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Marlowe Reviews...FAST FIVE-Limited Edition Best Buy Steelbook Edition (Universal)

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Old 10-05-2011, 10:44 PM   #1
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Default Marlowe Reviews...FAST FIVE-Limited Edition Best Buy Steelbook Edition (Universal)



FAST FIVE BLU-RAY (BLU-RAY/DVD COMBO PACK; “EXCLUSIVE” BEST BUY STEELBOOK PACKAGING W/DIGITAL COPY ONBOARD DISC) REVIEW BY P. MARLOWE WRITTEN FOR & UPLOADED TO HIGH DEF FORUM 10/05/11

Releasing Studio: Universal/Original Film
Disc/Transfer Specifications: 1080p High Definition; 2.35:1; Region 1 (U.S.) Release
Tested Audio Track: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Rating: PG-13
Director: Justin Lin
Starring Cast: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson, Jordana Brewster

MARLOWE’S PLOT ANALYSIS:


My wife actually liked this latest installment of The Fast and the Furious franchise more than I did theatrically, and as such we picked up the Blu-ray yesterday (release day). I was shocked to discover Best Buy was doing a special steelcase package for the Blu-ray (I wish they would have done something with a steelcase for Thor and perhaps the upcoming Captain America) and it was difficult to find a steelcase version left in the display – the overall packaging of Fast Five is gorgeous, and is something every studio should do for special editions. Warner Bros. began the trend with their Blu-rays in the form of “books” a la The Exorcist (which I bought yesterday as well and which I’ll do a review on as soon as I view it) and GoodFellas, and now with Universal doing these steelbook packages (Scarface, Fast Five) the Blu-ray slipcover fanatic crowd has something to keep them busy for awhile. What is a head-scratcher to me, though, is why a title like Fast Five got steelbook treatment – I understand Universal giving catalog classics like Scarface steelbook editions, but a mediocre-at-best summer barnstormer like Fast Five? I mean, what’s next…a steelbook of Mean Girls or Poseidon?

I covered my feelings about Justin Lin’s Fast Five pretty thoroughly in my theatrical review of the motion picture, so I will try and cover those points as succinctly as possible. To begin with, I just don’t understand how Universal is milking this franchise the way it is – none, absolutely none, of the sequels can stand up to Rob Cohen’s original Fast and the Furious in terms of sheer sex appeal, fanaticism for the import tuner world or cheesy action sequences. As a matter of fact, I don’t consider 2Fast2Furious or Tokyo Drift part of this series at all they were so horrendous in execution. John Singleton’s 2Fast2Furious in particular was one of the worst films I have ever seen, what with Ludacris hosting street racing events in Florida, Cole Hauser as one of the worst bad guys ever put on film and a useless but gorgeous Eva Mendes shaking her sexy ass as an undercover agent…and that was just the beginning of this tragedy. Instead of Vin Diesel – who’s charisma carried the first film – Paul Walker is teamed up with Tyrese Gibson who delivers some of the cheesiest, most annoying ghetto slang and one liners you will ever hear. The film just plain sucked, and lacked all the energy and charisma of the first film. Universal was guilty here for the most part – the consensus was the first film was such a success, the public would have been willing to accept anything for a sequel (the same problem that plagued Warner Bros. executives when they made Exorcist II). John Singleton was completely wrong for the job of making the follow up picture; his talents were better left in ghetto-based projects that he helms so perfectly such as Poetic Justice, Boyz N The Hood and Higher Learning. And what about Tokyo Drift? Don’t get me started – this film shouldn’t have even been greenlighted by Universal, but it seemed a sure way to cash in on the asinine but popular-at-the-time “drifting” scene on the custom car circuit. What’s that, you say? You wanna take daddy and mommy’s Volvo S60 and slide it around the highway, fishtailing with the luxury sedan until it flips doing 80 miles an hour? Okay – now that sounds cool…let’s even make a film about it!

Justin Lin, who apparently took creative control of this franchise after the stink bomb that was 2Fast2Furious, attempted to breathe new life into the series beginning with Tokyo Drift, but when that didn’t light box offices on fire he went back to the drawing board and discovered that the only way to make another sequel work was to reunite the original cast who held the magical charisma between them. Hence, Fast and Furious was born, bringing Paul Walker, Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez and Jordana Brewster together once more. The film wasn’t bad – but it still wasn’t Rob Cohen’s original which had such a tight grip and focus on the whole scantily-clad girls and import tuner car scene, you could almost feel it in each frame. At the conclusion of Fast and Furious, we witness Walker, Brewster and some others attempting to sabotage Diesel’s jail-bound bus via speeding sports cars, and I wondered just how further Universal was trying to milk this franchise and where they could ultimately take it.

I couldn’t fathom it, but Lin released Fast Five picking up right where the previous film leaves off. The problem with the franchise now is that it’s not even about the cars anymore, like Cohen’s original was – from an import tuning scene we’ve moved to crime/heist/general action plots that don’t necessarily have to wear the “Fast and Furious” franchise moniker. In attempting to keep some car-centric demographics happy, Lin has sprinkled some elements throughout that are just plain silly and ridiculous at times – for example, in Fast and Furious, we had souped up battered SUVs and old cars running NOS systems and in Fast Five, we witness car-thief dune buggies sporting NOS bottles and sport springs and ridiculous sequences involving souped up Dodge Charger police cars. It’s clearly a desperate attempt for Lin just to have something in the films resembling elements from the tuner scene, but they just don’t fit and seem campy. Further, I suppose – even though there are still issues of Import Tuner on magazine shelves – the entire Honda/Acura tuning scene is nowhere near as popular as it once was back when Cohen made the first film, and this could be a reason Lin has changed the direction of the franchise. But for that matter, why even call it a part of the “Fast and the Furious” family?

In yet another desperate attempt to use previously successful tactics, here Lin has brought back characters from earlier films in the series – notably “Vince” from the first film, the sexy chick from Fast and the Furious and clownish, idiotic characters from 2Fast2Furious which to me was a grave mistake. Returning in Fast Five are Ludacris and Tyrese Gibson, plus a small cameo by Eva Mendes (sexy as all hell still in a ridiculously short, tight skirt and stilettos) as well as a tip-off to yet another previous cast member returning during the mid-credit mark. The plot of this one is convoluted in many areas, and gets more confusing than a Bond flick gone haywire, but all the action is merely setting up the glamorous fight sequence between Diesel’s Dom Toretto character and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s federal agent character. The sequence is set up so that one may ask “Has Dom finally met his match physically?” but I was a bit disappointed in the outcome – more on that later.

Oh yeah – the plot. Well, of course, opening where the previous film ended as I said, Fast Five depicts Walker, Brewster and some other clowns from Fast and Furious causing a major crash with their speeding sports cars, thus forcing the bus that Dom is on to flip on its side. It’s assumed the team has scooped up Dom in the accident – which could have been a total disaster, but of course Diesel’s character survives intact – as an APB has been issued for the fugitive as well as Walker and Brewster who are also now official fugitives of the law. The whole subplot of Walker’s Brian O’Conner character flipping sides from an FBI agent to outlaw on the run with Diesel and family was just plain stupid and awkward to me as well – Mia (Brewster) is also pregnant with O’Conner’s baby, which adds yet another unnecessary dramatic element to the storyline, making Walker’s character even more reluctant to stay on the side of the law. Now, Mia and Brian have fled to Brazil, where they meet up with Vince from the first film. He tells them about a job they can take whereby high end cars can be stolen from aboard a train – the problem is, these are seized cars and federal agents are on this train to ensure their safety. Mia and Brian accept the job – apparently now that Brian is a number one fugitive being sought by agents all over the northern and southern hemispheres and he needs a way to make them an income – and find a way to get the cars off the train via a dune buggy-controlled ramp contraption Dom has devised with some friends. They eventually meet up with Diesel’s character – here again wearing the trademark sleeveless black tee and ghetto-fabulous cross pendant on chain – who has begun the extraction process of the cars off the train and what follows is an exciting action sequence complete with backstabbing double-crosses, guns, bullets, bodies being dragged on dune buggies equipped with nitrous oxide bottles and a nail biting scene involving Brian and Dom driving one of the cars off a cliff as they’re pursued by agents as they jump out and crash into the water below.

Somehow, Dom and Brian are picked up by the cartel overlord in Brazil who needed a certain chip that was inside this car – hence where the plot goes haywire – and they’re tied up in one of his warehouses where they’re questioned under the threat of finding Dom’s sister Mia and having some fun with her. In a ridiculous sequence, the duo escape from their hanging captivity and make their way back to a meeting spot where Dom goes after Vince for setting them up with this job obviously complicated by this drug lord. Somehow, Vince is involved with getting this chip for this kingpin, but he didn’t know Dom, Mia and Brian were going to be ambushed or hurt. For some reason, Toretto takes this personally and decides to put together a team to now go after this Brazilian cartel king and take all his money from him. The plot seems thinner here than it did in Fast and Furious, if you can believe that.

Meanwhile, we are introduced to Dwayne Johnson’s Hobbs character, a muscle-bound, tattooed badass federal agent who is hell-bent on bringing Dom Toretto, the infamous fugitive, down for good. You can totally tell Johnson had fun with this role, and his onscreen no-nonsense, take-no-shit performance of the Hobbs character was one of the more redeemable elements of the film. To me, Johnson stole the show, and wrestling was never the same without him portraying the immortal “Rock.” Teaming up with a foxy female Brazilian cop that has some kind of connection to Toretto and subsequently her husband who was killed by the cartel down here – but is never thoroughly explained nor is of any interest to be honest – Johnson tracks Toretto’s every move until it finally culminates with a face-to-face, hand-to-hand combat sequence between the two muscular freaks. As I said, this was clearly staged to make fans wonder if Diesel’s character had finally met his match physically, but what doesn’t make sense is that Diesel gets the upper hand for most of this fight, which is simply unrealistic – in wanting to keep Diesel’s “superman” façade going in these films, Lin set the fight scene up so that the two behemoths man-handle each other in a punch-for-punch match, yet Diesel’s character comes out on top. In reality, Johnson, who is looming and ridiculously chiseled in physique boasting gobs of strength, wouldn’t have been thrown around as he was in this scene; it would have been more refreshing, quite honestly, if Lin would have had Johnson kick the ever-loving shit out of Toretto, to prove this guy can’t just beat everyone on the planet up any time he wants to. In the end, Toretto is enraged so thoroughly, he nearly beats Johnson’s character in the face with a torque wrench – the same weapon he used on the guy that supposedly drove his father into a wall and to his death during a race as reported in the first film.

What’s even stupider after that is the fact that when Dom, Brian and Mia are being hauled away after being arrested by Agent Hobbs and the feds, and their van is ambushed by Brazilian mercenaries apparently working for the cartel lord, Toretto makes a decision to help a fallen Hobbs and save his life (at some point we lose Vince who is fatally wounded). Later on, Johnson’s Hobbs character tells Toretto that he wants to “ride with him” on the final job the gang head into, which ends up being an attempt to steal the cartel boss’ safe right from the bank vault itself, which is said to hold some 11 million dollars for each of them. What follows is an end sequence reminiscent of the cars-off-the-chains scene in Bad Boys II, in which Toretto, O’Conner, Mia, Ludacris’ character, Gibson’s character and some of the others who have returned in this film manage to literally break into the bank and make off, physically, with the safe containing the money. As the others assist, Dom and Brian end up screaming through the streets in two stolen police Chargers with the massive safe attached to cables behind them, the cartel and his goons right in close pursuit shooting at them from every angle. The closing part of this sequence is exciting as any heist/action film, culminating with Hobbs shooting the cartel lord coldly for killing his team members and threatening to bring down Toretto and O’Conner within 24 hours – yet, an interesting catch comes when a “switch” is made with regard to the bank safe, as we think the real thing went flying into the ocean during this nail biting chase sequence but in reality the team switched them out, and the one that went into the water was just a fake. The real safe with the entire cartel’s cash is safe back at the team’s hideout; indeed, they each end up with 11 million bucks.

The final frame of Fast Five depicts Dom, Brian, Mia and the sexy Brazilian cop who is apparently now Dom’s girlfriend on a tropical beach, finally safe from the chase of authorities. Of course, Brian challenges Dom to one more street race to continue the ongoing feud between them, and there are overtones of Mia’s coping with the pregnancy and some other elements that hint at another film picking up where this one leaves off. Cementing that is a brief mid-credits sequence in which Johnson’s Hobbs character is sitting at his desk looking over Toretto’s files when we see the absolutely delicious, sexy legs of the foxy Eva Mendes walking towards him with files in hand. As she props her gorgeous self up on Hobbs’ desk, wearing a short tight skirt and heels and crossing her toned legs, she opens up a file for Hobbs to look at, suggesting yet another character from a previous “Fast and the Furious” film is about to return. I won’t give this one away, but this notion is asinine and really can’t be explained, at least not at the moment. Also – what is Mendes doing back in this role? She was working for the exact agency and division Johnson’s character was? We know she was an undercover agent in the awful 2Fast2Furious, but her inclusion at the very end of Fast Five was obviously tacked on to continue bringing old characters into the fold.

I actually liked Fast Five a bit more at home than I did in the theater – and it’s normally the other way around for me. It’s obvious there’s going to be another follow-up film after this, but honestly I don’t know how much longer Universal can milk this. The whole thing is going in the direction of a soap opera, what with Brian and Mia’s love and now their baby, and it is for that reason that my wife liked this one. Goes to show you who the intended audience is for the new direction of the franchise, and why we guys don’t like the fact that Justin Lin has veered away from the import tuning angle. Still, to me, there will never be another The Fast and the Furious, as directed by Rob Cohen circa 2001 – the feel of that import tuning scene, the gel of the characters as they worked seamlessly with one another, the cheesy dialogue that just “worked” in the context of the narrative…these newer entries into the franchise contained really none of that.

VIDEO QUALITY ANALYSIS:

I didn’t expect much less than near-perfection from Universal on this Blu-ray transfer of Fast Five, and I wasn’t disappointed – from The Incredible Hulk to The Fourth Kind to the last Mummy film and even Fast and Furious, Universal’s 1080p transfers have been remarkably bright, crisp, grain-free and dynamically detailed notably in outdoor, sunlight shots. It didn’t seem Fast Five was much different. There was little to no film grain or digital noise in the transfer, colors depicting the sweltering heat of Brazil were saturated but accurate and detail was aplenty.

Of special note were some facial close-ups that were just plain dazzling – when Dwayne Johnson falls during a shootout sequence and Diesel comes to rescue him from the mayhem, the level of detail on Johnson’s face was astounding…from the bullets of sweat dripping down to the eye-popping detail in his facial features and skin, the sequence was a sight to behold. Black levels appeared inky and rich with only rare examples of some shadow/black crush, and overall this was a nice, solid transfer from Universal.

AUDIO QUALITY ANALYSIS:

The English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track here seemed a tad more aggressive and hot than the mix accompanying the Fast and Furious Blu-ray; dialogue had no intelligibility issues, the soundstage was alive and rip-roaring with activity from beginning to end and bass was ample. Notable standout moments included the ending bank safe sequence, which exhibited loud, booming wallops of LFE as the safe bounced all over the streets as it’s stolen and an overall raw, aggressive nature with regard to this chase scene. Helicopters, cars, spatial cues, ambient effects and more filled the surround channels when called upon – there was definitely no lack of rear stage usage on this track. Yet, I didn’t expect less from Universal – even the first film’s DVD Collector’s Edition release contained a rousing, overtly aggressive DTS mix that I still use to demo my system to this day.

SUMMARY & RECOMMENDATIONS:

This was a purchase for us. The steelbook presentation from Best Buy is very attractive, in its metal blue box, and I suspect other fans of the previous film will pick this up as well. It will receive repeat viewing time in our system, yet it’s not the cheesy classic The Fast and the Furious is.

Stay tuned for my long overdue review of the seminal Exorcist on Blu-ray – one of my personally favorite titles that I put off buying in high def until this Halloween season.

Thanks, and please fire away with any discussions, comments or thoughts on the Blu-ray release of Fast Five!
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Old 01-29-2012, 08:52 AM   #2
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I went into this with very little expectations but for a mindless rental, wasn't too bad. Definitely wouldn't add this to my collection.

Definitely an interesting twist in the end
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Old 01-31-2012, 04:30 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sschantz View Post
I went into this with very little expectations but for a mindless rental, wasn't too bad. Definitely wouldn't add this to my collection.

Definitely an interesting twist in the end
You first got around to renting this now, schantz?

Were you a fan of the original?
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