Updated: Jun 24
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Helicopters and explosions dominate much of the “F9: The Fast Saga” action sequence filmed in Thailand.
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“F9: THE FAST SAGA”
4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, Digital copy; 2021; PG-13 for sequences of violence and action, and language; Streaming via Amazon Prime Video (4K), Apple TV (4K), DirecTV (4K), Microsoft Movies (4K), Movies Anywhere (4K), Verizon (4K), Vudu (4K), Xfinity (4K), YouTube (4K)
Best extra: The nine-part making of “F9: All In”
AFTER GROSSING $6.6 billion worldwide, the “Fast and the Furious” franchise has been Universal Pictures’ biggest cash cow, even surpassing “Jurassic Park.” The success of the nine adrenaline-fueled films and one spin-off must have surprised a number of studio executives and creator/writer Gary Scott Thompson, as the franchise celebrates its 20th anniversary. “Fast and Furious 10” is already scheduled for April 2023.
It all began with this “tiny film about street-racing,” says producer Samantha Vincent during the featurette “F9: All In.” Universal optioned a series of 1998 newspaper articles on the New York City drag-racing scene from freelance reporter Ken Li. Much of his work focused on 30-year-old Dominican racer Rafael Estevez, who evidently received financial compensation from the studio.
In the last two decades, the series has also become a goldmine for producer/actor Vin Diesel. He plays ex-con and elite street racer/mechanic Dominic ‘Dom’ Toretto, the oldest son of Jack Toretto, a stock car driver who died in a fiery crash. Jordana Brewster plays his younger sister Mia and Michelle Rodriguez as a fellow racer and girlfriend/wife Letty Ortiz. “F9” introduces young son Brain Marcos played by Isaac and Immanuel Holtane, and long-lost brother Jakob Toretto (John Cena).
Flashback - 1989
(1) Young Dominic ‘Dom’ Toretto, speaks to his father Jack Toretto during a pit stop at a stock race in Irwindale, Calif. (2) Toretto loses control after a collision with another car and his car bursts into flames after hitting the wall. (3) Dom is devastated by the loss of his father.
Strangely, the franchise hit a number of potholes along the way. Diesel and most of the original cast of “The Fast and the Furious” (2001) were nixed for the second and third installments including Rodriguez and Brewster, while Paul Walker as FBI agent Brian O’Conner, returned for “2 Fast 2 Furious” (2003). He ended up getting axed for “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift” (2006), and young director Justin Lin replaced John Singleton (“Boyz n the Hood”).
Universal must have sensed from test screenings that “Tokyo Drift” was doomed, and considered sending it straight to video. A last-ditch effort was proposed for a theatrical release if the studio could convince Diesel to make a surprise cameo in the final scene. The actor wouldn’t receive a single penny, but to sweeten the deal they would give him total rights to the “Riddick” franchise. He said yes, and the audience response was positive, even though it’s the worst performer grossing only $158 million. Afterward, Universal decided to hand much of the “Fast & Furious” creative control over to the actor.
“I live my life a quarter-mile at a time. Nothing else matters … For those ten seconds or less, I’m free.” – Dominic Toretto “The Fast and the Furious”
(1) Dom and Letty are living off the grid with their son Brian Marcos (Isaac and Immanuel Holtane), who helps dad with getting the tools to repair the tractor. (2) Dom and Letty are careful whenever anyone appears on their property. (3) A surprise visit by Tej (Ludacris), Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel), and Roman (Tyrese Gibson), with the news that Mr. Nobody’s (Kurt Russell) plane was attacked by rogue agents and crashes in the jungles of Monteqinto within Central America. (4) Mia (Jordana Brewster) comes to watch young Brian, while Dom and Letty head off on the covert mission.
Over the years each chapter gets more over the top, with an ever-growing production budget filming in Russia, Brazil, Spain, Tokyo, Tbilisi, and England, while expanding its global audience footprint. The fifth installment, “Fast Five” (2011), became a personal favorite with the introduction of federal agent Hobbs played by Dwayne Johnson, who’s after outlaws Dominic, Mia, and Brian.
“Furious 7” (2015) had the biggest box office hitting $1.5 billion worldwide, nearly doubling the dollars of “Fast and Furious 6” (2013). Fans wanted to see Paul Walker’s final onscreen performance. He tragically died with a friend in a fiery high-speed car crash after leaving an event for Walker’s charity Reach Out for victims of typhoon Haiyan.
“F9: The Fast Saga” 4K Ultra HD presentation (disc & digital) includes the Theatrical Edit and Justin Lin’s Director’s Cut; it’s seven-minutes longer running just seconds under two and half hours. Lin’s behind the camera for the fifth time, opening with a flashback filmed at the half-mile stock track in Irwindale, CA, with elder Jack Toretto behind the wheel. A young Dominic (New Zealand actor Vinnie Bennett) and Jakob (English actor, Finn Cole) are part of the pit crew when they see their father’s car burst into flames after hitting the wall.
(1-3) Letty, Dom, Roman, Tej, and Ramsey arrive in Monteqinto and find the crashed plane and half of the device named Project Aries, which can hack any computer weapon system. They are pursued by a private army, which includes Dom’s long-lost brother Jakob, a former agent of Mr. Nobody, and now partner with Otto to get their hands on the Aries.
Lin provides an honest and insightful commentary after being away for several films: “It felt very organic like we’re building a film from the ground up – exploring the mythology, and introducing the brother [Jakob].” After he left to direct “Star Trek Beyond” (2016) Diesel keep calling, “I think he knew at some point we would reconnect and he kept planting seeds.” They both agreed “F9” was would be the first film showcasing the “final Toretto saga.”
The disc and digital include six featurettes. “F9: All In” is the most revealing and significant. The production had three film units shooting around the globe, with some of the most implausible, cartoon-like stunts. One action sequence takes place in Outer. Space. Crazy! Another surprise is the return of fan-favorite Han (Sung Kang) who died in “Tokyo Drift,” but appeared in the fourth, fifth, and sixth films as prequels to the third.
It also details the introduction of new characters: Otto (Thue Ersted Rasmussen), Lieutenant Sue (Martyn Ford), Queenie (Helen Mirren), Elle (Anna Sawai), and returners Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Tej (Ludacris), Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell).
The remaining extras: “Practically Fast” – shooting the majority of the stunts in-camera on location in Georgia, England, and Thailand; “Shifting Priorities” – meeting the different characters; “Justice for Han” – as Kang and Lin discuss the genesis of his return; “A Day on the set with Justin Lin” – behind the scenes with the director and “John Cena: Supercar Superfan” – who is a real-life car expert.
(1&2) Jakob Toretto (John Cena) and Otto (Thue Ersted Rasmussen) confer with cyberterrorist Cipher (Charlize Theron), who wants to start a nuclear war. (3-5) Flashback - 1991, and Dom and Jakob race for the last time. Dom makes a stipulation to his brother, if he wins, he can come back home. But, if Dom wins, Jakob has to get in his car and drive as far away as possible.
Lin and cinematographer Stephen F. Windon (“Fast Five,” “Star Trek Beyond”) captured the action on ARRIRAW 3.4K and 4.5K digital cameras (2.39:1 aspect ratio), while the flashback scenes were filmed on traditional 35mm film stock in the Super 35 format. The most disappointing element is the 2K mastering, which reduces the overall clarity. The 4K does outperform the HD versions with overall sharpness – especially in close-ups. But, wide shots are less obvious.
The 4K disc includes all three HDR formats (HDR10, Dolby Vision, and HDR10+), which seldom happens with most 4K releases. You’ll find excellent black levels and superior mid-tones and highlights, while the brightness is slightly darker. The color palette is natural showing authentic complexions of diverse cast, while the landscapes are rich with varying shades of browns, blues, and greens.
All three formats – 4K (disc, digital) and Blu-ray – include the expansive eight-channel Dolby Atmos soundtrack. Plenty of music cues from composer Brian Tyler (“Avengers: Age of Ultron,” “Thor: The Dark World”) and effects are pushed to height speakers. The dialogue is front and center. It never gets lost, while a strong bass response stokes the opening sequence. Flashes of hip-hop pulse throughout including “Fast Lane,” “Hit ‘Em Hard,” “Ride Da Night” and “Speed it Up.”
“Fast and the Furious” fans shouldn’t be disappointed, with wall-to-wall action and entertaining FUN!
— Bill Kelley III, High-Def Watch producer
(1) Dom drives a hot 1970 Dodge Charger Tantrum. (2&3) Roman and Tej arrive in Germany to meet Sean Boswell (Luke Black), who has converted a Pontiac Fiero into a rocket car. (4) Dom arrives in London and meets with old friend Queenie (Helen Mirren).
(1) The mysterious return of fan-favorite Han (Sung Kang). (2) The Toretto brothers face to face.