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Category:    Home > Reviews > Action > Cars > The Fast & The Furious Trilogy (The Fast & The Furious, 2 Fast 2 Furious & The Fast & The Furious – Tokyo Drift/HD-DVD)

The Fast & The Furious Trilogy (The Fast & The Furious, 2 Fast 2 Furious & The Fast & The Furious – Tokyo Drift)

(Universal HD-DVD, except Tokyo Drift, HD-DVD/DVD Combo Format)


Picture: B each     Sound: B each/B-(DVD side)     Extras: B-/each     Film:


The Fast & The Furious     C

2 Fast 2 Furious                C-

The Fast & The Furious – Tokyo Drift     C-



NOTE: This set has since its posting been succeeded by the Blu-ray trilogy edition and discontinued, but the transfers are exactly the same.  You can read about the fourth film at this link:





Though they are currently sold separately, the three films that so far make up The Fast & The Furious franchise have been released in HD-DVD at the same time and this is the first time one of the two formats has had this happen for its first three films at the same time and in the same format.  The Terminator films are all out on Blu-ray now except the third, unless Warner issues it the other way as they likely will.


As noted in our original review of the second film, most racing films are bad this film continues that bad trend.  Long after the Sylvester Stallone disaster Driven (and the Franchise Pictures Company that produced it) have faded away, we are now on a laughable third film in a series whose first installment was considered a joke and tax write-off.  That was in 2001, in one of the last hits before the 9/11 catastrophe.  Whether it would have been a hit after that is questionable, but the film continued to establish Vin Diesel as a real star who could even act and unfortunately established Paul Walker as one who definitely could not.


The Fast & The Furious was directed by Rob Cohen and did have some interesting moments, but there was nothing to impressive about its look or feel, but it was the first major narrative film that dealt with the current era of custom cars, racing and the culture, albeit a Hollywoodized one.  By being less clichéd than Driven, it landed up being the bigger hit.  More laughable than upon it original release, it is still barely the best of the three films as Cohen at least knows his audience.


John Singleton used to be able to say the same thing, but has lost his way (give or take Hustle & Flow, as producer) since Rosewood and 2 Fast 2 Furious remains second only to his hideous Shaft remake as his worst film, though Four Brothers (reviewed on HD-DVD elsewhere on this site) comes close to both.  Since I already explained why this one is so bad, here is the link to that review:





That was a while ago and looking at it again, it has aged very badly.  It should be said that Tyrese and not the returning Paul Walker had more appeal here, so thus should have gone on to more interesting projects.  He is also the better actor.  That leaves the latest installment.


Tokyo Drift is aptly named since the script cannot stay focused and neither can the camera.  Since the series decided to stay low budget and Walker became too costly to hire, producers hired Lucas Black and suddenly, the film became more interesting.  Black is a better actor, the “Southern Boy” routine is amusing (a throwback to Driven star Burt Reynolds) and his character wrecks more autos that the Duke Boys, so producers even covered the awful Dukes Of Hazzard remake (also reviewed on HD-DVD elsewhere on this site) swoop.


The unknown Justin Lin was handed directing chores, yet his work here is no better or worse than his predecessors because the material is of the same silly quality.  At this point, everyone knows what to expect and the MTVish editing is just too predictable.  The plot gets expectedly ridiculous, but when Black lands up in Japan with the hotshot racer son of a Yakuza (Japanese Mafia) head, this gets outright idiotic, yet knows it and stays silly.  The film is also the most pandering by including the Asian culture in a token way.  Sure, Japan looks good, but they are not even smart enough to treat it as a character.


So forgetting about the lack of substance and content, the reason to get these titles on HD-DVD is high performance of the picture and sound, right?  Well, yes and no.  The films are all shot in Super 35mm film and presented here in 2.35 X 1 1080p digital High Definition quality, with Tokyo Drift’s flipside DVD version lesser 2.35 X 1 anamorphically enhanced 480-line quality.


The first film has aged well enough since digital effects were not used to death and this HD-DVD does look better than its predecessors, but Ericson Core’s cinematography was nothing groundbreaking and half the tricks are in the jumpy editing.  2 Furious was shot by Matthew F. Leonetti, A.S.C., and he was supposed to make the next film look more expensive.  Oddly, it looks phonier and has more digital work, plus this new HD-DVD transfer is not really much better than the somewhat impressive regular DVD.  You only get minor improvements in this case, but read more at the link above.


That leaves the two versions on the HD-DVD/DVD Combo disc of Tokyo Drift, shot by Stephen F. Windon, A.C.S., but the Digital Internegative (DI) work is so phony that it was even annoying on the 35mm theatrical film prints!   Here, it looks phony in HD and is even more degraded on the regular DVD side.  Many people seem impressed by these images, especially of the colorful cars and Japan, but a comparison to Sophia Coppola’s Lost In Translation (also recently shot in Japan) is far superior visually, even if the regular DVD is mixed.


If anything, the recolorization is so bad here that I thought Elton John would show up with a bunch of dancers (Asian or otherwise) and start singing Sad Songs Say So Much with a Hip Hop/Electronica beat!  That points to a problem with the whole series in that it tries far too hard to be hip and keep the lack of attention span of its supposedly “drifting” audience has.


Then here is the sound, only Dolby Digital Plus in all three cases, while the DVD side of Tokyo Drift is stuck with standard Dolby.  Note that none of these discs have Dolby TrueHD or DTS of any kind and the reason why is though the mixes have bass-heavy music and surround trickery that distract the target audience from noticing the lack of story, it looks like the sonics of the masters are not up to their hype.  The first film has an interesting mix that emphasizes the music, but the budgetary limits show in the digital 5.1 theatrical release.  The second film has more Hip Hop, but is a little clearer.  This is a case where not using DTS was an especially bad idea.  The latest film has a surprising harshness on the edges as it did in theaters and seems overly processed.  If the sound was handled different and the DI for the image was not so plastic, Tokyo Drift would easily be the best performer of the three, but it is just not that good.  Sure, this might sound better than John Frankenheimer’s Grand Prix on HD-DVD, but I bet the car chases in Frankenheimer’s 1997 Spy thriller Ronin would blow all three of these discs away sonically and visually.


Of course, all three are awash in extras.  The first film has stunts with the multi-angle function, an obligatory making of featurette, deleted/extended scenes, Music Video, Visual Effects piece & separate montage, trailers, behind the scenes with Coen personally and several pieces that fetishize the cars.  The link above explains the second film’s extras, while the third has deleted scenes, audio commentary, a piece on customizing 230 cars (including the amusing Hulkmobile), a digital car customizing section, on location in Japan, an “art of drifting” piece that shows you how to get your cars to slide around (which worked much better in Mission: Impossible II) and the HD-DVD has the In-Movie Experience function that allows you to get a picture-in-picture look at the film while it plays with still and statistical sub-options that are supposed to be car-like.  At least souped-up cars, I guess.


Ultimately, this is supposed to be eye candy and maybe ear candy meant to sell HD-DVD players early on in the format, leaving Universal no better time than the present to issue the films in this format while they are considered fresh enough to a fickle crowd.  I guess there will be a fourth one considering the goofy ending of Tokyo Drift, but its here.  The only thing we can say is don’t believe al the hype and don’t have your hopes up too high.  These films are only so substantial.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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