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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: Fast Five

October 2nd, 2011

Fast Five - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray Combo Pack

I don't have high expectations for Fast Five. It did help start the summer blockbuster season a week early this year and ended with $200 million domestically and $600 million worldwide, but I don't expect the plot, the acting, the dialog to be selling points. All I expect is a fun popcorn flick. However, I recently reviewed Transformers: Dark of the Moon, and with that film I was also only expecting a fun popcorn flick, but I was disappointed. Will Fast Five be a more satisfying romp? Or will it too fall for the trap of caring more about the humans than the machines?

The Movie

The film begins with Dominic Toretto on his way to jail for a 25-year sentence. However, the bus trip there is eventful, as his gang, led by Brian O'Conner and Mia Toretto, bust him out of by causing the bus to crash. They quickly head to Rio de Janeiro, where another member of the gang, Vince, is waiting.

When they get there, Vince has a job for them. They are to steal three cars from a train, while the train is in motion. The cars were seized by the DEA, which they weren't told about at the time. One of the gang, Zizi, is especially interested in one car, the GT40, but Vince gets Mia to drive that car. The heist turns deadly and among the dead are the three DEA agents assigned to guard the cars, as well as some of the other criminals the gang was working with. Later they learn who these cars belong to, a local druglord named Hernan Reyes, and why they are so important, they contains a hidden computer chip with the location for $100 million in hidden money.

Meanwhile, because of the deaths of three DEA agents, the United States sends their best man to apprehend Dom and Brian. That man is Lucas Hobbs. One of the first things he does is ask for a translator, Elena Neves, whose husband was killed by a gang six months before she joined up. He figures she will be motivated and not for sale as a result, and he needs someone he can trust.

The first plan is for Dom, Brian and Mia to split up and go their separate ways, because together they are too big of a target. But when Mia announces she's pregnant with Brian's child, they decide to grab the $100 million Hernan Reyes has hidden around the city and start a new life together. Of course, they have Reyes and Hobbs to deal with, so first they have to get a team together.

That's enough of the setup. How is the execution? Mostly great. It does suffer from a lot of the same problems as Dark of the Moon did. For instance, as soon as Vin Diesel or Paul Walker talk, I started to lose interest. I've said it in the past, but it still applies: Calling those two wooden is an insult to trees. Whenever the film tried to get emotional, it failed. Fortunately, the filmmakers knew that weakness and kept the character development to a minimum. There are also way too many heist clichés thrown into the movie from the one last job, assembling the team, planning montages, enemies that can't shoot straight, etc. But, I'm willing to give the film a pass on this, as it is nearly impossible to make a heist flick without some of these clichés. In fact, it might be worse without them. Also, suspension of disbelief isn't just stretched, it's taken out back and beaten to a pulp. Right from the opening escape, you know real world physics won't apply here. (There's no way no one would be killed in a bus crash like that.) But at least the filmmakers let you know right away that realism is not in their vocabulary.

The film also benefits from a collection of filmmakers that really know how to stage an action scene, and there are tons of those. Some of these are pretty standard stuff, like the several car chases, the few gun battles, or when Dom and Hobbs go mano a mano. But there's also something rather unique for a climactic action piece. I won't spoil it here, but it reminded my of one of the more unusual power-ups from Carmageddon 2. (Speaking of which, Carmegeddon: Reincarnation is in the works. Can't wait.)

The Extras

The extras on the DVD start with an audio commentary track with Justin Lin, the director. It suffers from the same problems as a lot of solo tracks. It lacks energy and there are some dead spots, but it is still worth checking out. There are a trio of featurettes on Dominic Toretto, Brian O'Conner, and Lucas Hobbs. There are also deleted scenes, and outtakes. In total, its less than 25 minutes of extras, so I would rate the DVD a rental.

The Blu-ray has many additional extras starting with a second screener feature. It looks cool, but unless there's an option to watch this picture-in-picture, it's of no use to me. Fortunately, they have this under the U-Control. There are also featurettes on the major train sequence, the hand-to-hand fight between Dom and Hobbs, reuniting the team, the cars...

Dear Justin Lin, Porsche has two syllables. Por-shə.

Moving on... there's a behind-the-scenes with Justin Lin, a featurette on the climatic chase scenes, and a behind-the-scenes with Tyrese Gibson. There's over an hour of additional extras, including some that push the technology.

As for the film's technical presentation, it's close to reference level quality. The video is fantastic with lots of detail, strong colors, etc. There were a couple scenes where I thought the shadows were hurting the level of detail, and a couple shots were over-saturated, but it is still a fantastic looking film. The audio is equally strong with plenty of action in the surround sound speakers, while your subwoofer will really get a workout. Gunfire comes from all sides, there are good directional effects, and you will feel the explosions.

Finally, the Blu-ray Combo Pack costs only 30% more than the DVD, and it comes with the DVD.

The Verdict

I was expecting just a mindless action film, but Fast Five was better than expected. It has a good heist movie mixed in with all of the car chases, and it is definitely worth checking out. The DVD is good if you only want to rent the movie, but the Blu-ray Combo Pack is a better deal if you are buying.

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Filed under: Video Review, Fast Five