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UNIVERSAL

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Rob Cohen
Cast:
Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Jordana Brewster, Michelle Rodriguez, Matt Schulze
Writing Credits:
Gary Scott Thompson, Erik Bergquist and David Ayer

Synopsis:
Los Angeles police officer Brian O'Connor must decide where his loyalties really lie when he becomes enamored with the street racing world he has been sent undercover to destroy.

Box Office:
Budget
$38 million.
Opening Weekend
$40,089,015 for 2,628 Screens.
Domestic Gross
$144,533,925.

MPAA:
Rated PG-13

DISC DETAILS


PURCHASE @ AMAZON.COM

EQUIPMENT
Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


The Fast and the Furious [Blu-Ray] (2001)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (August 30, 2015)

2001’s The Fast and the Furious follows a subculture in which various young folks dress shabbily and spend thousands of dollars to give themselves the fastest rides. They then bet many more thousands on who will win their drags, which take place on public streets.

For the most part, Furious avoids the issue of how these people obtain their cash, but at the start, we do learn that some of it is definitely ill gotten. One crew hijacks trucks and fences the stolen goods, all of which seem to come from Panasonic. (Hello, product placement!)

Into this scene steps handsome but somewhat naïve Brian Spilner (Paul Walker). He awkwardly inserts himself into the world of street racing as he hits on sexy Mia (Jordana “Punky” Brewster), the sister of hotshot racer Dominic (Diesel). Brian quickly makes an enemy of Vince (Matt Schulze) - who also has the hots for Mia - but he seems to integrate fairly well into the crew after he boldly runs in one race.

From there we see events progress as Brian gets closer to both Mia and Dominic and also continues to annoy Vince. However, Brian has a secret: he’s really Brian O’Conner, a local cop on an undercover mission to find the crooks who did the hijacking we saw as well as other crimes. Unfortunately for him, Brian starts to lose sight of his mission as he becomes enraptured with a need for speed.

I guess somebody liked this claptrap, as Furious earned a surprising $144 million at the box office and spawned a never-ending series of popular sequels. Nonetheless, it still isn’t much of a movie.

Sometimes I wonder why efforts like Furious even bother to feature a plot. Does anyone really care? This kind of flick is almost like a porno movie; the storyline and characters are just gravy, while all we need are the money shots.

In that regard, Furious succeeds to a moderate degree. Yes, some of the racing scenes offer reasonably exciting stunts, but as a whole, they don’t do much for me. After I watched the film, I read some other reviews, and many folks fell over themselves to praise the car shots. While they seem good, they really don’t float my personal boat.

Perhaps that’s because I really didn’t care about the story or the characters. In regard to the actors, I like Diesel and think he has some talent. He was terrific as the titular voice of The Iron Giant, and he also made a strong impression as Private Caparzo in Saving Private Ryan.

As for his work in Furious, however, Diesel feels more like part of the wallpaper. Granted, he stands out better than most of the others, but he doesn’t make much of an impression.

At least he tops the rest, especially Walker, who comes precariously close to being a total non-entity. To be sure, Walker’s a good-looking guy, but he fails to deliver much personality. Actually, I’m not sure he has any personality beyond the fact he sounds a lot like obnoxious sports jock Jim Rome; I always expected Walker to refer to his clones in C-Town. In any case, Walker comes across largely as a cipher and he adds little spark to the part.

Not that the plodding tale deserves much talent. Essentially Furious is little more than a remake of 1991’s Point Break. Since that flick wasn’t tremendously original, a rehash of its story doesn’t do much for me.

A fair number of folks have compared Furious to 2000’s Gone In Sixty Seconds as well, and many of them felt the former topped the latter. I disagree, and I think the difference comes from the extra shine Bruckheimer productions net from their casts. Whereas Furious fills the screen with few talents, Sixty packs in actors like Nicolas Cage and Robert Duvall. This dimension does add a lot to the proceedings, and it helps make a lackluster film more palatable.

Unfortunately, The Fast and the Furious offers little to provoke much interest. While a moderately watchable film, it doesn’t give us compelling characters or much of a storyline, and the stunts are generally good but they can’t overcome the weaknesses. Ultimately Furious seems like a pretty bland and forgettable piece.

Note: fans will want to continue watching Furious after the credits start to roll. A brief coda appears at their conclusions.


The Disc Grades: Picture C+/ Audio A-/ Bonus B+

The Fast and the Furious appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This was an inconsistent presentation.

For the most part, sharpness looked pretty good, but exceptions occurred. I noticed edge haloes at times, and they tended to give the image a slightly mushy feel on occasion. Definition was usually positive, but the movie lacked a particularly clean, tight feel.

I noticed no issues with jagged edges or shimmering, but I suspect some digital noise reduction came into play here. The movie came with a somewhat bland, smoothed-out appearance that tended to seem unnatural. At least it lacked print flaws.

Colors tended toward an orange/amber tint, though other scenes opted for more of a blue feel. These tones didn’t seem overwhelming for the most part. The colors could’ve been more vivid, but they seemed acceptable. Blacks were a bit too dense, and shadows suffered from the same mild mushiness that affected the rest of the movie. Though I didn’t think this was a bad presentation, it seemed mediocre.

As for the film’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack, it worked well. The soundfield definitely seemed active, as all five channels received a pretty strong workout. Not surprisingly, they came to life most strongly during the film’s many action/driving sequences.

On those occasions, cars whizzed past fairly effectively and the spectrum became pretty convincing and engrossing. The elements blended together well and panned from side to side nicely.

Music received a good five-channel mix, as various song and score elements often emanated from all around the spectrum. Of course, the effects also came from many different areas, and they seemed to be well localized as a whole.

Audio quality appeared very good. Though some obvious looping occurred, dialogue remained natural and distinct throughout the film. I detected no signs of edginess or problems related to intelligibility.

Music seemed loud and vivid, as the rock/techno/rap score came across with clear and appropriately pounding tones.

Bass response for the music was especially deep and heavy; these tunes really rocked the subwoofer and woke up all the neighbors - even those who weren’t asleep! The effects showed similar tones; the low-end for those elements wasn’t quite as dense, but it still roared at times, particularly when the film wanted to depict the sound of the engines. Effects also seemed clean and vibrant, and they lacked any distortion or other concerns. This was a strong auditory experience.

How did the Blu-ray compare to the original DVD? Audio sounded livelier and better integrated, while visuals were tighter and smoother. Even though the Blu-ray’s picture didn’t live up to expectations, it still topped the DVD.

The Blu-ray combines old and new extras, and these open with an audio commentary from director Rob Cohen. A veteran of many other tracks, Cohen seems comfortable with the format and appears at home during this running, screen-specific track. He covers story/character areas, stunts and cars, effects, music and audio, editing and cinematography, cast and performances, sets and locations, MPAA concerns and related topics.

In other words, Cohen tells us at least a little about pretty much everything. He goes over a nice array of subjects and does so in an engaging, likable manner. Cohen brings us a very good commentary.

Next up we get The Making of The Fast and the Furious, an 18-minute, three-second featurette. Along the way, we hear from director Cohen, actors Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster, Rick Yune and Matt Schulze, producer Neal Moritz, technical consultants Craig Lieberman and RJ De Vera, executive producer Doug Clayborne, stunt coordinator Mic Rodgers, and stunt double Mike Justus.

Despite the length of that roster, we don’t learn many insights, as the program stays very light and fluffy as a whole. This is clearly promotional work, and it does a decent job of touting the film while it still gives us some reasonably interesting tidbits. The behind the scenes material probably is the most interesting, but even it remains glossy and insubstantial. This is a watchable piece but nothing special.

More raw footage appears in two stunt-oriented segments. Multiple Camera Angle Stunt Sequence lets you view a car flip from eight different sides. Each lasts 22 or 23 seconds except for camera “G”, which only runs 16 seconds. These are interesting, but unfortunately the set-up won’t let you flip between them; you have to watch one at a time. In addition, you can check out the final scene from the film.

Movie Magic Interactive Special Effects works in a similar way. We get to examine various angles of the train stunt; these are broken down into “Train POV”, “Front Angle Cars” and “Side Angle Cars”, each of which has two or three sub-options. The different snippets run between 11 and 17 seconds. Both of these programs give us a decent look at the material, but they didn’t add a lot to the equation.

Eight Deleted Scenes fill a total of six minutes, 24 seconds. Mostly these are small character bits that don’t bring much to the table, though some will miss the shirtless beefcake shots.

The “Deleted Scenes” can be viewed with or without commentary from director Cohen. He provides solid remarks about each of the segments and clearly explains why each “hit the bin”.

We hear more from Cohen in the Featurette On Editing for the Motion Picture Association of America. In this four-minute, 36-second piece, Cohen and editor Peter Honess sit at the Avid and work on the truck chase sequence. We watch them clip tiny bits from the scene, and they remark on their decisions. It’s a short but valuable look at this aspect of filmmaking.

The Visual Effects Montage compiles a number of different materials. We get storyboards, crude computer animation, raw pre-effects footage and final shots mixed together in this running three-minute and 44-second piece. It follows Brian’s first race and offers a decent look at a variety of bits.

More storyboards appear in the Storyboard to Final Feature Comparison. This area examines two scenes: “The First Race” and “Final Crash”. Both can be watched in the traditional split-screen format; the boards appear on top with the movie on the bottom. “Race” runs four minutes, 14 seconds, while “Crash” goes for two minutes, 36 seconds.

A collection of Music Videos appears. First up is “Furious” from Ja Rule featuring Vita and 01. The song stinks and the video’s no better; it combines basic and annoying lip-synching with shots form the movie. Ugh!

“POV City Anthem” by Caddillac Tah doesn’t improve the standards. It consists almost entirely of lip-synching, as we see the usual obnoxious and boring posturing typical of the rap scene.

The only non-rap video, “Click Click Boom” comes from headbangers Saliva. It’s nothing good either, as it combines more lip-synching with shots of a fan as he goes through the show. Blah. This area ends with a “Soundtrack Spot” that’s nothing more than a very loud and grating ad for the album.

In addition to the film’s trailer, we see a Sneak Peek for 2 Fast 2 Furious. It goes for five minutes, 11 seconds and offers notes from Walker, director John Singleton, and actors Tyrese Gibson and Eva Mendes. It tells us a little about cast, characters, story, cars and stunts. It lacks depth and just promotes the movie.

New to the Blu-ray, U-Control offers two options. “Tech Specs” simply offers occasional pop-up blurbs that tell us but the movie’s cars. It gives us mildly interesting material.

On the other hand, “Picture in Picture” proves more involving. While most features of this sort feature a mix of participants, this one includes only one speaker: Cohen. We see him talk and also view occasional behind the scenes video tidbits. We learn about influences, visual design and cinematography, editing, cast and performances, character/story areas, sets and locations, cars and stunts, and related areas.

On its own, this is a pretty good commentary, but it doesn’t work as well as the original discussion from 2001. That’s partly because Cohen repeats some of the same material, but it’s also because Cohen occasionally tends to simply narrate the film. He throws out a moderate amount of new information so fans will still want to listen to the chat, but it’s not an essential piece.

The Blu-ray also includes some new featurettes. Dom’s Charger goes for four minutes, 22 seconds and delivers notes from Diesel, Cohen, Rodgers, Moritz, writer Chris Morgan, and picture car coordinator Dennis McCarthy. “Charger” looks at Dom’s car from the first film and its return for the fourth flick. It doesn’t give us much meat but it throws in some decent details.

A Quarter Mile at a Time runs nine minutes, 44 seconds and delivers notes from Petersen Automotive Museum director Dick Messer, third generation street racer Geoff McNiel, stunt coordinator/2nd unit director Terry J. Leonard, Street Rods Forever car club member Babe Mittry, and former drag racer Fred Badberg. They give us a short history of street racing in this fairly enjoyable featurette.

Something called The Fast and the Furious Video Mash-Up lets you make your own little montage. It gives you a few video and audio options from which to choose. Honestly, it seems pointless.

During the four-minute, 42-second Hot Off the Street, we get some additional cut sequences. These are pretty raw and look terrible. They’ll be interesting for fans to see, though.

A Turbo-Charged Prelude to 2 Fast 2 Furious lasts six minutes, 12 seconds. It brings us a short film that acts to link the first and second films in the franchise. That’s fine, but shouldn’t “Prelude” be on the 2 Fast Blu-ray instead?

Finally, we see a Paul Walker Public Service Announcement. The 36-second clip basically tells us “don’t do this at home.” It does more to advertise a kind of oil than anything else.

I guess a lot of people like The Fast and the Furious, but I think it offers a pretty bland film. It boasts a few good racing/action sequences, but its bland characters and rehashed plot mean that it never becomes anything more than average. The Blu-ray delivers excellent audio and a bunch of supplements but visuals seem erratic. Even with the less than optimal picture quality, this becomes the best home video version of Fast and the Furious.

To rate this film, visit the original review of THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS