Faster comes growling to Region Free US Blu-ray with an excellent 1080p High Definition video presentation in the movie’s original theatrical aspect ratio of widescreen 2.4:1. Considering the gritty but flashy style that they were clearly going for, it’s no wonder that the end result is an image which looks wonderfully realised, yet commonly dark and brooding. Detail is excellent throughout, from the close-ups of Driver’s scarred visage and the struggling bad haircut which Cop sports, to the longer shots of the open range – roads which seem to go on for miles, and panoramic vistas which are almost worth the price of admission alone. The contrast levels are intentionally off-kilter, the production having a marginal Tony Scott element of hyper-realism (even without Scott’s jarring camera-motion disorder), and this style lends itself quite well to a visually pleasing, all-but picture-perfect rendition. Black levels, of prime importance in this kind of revenge actioner, are deep and solid throughout, and even the strobing-light-bathed tunnel sequence maintains integrity throughout. The studio’s done a superb job, and it makes for demo quality material.
Faster is the kind of movie that is best enjoyed lights-out, with the sound turned right up, so it’s great that they’ve taken the time to accord it a quality video presentation, and better still that the aural accompaniment is at least as good. The DTS-HD Master Audio track provided is one of the best that I have come across recently, a thunderous offering which actually has a fair amount of depth and resonance, and certainly accentuates the style of the proceedings, as well as enhancing the more action-packed moments. Still, this is a movie that clearly aspires to be about much more than just action, and so the track affords plenty of room for the dialogue in spite of whatever is going on around it. The score is perfectly suited to the material – not all that memorable, but definitely enough to get you in the mood for some roaring engines, loud guns, and macho posturing. Effects come into their own during the more eventful moments, whether the car crashes or the ridiculously loud gun that Driver wields; but this track isn’t just about blunt force, and it does well to keep the array alive even in the comparatively quieter moments. Overall it’s another demo-quality offering which definitely enhances your experience of the movie, as all great tracks should.
The extras seem fairly thin on the ground, but, as you will note from the main body of the review, there’s one particular gem in this package which should not go overlooked – the Alternate Ending.
Criminals and Cops: The Cast of Faster is a 12 minute Featurette which does its best to avoid being fluffy and promotional, and largely eschews such traits, even if it comes across with a little bit too much back-patting. Here we get the usual mix of behind the scenes footage and cast and crew interview snippets, with soundbites about what sets this apart from the usual action movies, the unusual characters painted, and the cast who bring them to life.
Weapons and Wheels: The Guns, Cars and Stunts of Faster takes a further 12 minutes to look specifically at the weapons of choice for these particular characters, and their vehicles as well – making note of how they were tailored to each specific individual (the massive, old-style revolver and classic muscle car for Driver; and the more clinical modern silenced automatics and fast, flash sportscars for Killer). There’s also a little time spent on the more eventful stunt sequences, with some corresponding behind the scenes footage of the shots being prepared.
Animatics looks at four scenes: bank heist, old man, hospital, and joust; showcasing both the original sketches and the subsequently rendered CG.
Here we get 5 Deleted Scenes, each available with an optional Director’s Commentary, as well as the Alternate Ending, again, with an introduction. The Director explains how the test audiences determined that things should be changed, and subsequently left the Alternate Ending (and one of the Deleted Scenes) on the cutting room floor. The scenes themselves could have all been left in for a little bit more character development – the shot of Killer taking a photo of one of the dead bodies was quite interesting, and it would have been nice to round off the fates of the peripheral characters as per the final Deleted Scene, but the most important part of this section is the Alternate Ending. Now, I know that it’s not perfect, that it would have needed a bit of touching up had they decided to go with it, but it is presented in HD and is basically an alternate final 12 minutes of the movie (replacing the final 4 minutes in the theatrical cut) and, in my opinion, a far superior ending. I don’t want to give too much away, but it deals with the character resolutions in a much more satisfying way, and should be watched in preference to the one that test audiences dictated they eventually go with.
Finally the disc is rounded off with a bunch of Previews (which are basically the same ones that irritatingly play on start-up).
Faster is an enjoyable return to serious action for Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson – and arguably the kind of movie that he should have been doing right from the get-go. It’s got some decent stunt sequences in it, a few nice shootouts, and an almost over-serious narrative, which is peppered with some truly unusual characters. In a bid to be different, each character has been given a backdrop – and a contrived one at that – which, whilst adding to the tension because you simply don’t know what’s going to happen to them, also doesn’t completely cover over the fact that this is still a movie that essentially survives on style over substance. Perhaps if they had taken things in a different direction, painted the unique characters in a more authentic way, and had a couple of better-chosen actors, the movie could have had a more long-lasting impact, but, as is, it is little more than a consistently engaging but somewhat quirky, professionally-crafted revenge actioner. It’s considerably better than average, but also pretty far from great, and your affinity for it will be determined largely by whether or not you get along with the colourful characters that have been injected into the proceedings. For me, they were sometimes cleverly different, and sometimes jarringly so, making it a hit-and-miss attempt to be different. Kudos for trying though, it certainly sets it apart from many similar action thrillers, even if that alone does not guarantee that it’s significantly better.
On Region Free US Blu-ray Faster hits the shelves at the same time as it is making its UK theatrical run, making this a tempting purchase for those who don’t have any region coding issues. The outstanding video and audio should encourage you, but it’s the alternate ending which sealed the deal for me – I’d suggest watching it in preference to the theatrical ending, as it was the original way the movie was supposed to end before test audiences determined that 10 action-packed minutes of cathartic closure should be left on the cutting-room floor. It makes this good revenge actioner even better, even if it will never stand up alongside the best of the best. Recommended rental for those interested, and perhaps even a blind buy for those who like their action-thrillers to come with some unusual characterisation, a hefty chunk of style, and a fair amount of blunt force trauma.
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