Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Fast Five Blu-ray Review

Packed with mind-blowing stunts, high-octane thrills and automotive wizardry, Fast Five reunites cast members from all four previous chapters of the blockbuster franchise, reprising their roles as the most daring gang of outlaw drivers to ever get behind the wheel, while a relentless FBI agent (Dwayne Johnson) does whatever it takes to them bring down. Director Justin Lin (Fast & Furious, The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift) takes the wheel of this all-star reunion as Diesel and Walker reprise their roles as Dom Toretto, the king of the street racers, and former cop Brian O’Conner, now Dom’s partner-in-crime, while Johnson rides shotgun for the first time ever as Federal agent Luke Hobbs. Fast Five also brings back several popular franchise stars including Jordana Brewster, Tyrese Gibson, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Sung Kang, Tego Calderon, Don Omar, Elsa Pataky, Gal Gadot and Matt Schulze in a story fueled by gear-grinding action, hairpin plot twists and vehicular mayhem!

Film (4 out of 5 stars) 

Fast Five opens with the last scene from Fast and Furious where Dominic “Dom” Toretto (Vin Diesel) is being transported to Lompoc prison after being convicted of multiple crimes when his bus is intercepted and forced to crash.  This rescue effort was led by his sister Mia Toretto (Jordana Brewster) and friend Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker), who have assembled a group of friends to help them break Dom out.  After freeing Dom, all three become wanted fugitives and they escape to Rio de Janiero to join their old friend Vince (Matt Schulze) and his family.  Knowing the they would need money to keep running, Vince convinces them to join them on a job that will involve stealing cars from a moving train.
On-board the train, Brian and Mia notice agents from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) on the train and realize that the cars are seized property.  Despite being aware that they are now in over their heads, they continue on since they don’t have any other option.  Fortunately for them, Dom has arrived to help them and he quickly figures out that there’s something extra underhanded about this crooked scheme.  He notices that one of the car thieves named Zizi (Michael Irby) seems interested in only one of the cars, a Ford GT40, so he tells Mia to take it.  Zizi isn’t too happy about that and pretty soon he and his men attack Dom and Brian and in the process also kill the DEA agents.  Despite a daring escape off the train that includes driving a corvette off a cliff into a body of water, Dom and Brian are captured and brought to the local crime-lord Hernan Reyes (Joaquim de Almeida) who orders his men to interrogate the pair to learn the location of the Ford GT40, but they soon escape.
Back at their hideout, Dom and Brian start dismantling the car to learn why it’s so special when Vince arrives back and is caught trying to remove the computer chip from the car’s GPS system.  After admitting that he was planning to sell the chip to Reyes, Dom kicks him out.  Brian does some more investigating and learns that the chip contains the locations of every hidden safe-house that contains a total of $100 million of Reyes’ money.  Armed with that knowledge, they decide to rob Reyes but they know it will require a large team with a bunch of different specialties which provides the excuse (or fortuitous opportunity depending on your viewpoint) to bring in the cast-members from the previous film in the Fast and the Furious franchise including: Han Seoul-Oh (Sung Kang), Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson), Tej Parker (Ludacris), Gisele Yashar (Gal Gadot), Tego Leo (Tego Calderón) and Rico Santos (Don Omar).  Amazingly enough, each cast-member contacted has just the right skills needed for this particular job!
They aren’t the only ones getting reinforcements however, as the DEA has sent a Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) Agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and his men to hunt down Dom and his posse for the death of their agents. Hobbs isn’t the usual kind of pursuer that Dom is used to and it isn’t long before Hobbs is kicking his ass.  I have to give Vin Diesel credit as one of the producers since he willingly went along with the hiring of Johnson (who really worked out for this film) since he makes Diesel look like a lapsed gym rat.  After being captured and in the process of being transported back to the airport to be extradited back to the US, the convoy is attacked by Reyes’ men since Reyes seems to be willing to bring the heat of the U.S. government down on his head to prevent the thorns in his side from going to prison for life (remember, this is Fast and Furious logic in action).  The plan backfired in another way, since sympathetic police officer Elena Neves (Elsa Pataky) frees the prisoners who in turn help Hobbs defeat their attackers, but at the cost of the life of the least commercial of the Fast and Furious cast-members.
Hobbs and Elena decide to help with the planned heist to avenge their fallen comrades, which is good since there’s a slot open now.  Their plan is to break into a corrupt police station that is safe-guarding all of Reyes’ money since who can you trust more than corrupt cops?  Instead of following the intricate plan that was to involve all of their specialized skills, they draw up a new brilliant plan of driving a massive tank of a car through the wall into the vault and then stealing the vault by dragging it out with cables attached to two cars driven by Dom and Brian.  I know you’re asking yourself, can this new plan possibly work?  With so many unknown variables to take into consideration is it even possible?  I think you know the answer already since this is a Fast and Furious movie which is not known for it’s grasp of reality.
You might think that I didn’t like the film based on a few of my snarky comments but I actually did like it despite it’s weak plot and cardboard thin characters.  I should clarify that a bit more since I really liked the action and stunts of the movie and Dwayne Johnson especially, but not much more than that.  I would rather see a new franchise starring Johnson with Justin Lin directing that instead of another one entry in this franchise.  Having seen Vin Diesel actually act in Saving Private Ryan and Find Me Guilty, it’s a shame that he isn’t either allowed or perhaps refuses to act in these movies.  Instead, he broods and then broods some more thinking the more stoic he looks the tougher he appears.  That may have worked for the first four movies in this series but now that audiences have seen Dwayne Johnson being completely badass in this movie, Diesel seriously needs to step up his game.  Walker and the rest of the cast are fine in their roles but honestly, Johnson just blows them all away.  They all seem to be content just to say their lines and return to the craft table while Johnson brings it to every scene he’s in.
Special mention should also go to director Justin Lin who has steadily improved this franchise with every movie he’s done.  The franchise started out as a car crazed drag racing movie and it’s continually morphed into a new action franchise where they are now car hijackers somehow.  Maybe for Superfast Six, they will be a commando team sent into Afghanistan or perhaps be sent back into time to race tricked out chariots.  For me personally, I prefer action-packed heist movies over watching a bunch of neon lit cars racing each other, but it is an interesting evolution and it’s all due to Lin.  He knows how to stage action and really delivers, which is where a lot of director’s fail.  I also appreciate that he tries to do as much as he can practically without being completely dependent on CGI to realize his vision.
While the film’s plot is ridiculous, and the movie spends way too much time on Vince (who I think should have been completely cut from the movie), it does have a ton of fantastic action.  I also enjoyed this one a lot more than the others for another reason which I haven’t gotten into yet. Because of events that happened in the last movie, I didn’t have to suffer through another one note performance by Michelle Rodriguez, which let me enjoy this movie without spending the movie’s length wondering why she plays the exact same role in every movie she’s in and how it is that she keeps getting hired. Not this time. This time I could just sit back and enjoy the action or so I thought, since all of that happiness evaporated as soon as I saw the post credit scene!  All I could do was throw my hands in the air and do my best Darth Vader scream…”Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!”

Video (5 out of 5 stars) 

While the plot may be weak, this 1080p (2.35:1) transfer is just as solid as the action in the movie.  This is the best looking release I’ve ever seen come out of Universal and it’s demo-worthy as is the audio which I will get into soon. Sporting super fine detail that allows you to see the actors’ pores and beads of sweat and beautifully captured textures, this is just an incredible transfer.  Black levels are pitch black and solid and the flesh tones are warm with an amped up contrast, but it still looks natural and consistent throughout the movie.  This Blu-ray offers an amazing picture and it really made me appreciate the movie even more.

Audio (5 out of 5 stars) 

Since I’ve already raved about the picture quality, now I will continue my appreciation for the film’s DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix that really has some power.  Everything about this mix is extraordinary, with the dialogue coming through clear despite the constant gunfire that sounds amazing.  The car crashes also pack a visceral punch and the LFE output is incredible.  The rear speakers also are in constant use and the directionality of the mix is also very impressive and immersive.  This is one of the those lossless mixes that will shake your house so be forewarned!

Special Features (4 out of 5 stars) 

This Blu-ray has a lot of interesting extras but the decision to break them up into a bunch of eight minute clips is maddening. I would have preferred to just watch an hour long documentary that included all of this rather than having to constantly navigate this in a piecemeal way.  All of these extras are also in high definition.
Blu-ray Features:
  • Reuniting the Team – A look at the reason why they wanted to bring in so many Fast and Furious veterans and what they added to the movie.
  • A New Set of Wheels – A look at the cars in the film and how they put them all together.  I was very surprised to see that the crew actually build these cars up from scratch which is pretty impressive.
  • The Big Train Heist – A look at how they filmed the opening action sequence which was pretty interesting and done well.  You will learn all you need to know how each aspect was done.
  • Dom vs. Hobbs – A highlight of the movie was seeing the two actors fight and this covers their preparation and offers a behind the scenes look at the filming of it.  While there is no way at all that Dom could have ever defeated Hobbs, this extra offers the theory that Dom holds his own because his family is threatened.
  • Inside the Vault Chase – I was very curious to see how the ending of the film was filmed and I was pleasantly surprised how much of it was done for real.  This was really cool to see.
  • Tyrese TV – A look behind the scenes of Fast Five with Tyrese Gibson as he messes with the director and the cast.
  • On Set with Director Justin Lin – A look behind the scenes of Fast Five with director Justin Lin where he seems to be in a slightly tense discussion about a specific driving stunt with the first assistant director who doesn’t want to risk the car getting damaged.  I’m really surprised this made it on the Blu-ray but kudos to Universal for the honest look.
  • Deleted Scenes – A collection of deleted scenes that aren’t very interesting.
  • Gag Reel – Some shots of the cast breaking character and screwing up lines.  Kind of humorous but it gets old.
  • Dom’s Journey – The story of a drag racer to wanted felon who now hijacks cars.
  • Brian O’Conner: From Fed to Con – We hear how Brian has transitioned from being a lawman to being an outlaw.
  • Enter Federal Agent Hobbs – A look a the best addition made to the franchise and the reason this movie works as good as it does.
  • Feature Commentary with Director Justin Lin – Lin talks about his initial reluctance to do another one in this series until he met with fans on a publicity tour and changed his mind.  He also talks about the decision to bring back the other characters and how they approached the movie and its stunts.  This is an dry but informative commentary and fans of the movie should enjoy it.
  • Universal’s Second Screen: An interactive viewing experience that lets you control, interact with and explore Fast Five with your networked tablet of computer.
    • Take Control 2.0 Step inside the movie with Director Justin Lin, as he takes control of your Blu-ray player and gives you an all-access, in-depth look at how the movie was made.
    • Virtual Car Garage Get an up-close inspection of the hot cars, moving models of the cars in a 360 degree view, check out tech specs and more with a touch of your finger.
    • The Music of Fast Five Tap your fingers to find out what song is playing, create your own playlist, and even purchase the songs right from your device.
    • Scene Explorer Select various progressions of a scene from storyboards to daily cuts to see how it was created.
    • Picture in Picture The cast and crew share stories about the movie right from your tablet or computer, in synchronization to the scene being played.
  • pocketBLU – Experience Blu-ray with the pocket BLU app for iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, Android, smartphones and tablets, PC and Mac.
    • Advanced Virtual Remote and Keyboard Control Blu-ray features and communicate with ease.
    • Video Timeline Instantly access any point in the film.
    • Mobile-To-Go Transfer exclusive bonus features to your device to enjoy anytime, anywhere.
    • Browse Titles Access a library of available titles and previews.
  • BD-Live - Access bonus content, trailers and more through an internet-connected player.
    • My Scenes Bookmark your favorite scenes and share.
    • U-Hear Skip back a few seconds for subtitles to highlight what you missed.
  • D-Box Motion enabled
  • Digital Copy of Fast Five for a limited time only (download by 3/13/12).

Final Thoughts (4 out of 5 stars) 

If you can ignore the plot-holes and simply enjoy the action, then you will really enjoy this movie.  It’s a lot of fun to watch and director Justin Lin really outdid himself on the action and stunts.  Dwayne Johnson is the real star of the movie and his relentless yet humorous performance is reason enough to watch the movie.  With a sixth movie all but promised by the end of this movie (along with a sucker punch to myself), it will be interesting to see how the franchise will evolve again.  This movie is highly recommended!
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  1. You will be happy to know that they are getting ready to start filming films 6 and 7 soon!

  2. I agree with you Sean, Dwayne did add the crucial element to this movie that made it more then what is was going to be. This was by far my favorite of the series, until now they had stayed on the same level as the last if not slipped a bit (Tokyo Drift). I had gotten used to them supposedly doing things with car that you just can't do, but the safe drag took the cake. Secretly I loved all the destruction the flying safe made, and wanted to actually see it happen somewhere just so I can laugh and say look it really does work! This was the first Blu-Ray I had rented, I wasn't too fond on paying more to Netflix for them, so I just never got them, and never mentioned it to the wife so she was none the wiser. But I had jsut gotten set up on the blockbuster movie pass when it came out and figured I should get my $10.00 a month out of it. The extras were good, my favorite was the entrance of Agent Hobbs. I caught Tokyo Drift streaming a couple weeks ago and watched it, but I still don't understand where it fit into the time line of the movie, even asked a coworker at DISH who breathes the franchise and he just shook his head and walked away.