Universal/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment .
R4 . COLOR . 102 mins .
M15+ . PAL
It's about cars, going fast, doing it illegally, getting away with it, running from the cops, nitrous-oxide induced power buttons on the steering wheel, speed hump avoiding ride heights, fast ladies, furious rivalries all wrapped up together with some side serve of plot. Well what else were you expecting? The definitive look at the world of illegal, imported car drag racing? Even if the director thinks he's making such a movie, it doesn't take itself too seriously. It actually does a better job than what Renny Harlin tried to definitively do with his attempt at a Cart racing movie in Drivel.
Ok, so Brian O'Conner(Paul Walker) is a white boy in a world hidden from those of us so called law respecting citizens. He's got his imported car, he's made his mods and he's ready to take on the cult hero in Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel). The typical race for a pink slip starts off the relationship that would soon deteriorate when an undercover cop is trying to infiltrate the scene to find out who is responsible for a bunch of highway hijackings netting goods the likes of Panasonic DVD players. There's some better product placement for you.
Director Rob Cohen who's produced some hits like Dragonheart and Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story has crafted a pretty good movie here. There's action aplenty here with a very real sense of speed as opposed to the so called realism in Drivel, the action and stunt work are what you'd expect when you've parked your brain in a no standing zone, the soundtrack rocks and is perfectly suited to the movie, the acting is about what you'd expect and the cars are probably the envy of every wannabe 2 litre hoon out there. No offense, I'm in that same bag of performance parts too.
With dialogue like "Damn that guy's fast" and "I need NOS, I need NOS", you can go past the corniness of the whole movie but then again this is one for the cult car racing genre out there and one that is a worthy addition to any rev-heads DVD library.
Kermit the Import
With the recent quality of DVD releases we've seen, our expectations are raised a little higher and so we get disappointed when a release from a distributor known for quality and gold standards produces an image that is just below what we would term an excellent transfer.
The main gripe here is the softness of the image. Normally, a well transferred DVD produces a razor sharp image but this one here is obviously soft in many aspects of the image and the even more obvious use of edge enhancement to combat this just compounds the issue.
Outside of that, the colors are well saturated throughout the movie including the many night scenes and the Michael Bay styled orange hue shots and still flesh tones are as natural as they come. There were some ever so slight instances of mpeg artifacts that weren't helped by a fairly low bit-rate, 4s - 5s average, for something trying to accommodate 2 competing 5.1 sound formats at the same time.
Was the encoding rushed? Too 'fast' maybe?
Hopefully this recent trend of releasing titles with both Dolby Digital and dts soundtracks on the same disc continues and so it is with The Fast and the Furious featuring a 384Kbps Dolby Digital 5.1 and a 768Kbps dts 5.1 soundtracks. Kudos to the powers that be who continue to do so and show the rest of the market that it can be done, there is space for both families to live in harmony with an abundance of extras to boot. There are really no excuses from here on.
As with any other soundtrack featuring a variety of cars, the believability stems from the uniqueness of the sounds that these individual vehicles exhibit. A Honda NSX should sound like an NSX, an RX7 should sound like a rotary based engine and a blow off valve on a twin turbo supra should fizzofff like a freshly opened can of Coca Cola. Thankfully, the sound engineers here have made considerable effort to bring this characteristic to this movie.
Sure there are times when the visual effects take you to places any normal camera would never get to, like the innards of a 4 cylinder engine, and so the sound has to travel with you making sure the ride is believable and achievable. In other areas, the sound literally does scream past you in all directions reflecting the onscreen mayhem. Your subwoofer also does its fair share of 'furious' rattling.
Traction's a bitch aint it.
As with a lot of the bigger titles coming out of the house of Columbia, we are yet again blessed with a large collection of extras, once you realise that the little double yellow lines in the bottom right of the extra features menu screen are in fact supposed to be a link to the next page of extras, 2 more in fact. Phew, for a moment there I wondered if we missed out on a Theatrical Trailer yet again, the most basic and must have extras on a DVD. Ok, where to begin?
Let's start with a short Public Service Announcement from Paul Walker stating that all the drivers in this movie are experienced stunt drivers and we shouldn't try these stunts at home. Whilst there may be a very select few idiots out there who believe anything they see on the screen, heck even this reviewer believed Superman could really fly, I doubt that the average shmoe is going to turn up to the local street meet in his mothers Corolla expecting to trounce the opposition. Rant off.
Embroiled within a maze of animated menus, we begin the real extras feast with the directors commentary, the longest feature of them all, and work our way through the list. Director Rob Cohen goes into the nitty gritty of the filming and setting up of the movie by way of the cast and crew making concerted efforts to attend real meets and even use the participants and their vehicles as extras within the movie. A nicely packaged commentary here. An 18 minute Making of feature follows the usual pattern with cast/crew interviews, clips from the movie, the filming of certain shots and a brief description of the basic plot. Put simply, a highlights package of the rest of the extras available on the disc.
Racer X: The article that inspired the movie is just a collection of screens showing the actual article that, well, inspired the film. The featurette on editing for the Motion Picture Association of America is a 5 minute segment with director Rob Cohen in the editing room cutting out mere frames from certain scenes to achieve a PG-13 rating in the US. This is a cool feature and that toy the editor is using must find its way to me soon.
A Multiple Camera Angle Stunt Sequence is a showcase of 8 camera angles recorded for a crash scene. Note this does not use the multi-angle feature of the DVD, it just shows the 8 angles as separate options for viewing. A Movie Magic Interactive Special Effects feature shows us different 'plates' of a race scene whereby a compopsite of 2 dragging cars and a freight train are blended together to produce a suspenseful scene. There are 3 different views to choose from with 3 different plates each, train, cars and combined.
The Storyboards to Final Feature Comparison is your standard variety split screen or storyboard only option for 2 select scenes from the movie. 8 Deleted Scenes with optional directors commentary are included, along with a brief intro by Cohen himself on the menu option screen talking about why some scenes are removed in general. Most of the scenes here are more extensions of existing scenes. The Visual Effects Montage is a 4 minute showcase of the varying special effects used to put the opening drag scene together with the use of blue screen technology, CG imagery, compositing and storyboarding. A pity some other scenes didn't get showcased here.
A collection of 3 music videos are included here with the likes of Ja Rule featuring Vita and 01 performing Furious, Cadillac Tah performing POV City Anthem and Saliva performing Click Click Boom. The POV music video has also been edited for language with audio muting in said instances. A Music Highlights option is included that simply takes you to the section of the movie with the featured track playing as it is during the movie.
Rounding out this marathon of extras are the usual suspects in Production Notes, Cast & Crew and a Theatrical Trailer in non-anamorphic 2 channel stereo. The DVD-Rom side features a pretty simple Street Racer game, image galleries, a jukebox with songs featured in the movie, wallpaper downloads and a web link to the official website. Of course, you need a DVD-ROM for your PC to access these features.
Whoa, there you have it. Not bad for a movie with a restricted demographic target audience.
Leave your brain at home, strap yourself into your couch, adjust your seating position, pump up the volume, make sure you've got the essentials needed for this motion picture road trip and away you go. This no brainer is great fun for all rev heads out there. If you're sick of the noise pollution that these little 4 cylinder marvels produce outside your bedroom window at all hours of the morning and night with their noxious fumes then you're looking for the bus stop section over there in the corner.