The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (HD DVD) (2006)

If you create a user account, you can add your own review of this DVD

Released 8-Feb-2007

Cover Art

This review is sponsored by
BUY IT

Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Audio Commentary-Justin Lin (Director)
Game-Custom-Made Drifter
Deleted Scenes-11
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-Drifting School
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-Cast Cam
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-The Big Breakdown: Han's Last Ride
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-Tricked Out to Drift
Featurette-Welcome to Drifting
Featurette-The Real Drift King
Featurette-The Japanese Way
Music Video-"Conteo" by Don Omar
Music Video-"Round Round" by Far* East Movement
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2006
Running Time 104:00
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Justin Lin
Studio
Distributor

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Lucas Black
Nathalie Kelley
Brian Tee
Sung Kang
Bow Wow
Sonny Chiba
Zachery Ty Bryan
Daniel Booko
Brandon Brendel
David V. Thomas
Leonardo Nam
Amber Stevens
Chris Astoyan
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $44.95 Music Brian Tyler


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital Plus 5.1
French Dolby Digital Plus 5.1
Italian Dolby Digital Plus 5.1
German Audio Commentary Dolby Digital Plus 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital Plus 5.1
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement Unknown
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
French
Italian
German
Spanish
Portuguese
Dutch
Korean
Swedish
Danish
Finnish
Dutch
Norwegian
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement Yes
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

17 year old Sean Boswell (Lucas Black) keeps getting into trouble racing in his souped-up car. After his latest escapade and crash Sean's mother sends him to live with his father in Tokyo, as an alternative to going to gaol. Day one at his Tokyo school he meets the lovely Neela (Nathalie Kelley) and the token black buddy character Twinkie (Bow Wow). It turns out Twinkie is into cars too, and that night they go to a drift race meeting in a car park, where our hero learns that Neela is the somewhat unwilling girlfriend of DK the Drift King played by Brian Tee. In an ill-advised attempt to beat DK in a race, Sean writes-off the car owned by DK's offsider Han (Sung Kang). It turns out also that DK fancies himself as a yakuza, like his uncle.

Sean is surprisingly taken under the wing of Han, a displaced American of Japanese heritage. Han proceeds to teach Sean how to drift, a racing manoeuvre where the back wheels slide allowing the car to elegantly round a corner at high speed (a real style invented by a Japanese race driver). In the twinkling of an eye Sean is an expert and can now take on DK in an attempt to save his life and win Neela for himself.

Okay, so Shakespeare it isn't. The plot is simple and derivative of many movies, from the juvenile delinquent genre of the fifties to the kung fu actioners churned out in Hong Kong two decades later. In fact, the plot doesn't bear thinking about, as it contains a number of absurdities. The lead character, his love interest and his black buddy are all still in high school, yet they are driving experts, so it seems. All of the Japanese who have substantial parts are bad guys, while the good guys aren't really locals. Twinkie appears to be the son of a serviceman stationed in Japan, while Neela has an Australian background. Even the actors who play the bad Japanese aren't Japanese either, Brian Tee being American and his main sidekick Leonardo Nam Australian.

There is a disclaimer at the end to the effect that the stunts performed are dangerous and should not be tried at home. There should have been a second disclaimer that no fat or ugly women were filmed during the making of this movie. I'm not joking: apart from an old woman Sean sees in the window of the house next to his father's, every woman shown in the picture is a fantasy babe like those you see in music videos. This is part of the fantasy of the movie, which reduces its believability even further, though it does add to the eye candy effect for the target audience.

In the movie's favour though is an attempt to be slightly different. The director does not hammer home plot points, nor does he try to make any of the characters look 'cool' through the use of visual effects. For instance, there's no telephoto shot of a snappily dressed guys walking slowly towards the camera through heat haze over a rise. There's also something of a restrained approach to the romance between Sean and Neela. The action sequences are very well filmed, and the concept and execution of the drift is well explained. In a way this movie isn't supposed to be a movie at all. It's a step towards a kind of entertainment where the emphasis is on the visual and auditory, a kind of sensory experience in which the narrative is irrelevant.

I didn't find the actors all that interesting. Lucas Black looks far too old for the character he plays, and he doesn't make much of the material. Nathalie Kelley sounded like she had an Australian accent, and in fact though born in Peru she comes from Sydney. This is her first film and she is appealing, however it remains to be seen whether her acting ability matches her looks in the long term. Bow Wow contributes the best bit of acting in the movie with his look of delight when his car makes its first appearance. Brian Tee is a smugly dislikeable villain. His yakuza uncle is played by Sonny Chiba, billed as J.J. Sonny Chiba. He must have looked at the pay cheque rather than the script, and his cameo appearance is mercifully brief.

Revheads will probably like this a lot. I'm not sure how it compares to the other movies in this series as I haven't seen them, but the general consensus is that it's better than its immediate predecessor.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

Disclaimer: Please note that this disc has a video resolution of 1080p. It has been reviewed on a display device with a maximum native resolution of 720p. More information can be found here.

The film is presented in 1080p widescreen in the original 2.35:1 aspect ratio. My player will only output 1080i, which my projector resizes to 720p, so I have not reviewed this title at the maximum possible resolution. As the player also only outputs at 60Hz some 3:2 pulldown effect is noticeable during pans.

The transfer, authored using the VC1 codec, is virtually flawless. There is considerable detail in both the foreground and background of scenes, and the video is razor sharp almost all of the time. There does appear to be some slight blurring in some of the action scenes, though I suspect this is a result of the digital effects being used and is not a transfer artefact. You can clearly see all of the blemishes on actors' faces.

Colour is excellent. Of note particularly are night scenes, especially in the chase sequence through Shinjuku where every neon sign is bright and vivid. Generally colours are solid and even. At times flesh tones seem a little warm, this being most noticeable during the early scenes in America.

There were no film artefacts. At times I thought that the black hair of the Japanese actors lacked some definition, but whether this is a result of the transfer or how the film originally looked, I do not know. Otherwise there was no Gibb Effect or edge enhancement. There appeared to be some faint posterisation of blurred backgrounds when shallow focus was used, but you have to look very hard to see any evidence of this.

Optional subtitles are provided in several languages. These can be switched on and off from the menu during the movie, without pausing it, or they can be selected before starting the feature. The subtitles are displayed in white and seem to cover most of the dialogue verbatim. There are also non-removable electronic subtitles for some of the Japanese dialogue. I believe these are determined by the menu language option you select when putting the disc in the player.

This is a 30Gb dual-layer HD DVD, as is the equivalent US release. Either the movie is contained entirely on a single layer or the layer change is completely seamless, as I did not notice it.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

Audio is available in several languages, however the default is Dolby Digital Plus 5.1. I listened to it as decoded by the player and output through the 5.1 analogue connections.

Although this audio format should be roughly equivalent to a DTS soundtrack, it sounds considerably better than any DTS soundtrack I have heard. There was no noticeable compression of the sound. Higher frequencies sound full and there is none of that slight distortion that voices often have on DVD, the upper ranges being clipped off and shrill. At the bottom end there is plenty of bass, which is very tight and focused. The dialogue is clear and easily audible through the rest of the soundtrack.

The soundtrack is not as aggressive as I was expecting. The surrounds are used extensively for the driving sequences. The audio whips around all of the channels and makes for a believable ambience. The car engine sounds are realistic, while in the indoor sequences chatter and external sounds are subtly integrated. There are also some good effects, notably the sound of a sumo wrestler getting out of a bath.

The music is mainly hip-hop so I gather, while there is also some alternative Japanese pop. The 5.6.7.8's are briefly heard, being like Mr Chiba, another presence from the Kill Bill movies. Again the music is clear, and it is not substantially louder than the rest of the soundtrack, so when it appears it is not jarring.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

There are plenty of extras, and one of a type I have not encountered before as it is not possible in the DVD format. Unless stated otherwise the extras are shown in 480i or 480p standard definition and are in widescreen but windowboxed that is, they don't fill a widescreen TV.

Main Menu Introduction

The start of one of the drift races from the movie leads into a language selection menu, and after the disclaimers the same footage repeats as a lead into the main menu. Unlike some Warner titles, the feature does not automatically start.

Main Menu Audio and Animation

Audio and scenes from the film. The menu allows the Audio button to be switched off. The menu can also be summoned during playback without pausing the movie.

Audio Commentary - Justin Lin (Director)

The director provides an easy to listen to commentary. He admits that the movie is basically a popcorn summer movie, and spends most of the commentary talking about how they filmed certain sequences with a steadycam and skeleton crew due to being unable to get filming permits in Tokyo, how he cast the actors and how he tried to avoid using CGI in the drifting sequences. There is no great insight here, but the commentary is refreshingly straightforward.

Custom-Made Drifter

This feature in 1080p allows you to view the scene where Han drifts his car in a circle around another with two babes in it, but first you can select one of 16 combinations of car colour, wheel types and stripes. Han's car is then shown in this sequence with the selected appearance.

Deleted Scenes (18:13)

Eleven deleted scenes can be watched with or without an audio commentary by the director. Some of these were cut for pacing, some because they were found to be unnecessary during the editing phase.

Featurette - Drifting School (7:35)

This shows the cast learning how to drift, not very successfully.

Featurette - Cast Cam (4:19)

This is an embarrassingly bad set of shots taken behind the scenes of or by the cast. Best avoided.

Featurette - The Big Breakdown: Han's Last Ride (8:25)

This featurette looks at how the crash involving the Han character was constructed.

Featurette - Tricked Out to Drift (11:00)

Describes the various vehicles used and how they were selected for each cast member.

Featurette - Welcome to Drifting (6:16)

This featurette is an explanation of what drifting is and how it became popular in Japan.

Featurette - The Real Drift King (3:38)

This is an interview with Keiichi Tsuchiya, the Japanese race driver who perfected drifting in the 1970s and who was a stunt driver on the film.

Featurette - The Japanese Way (9:44)

This concerns the filmmakers' attempts to shoot racing scenes on Tokyo streets even though they didn't have permits to do so.

Music Videos (7:33)

Two music videos related to the movie, "Conteo" by Don Omar (3:33) and "Round Round" by Far* East Movement (4:00).

U-Control

This feature is unique to HD DVD. A short tutorial is provided on how the feature works and how to use it. When you activate U-Control, the feature starts with icons in the bottom right hand corner of the screen that allow you to switch extra material on and off. For example, selecting picture-in-picture shows the director commenting on the scene, or one of the cast or crew talking about something which may be related to the scene, some of which is duplicated from the above extras. You can also view production stills, artwork or storyboards which also appear on the screen. During one driving sequence a GPS map can be displayed showing where the cars are. There is also an insurance adjuster which shows how much the car damage has cost, as well as other features. More than one of these can be displayed on the screen simultaneously. Different icons appear on the screen depending on what material is available for the scene. This means that you can pick and choose which extra material you watch, and so you can have a difference experience each time you use this feature. The picture in picture volume can be adjusted from the main menu. I noticed that with the default volume the music from the feature tended to drown out some of the voices.

Whether this will catch on or not I don't know, but it provides a new way of cycling through material and is potentially better than just a standard audio commentary, galleries and featurettes as it puts them in context.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

This isn't really an R4 v R1 comparison, as at the time of writing there is no region coding for HD DVD. I am unable to compare with the standard DVD release of this movie, but I cannot imagine that it compares favourably for either video or audio quality.

There is an equivalent release in the US which is not the same as the Australian disc. The difference is that the US release is a combo disc, with a dual-sided disc contained the HD DVD on one side and a DVD version on the other. The Australian release is HD DVD only. If you don't have a HD DVD player but want to get this film in both formats for when you do get one, then the US release would be preferable (though note that the DVD side is Region 1 only). I expect that the HD DVD portion of both discs is identical. The Australian release is overpriced, but still cheaper than the US equivalent, so unless you want the DVD part as well there seems little point in shopping overseas.

This release comes from Universal, who are not releasing in the Blu-ray Disc format, so this is an exclusive to HD DVD at this time.

Summary

While this is in most respects a typical no-brain Hollywood summer action movie, it does have a few redeeming features that lift it slightly above the ordinary.

The video quality is exceptional.

The audio quality is exceptional.

Plenty of relevant extra material, with more than is provided on the standard DVD.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Monday, February 19, 2007
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba HD-A1, using HDMI output
DisplaySony VPL-HS60 LCD Projector projected to 80" screen. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 720p.
Audio DecoderBuilt into HD DVD Player, Dolby Digital Plus and Dolby TrueHD. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationSony TA-DA9000ES for surrounds, Elektra Reference power amp for mains
SpeakersMain: B&W Nautilus 800; Centre: Tannoy Sensys DCC; Rear: Tannoy Revolution R3; Subwoofer: Richter Thor Mk IV

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
A well-made movie -