PictureFast & Furious comes roaring to Blu-ray with an outstanding 1080p High Definition video rendition in the movie's original theatrical aspect ratio of widescreen 2.4:1. On paper, this is the perfect material to show off your equipment with - a glossy action vehicle with plenty of fast cars, sun-drenched LA sights and explosive set-pieces that can stand out, if given the right treatment. Luckily the video presentation makes the most of the flashy material, offering up superb detail throughout - from the perfectly tuned cars to the toned physiques, and no noticeable softness either, yet there are also no signs of any edge enhancement, damage, defects, or noise. The colours scheme is broad and unfathomably vivid, the scenery attractive, the fast cars flash and the material offered all perfect eye candy. Black levels are solid and deep, allowing for decent shadowing and superb night sequences, rounding out a superior video rendition.
SoundThe audio accompaniment matches the video in terms of representation, and similarly has excellent material to work with - loud engines, noisy stunts, gunshots and crashes, as well as a heavy rock soundtrack all make for excellent material for your Home Entertainment equipment, and this DTS-HD Master Audio showcases it in the best possible way. Dialogue - from Vin's gruff, gravely whispers to his angry bellowing - comes across clearly and coherently, dominating the array whenever appropriate. Effects are fast and furious themselves, mostly centred on the cars that are the stars. Whether the roar of the engines, the energetic gear changes, the screeching tyres, squealing brakes, thrust of the Nitro, this track really respects the love this franchise has for fast cars. Of course, the crashes sound outstanding, thundering around you, the explosions shaking you room, and the gunshots light up the surrounds even more, allowing an already superbly dynamic affair to excel even further. The rock/electronic soundtrack/score is almost oppressive at times - but in a good way, really getting you into the thick of things and adding to the exciting experience. Sporting some tremendous LFE use, this is an outstanding aural mix.
ExtrasFirst up we get an Audio Commentary by the Director Justin Lin. The man who, over the course of two movies, put the franchise back on track, talks about putting this fourth instalment together, reuniting the cast, the budgetary constraints which were somewhat less significant for this movie, the tone of the affair (revenge orientated), the cast and the stunts. He methodically covers all of the bases here, although he is not the most enthralling host, and it might be best for fans to take this in small doses.
The High Def-exclusive U-Control Feature comes in two flavours - Take Control and Virtual Garage & Tech Specs. Take Control adopts a similar style to (but is not quite as good as) the Complete In-Movie-Experience of 300, allowing you to do skip around from Video Commentary segments to making-of snippets. The Video Commentary gives us both Walker and the Director and, because of this and the very nature of the extras' format, is more interesting than just the aural offering.
Virtual Garage & Tech Specs offers up the ability to skip to 360 degree virtual looks at each of the main cars, whereas Tech Specs is just a trivia track specifically tailored to give you information on the cars. Both are nice touches, particularly for boys who like their fast cars.
Los Bandoleros is a 20-minute short film to accompany the movie. Apparently Diesel himself wanted to do a fourth and fifth movie back-to-back, but the studios were not willing to take the risk, and wanted to see how successful this one would be first. As a consolation prize he got to write and direct this short companion-piece to the main feature, a prequel of sorts featuring him and Michelle Rodriguez and offering up a bit of background to the whole Dominican Republic operation. Although I am not sure it was ever intended to be included in the final film, it is a lot better than the Deleted Footage that usually accompanies movies, and well worth checking out.
The five minute gag reel is your usual small array of line-fluffs, something which recently has not proved very funny to me. In the past it was novel to see a deadly-serious cast lighten up a little after they mess up their lines, but it is not always that good, and this gag reel is pretty average at best.
There are two separate Under the Hood Featurettes, one dedicated to Toretto's chosen cars, one for O'Connors. Entitled Muscle Cars and Imports, they total 12 minutes and stress how individually tailored the cars were, taking on marks of distinction that matched the personalities of the characters themselves. We get interview snippets from most of the key cast and crew, including the two stars who play the respective drivers. Cool as they were, it was just Diesel in his old black muscle car, and Walker in his blue Skyline and the glorification and 'symbolism' alluded to here is a tiny bit on the pretentious side.
Getting the Gang Back Together is a ten-minute Featurette that looks at reuniting all the key players for this fourth instalment. With contributions from all four of them, as well as the Director who seems pretty pleased with himself, it is interesting to see how much these four try to avoid admitting that getting together for a Fast and the Furious sequel was probably the best career decision any of them have taken in a while.
The four minute Driving School with Vin Diesel Featurette has Diesel showing off some moves in the stunt cars. Fairly innocuous, and brief, but nonetheless fun stuff.
Shooting the Big rig Heist takes ten minutes to look at the exciting pre-credits sequence, talking about how expansive the set-up was, the complicated stunts (Rodriguez apparently did much of her own stuff) involved and worthy pay-off. It may be a ridiculous scene but it is thoroughly entertaining, and this is quite a nice extra looking into how it was put together.
Just over ten minutes gets spent looking at the Races and Chases, with a similar Behind the Scenes Featurette - which also includes cast and crew contributions - dissecting all the key stunt and chase sequences, and discussing how they made it more high-tech and more 'fast and furious' for this sequel.
Another ten minutes' gets devoted to the stunts exclusively, although the cross-over with the extra material is pretty exhausting by now, the Featurettes all seemingly blurring into the same old stuff, and the same key sequences dissected in a similar style. It is a good offering - as were all of the others - but they could have been organised better.
We also get a very brief South of the Border - Filming in Mexico Featurette that shows how the Director shot the final act chase, bringing his whole production team across the border in some tiny town in the middle of nowhere, much to the amazement of the townsfolk. Disappointingly short. Finally we get an unremarkable Music Video for Pitbull's Blanco to round off the hefty set of extras.
VerdictI've had my expectations set quite high for many movies recently - decent stars, accomplished directors, stories with potential - and have been persistently disappointed. I thought the first Fast and the Furious film was pretty flimsy stuff, but nonetheless fun - in a glossy b-movie way, so when I heard about the whole cast reuniting for a fourth adventure my expectations were pretty damn low. And the end result was thoroughly enjoyable! Silly, frivolous, and pretty far-fetched, it covers familiar territory but does so with style and energy, giving the franchise's fast-car obsession a revenge twist and packing it with plenty of exciting - visually engaging action scenes. On Region Free US Blu-ray the video and audio are tremendous - real benchmark stuff - and the wealth of decent (if slightly poorly-organised) extras is sure to be of great appeal to car aficionados. For fans, this is available separately or part of a nice little box set package with all the movies, which will make for enjoyable viewing whilst waiting for the imminent fifth instalment, which purports to be adding The Rock into the mix of stars. If you're a newcomer to this popular franchise (or this enjoyable instalment), you should put aside your reservations, lower your expectations, check out the trailer and see if it tempts you into what is a very enjoyable no-brainer fast car action film.
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