Director Justin Lin is a gifted action filmmaker, and he seems a sincere guy. But even he seems challenged to keep a straight face discussing the deep interconnectedness of his characters in Fast & Furious during Blu-ray special features.
The Wire of street racing, this is not. But give Fast & Furious this: It is as agreeably dim-bulb, and modestly entertaining, as any of the three previous installments. Its whole dichotomy is modern hustle (Paul Walker) versus vintage muscle (Vin Diesel), and the film at least lets its brooding stars play to their modest strengths.
One of the biggest laughs in the film comes when it shows you the title credits. Clearly, after a prologue in which highway thieves play chicken with a burning, tumbling oil tanker, the possibility remains you’re in for one of Steven Soderbergh’s experimental gambles.
That admittedly thrilling prologue reintroduces Dominic Toretto (Diesel) and his girlfriend, Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) — who are on the run after the events of the first film.
When Letty is murdered, Dominic must reteam with Brian O’Conner (Walker) — the cop who befriended, rather than busted, Dominic in part one. Together, they team up to take down the vicious drug dealer responsible, and Brian seeks to rekindle his rocky romance with Mia (Jordana Brewster), Dom’s sister.
Even the subtitles don’t keep still in Fast & Furious, which rockets the ante on its race scenes. (The special features peg Lin as the architect of a mid-movie clash between Dominic and Brian — “scripted” by Chris Morgan on one-eighth of a page as “the craziest race you’ve ever seen.”) Plus, a director who achieves any sort of action realism in a film where men jump from one 75-mph car to another deserves credit.
A new car’s value dips by 20 percent the second its tires leave the lot, but it’s hard to imagine Blu-ray depreciation on Fast & Furious for audiophiles and fans of the film.
It comes on a BD-50 disc with a 1080p VC-1 picture transfer that is sturdy, if rarely stunning. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, however, roars like a revved engine ready to roll. Panning surround effects envelop with a wash of sound (even with light wind effects), bass is appropriately window-rattling and the clarity of dialogue is smooth amid the din.
The Blu-ray also comes fully loaded with the premium accessory package, including a commentary with Lin, a gag reel (illustrating the tedium of green-screen work), Pitbull’s “Blanco” video and several featurettes: Under the Hood — Muscle Cars; Under the Hood — Imports; Getting the Gang Back Together; Races and Chases; High-Octane Action — The Stunts; South of the Border — Filming in Mexico; Shooting the Big Rig Heist (which details Rodriguez doing her own stunts); and Driving School with Vin Diesel, where the star / producer amusingly executes some precision moves during stunt-car training.
A better idea in theory than execution, Los Bandoleros is a short film written and directed by Diesel that serves as a connector between the first and fourth films. It’s a strained, lackadaisical effort to establish filmmaking credibility in a franchise without need.
Then there’s the U-Control feature, where viewers can watch Fast & Furious as Lin & Walker appear onscreen to talk about aspects of the movie. Also, in Virtual Garage and Tech Specs mode, specifications for each car in the film will pop up on screen, and the vehicles can be viewed in 360-degree onscreen rotation. With BD-Live connectivity, make your own Fast & Furious music video with provided clips. Lastly, for those with D-Box support, the Blu-ray will literally make your chair shake.