays as a sort of docu-drama about life in the Dominican Republic.) "Under the Hood -- Muscle Cars" (7 minutes) and "Under the Hood -- Imports" (5 minutes) each look at the cars used in the film and examine what the different cars "represent". The cast and crew give their opinion on the various cars. "Getting the Gang Back Together" (10 minutes) examines what it took to convince the four main actors to come back for a sequel. "Driving School with Vin Diesel" (4 minutes) shows the actor and stuntmen training in various driving techniques. The challenge of creating the opening chase scene is examined in "Shooting the Big Rig Heist" (10 minutes). "Races and Chases" (11 minutes) shows the planning and special effects which went into the action scenes. "High Octane Action: Stunts" (11 minutes) brings us more behind-the-scenes footage showing how some of the set-pieces were done. "South of the Border: Flming in Mexico" (3 minutes) gives a brief overview of shooting in a Mexican bordertown. "Virtual Car Garage" allows the viewer to examine cars from the film. We get the MUSIC VIDEO for "Blanco" by Pitbull featuring Pharrell. We also get trailers for all four films in the series. The "U-Control" Picture-in-Picture brings us two choices; "Take Control" and "Virtual Car Garage and Tech Specs".

Review Copyright 2009 by Mike Long