- Rated PG-13
- Buy the BD
All photos © Universal
Reviewed by Jason Zingale
he “Fast and the Furious” trilogy has never gotten a fair shake from movie critics, but while it certainly won’t go down as one of the more memorable film franchises, it still works surprisingly well as mindless entertainment. After all, you’re not watching these movies for their Oscar-worthy performances, but rather for the adrenaline you get from watching cars you’ll never get to drive yourself speed through crowded streets. The trio of films is like car porn for gearheads tuned to embrace a wider audience, and though it’ll never get the respect it deserves, this is one franchise that still has plenty of mileage left in the tank.
The series got its start back in 2001 with “The Fast and the Furious,” starring Paul Walker as Brian O’Connor, an LAPD detective sent undercover to bust a gang of street racers that has been hijacking trucks and stealing millions of dollars in electronics. When he strikes up a friendship with prime suspect Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel), however, Brian is forced to choose between upholding the law and remaining loyal to his new friends. Unfortunately, both Diesel and director Rob Cohen decided not to stick around for the inevitable sequel (instead going on to make “xXx”), and in Cohen’s place, the studio hired John Singleton to take over the reigns. In “2 Fast 2 Furious,” Walker returned to the role of O’Connor, now an ex-cop living in Miami who has continued to street race to pay the bills. It isn’t long before he's recruited to help take down a local drug lord (Cole Hauser), however, and with Dominic still on the run, Brian enlists the help of childhood friend, Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson), instead.
The sequel was harshly criticized for failing to recapture the magic of the original, and whether it was a matter of Walker turning down a third film, or the producers deciding to inject some new blood into the franchise, “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift” was born. Moving the action to Japan, the film starred Lucas Black as Sean Boswell, a reckless teenager who’s shipped off to live with his Navy-obsessed father after getting kicked out of his latest school. Sean is immediately singled out as an outsider, but when he’s introduced to the underground world of drifting, he quickly immerses himself into the culture, taking what he already knows about cars to learn a new style of street racing. The film wasn’t as big of a success as its predecessors, but it was a definite step up in quality from the first sequel. Additionally, while Vin Diesel and Paul Walker will probably always be the faces of the “Fast and the Furious” franchise, “Tokyo Drift” proved that if the series is going to have any future at all, it rests in the hands of Black.
Of course, studio heads don’t feel the same way, because the upcoming fourth installment of the series will be reuniting Diesel and Walker for a new adventure that takes place sometime between the first film and “Tokyo Drift.” In preparation for its April release, Universal has rolled out all three films on Blu-ray in a box set with hours of new bonus material, 1080p high-definition video transfers and DTS-HD Lossless Master Audio 5.1 soundtracks. Suffice it to say, these movies were meant to be experienced on Blu-ray, from the bright colors that pop off the screen to the deep roar of the engines.
As has become custom with a majority of Universal Blu-rays, each disc includes U-Control features like picture-in-picture video, Tech Specs for all of the cars, pop-up trivia tracks and more. All of the original extras (including director commentaries, making-of featurettes and deleted scenes) also appear, as well as a host of new bonus material including a look back at the “Fast and the Furious” franchise, a sneak peak at the fourth installment, a short featurette on the history of street racing, and the hour-long documentary “Drift: A Sideways Craze.” It all adds up to one attractive package, but at the end of the day, no amount of polish can make a car run just as good as it looks. Luckily, the “Fast and the Furious” movies have always been more about style than substance, and though the trilogy box set likely won’t result in any new fans, it’s still a must-own for those who aren’t afraid to admit they have a soft spot for the action series.