The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006) / Action-Thriller

MPAA Rated: PG-13 for violence, language, and sexual content
Running Time: 104 min.

Cast: Lucas Black, Brian Tee, Bow Wow, Nathalie Kelley, Sung Kang, Brian Goodman, Sonny Chiba, Vin Diesel (cameo), Keiichi Tsuchiya (cameo)
Director: Justin Lin
Screenplay: Alfredo Botello, Chris Morgan, Kario Salem
Review published June 22, 2006

The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift is more of a spin-off than a sequel, with wholly different characters and storyline than the previous two films in the series, The Fast and the Furious and 2 Fast 2 Furious.  It's difficult to notice, really, since new lead Lucas Black (Jarhead, Friday Night Lights) resembles the star of the other two films, Paul Walker, as well as the film following the same basic plot revolving around the arena of street racing.  Despite the fact that the F&F films have been only marginally entertaining at best, they have been quite lucrative for Universal, and there seems no reason for them to stop making them, since they can make them for the cost of a bunch of no-name actors and several dozen cars. 

Of course, this begs the question as to why people would ever really need to see a new Fast and Furious film when we've seen nearly all there is to see in terms of hot cars, hot women, and quick-cut street racing action.  The makers of Tokyo Drift know that there needs to be a new hook to distinguish it, so they've chosen to change the nature of the race to include the popular new style called "drifting", whereby the cars are "oversteered" through hairpin turns, with the back wheels seeming to glide further than the front.  It's a style that had been popular in the mountainous roads of Japan for a couple of decades, although it has caught on in many other countries within recent years.

Tokyo Drift has a very contrived storyline where American high-school hot-dog Sean Boswell has been gotten himself in trouble with the law for the third time for reckless driving while engaged in drag racing, and in order to avoid certain jail time, he consents to leave the country to live with his estranged, career-Navy father (Brian Goodman, Annapolis), currently residing in Tokyo, Japan.  With the language barrier and all-American attitude, Sean is an instant and obvious "gaijin", or outsider, but he makes some fast friends with another American guy named Twinkie (Bow Wow, Johnson Family Vacation), who quickly introduces him to the world of Japanese street racing. 

Sean thinks he knows all there is to know about racing cars, so he goes in head first in challenging the local bad-ass knows as "D.K." (Drift King, played by Brian Tee) to a race on his own terms and turf.  However, the race involves drifting, which is a style completely foreign to Sean, and he makes a fool of himself, as well as becoming indebted to the newly destroyed car's owner, Han (Sung Kang, Better Luck Tomorrow).  To pay Han back, he has to do all sorts of odd jobs around Tokyo, but in return, Han teaches him more about how to drift, which he plans to use to gain certain glory, as well as to vie for the hand of D.K.'s hot babe of a girlfriend, Neela (Nathalie Kelley).

Tokyo Drift falls under the category of movie that I like to call "car porn".  The scenes of street racing are akin to sex in a regular porn film, and like any porn film, the plot is only a means to contrive more scenes of sex.  On this level, car porn enthusiasts will get everything they seek here, getting all hot and bothered gawking at all the fancy new rides and pimped-out gear, all shiny and sleek enough to give any street racing fan a proverbial erection.  In other words, the "good stuff" is here, so get your tissues and lotion ready, F&F fans.

However, like any porn film, the movie takes a dip in interest whenever they get back into story mode, with a clichéd plot that mixes several other genres of movie, including the outsider in a new school, the family underworld gangster bit, and the underdog upshot competing in a competition for the interest of the bad guy's best girl.  Every single piece of the non-racing puzzle is wholly lifted from other, better films, leaving little to be interested in for those that have seen similar fare dozens of times over. 

Tokyo Drift didn't really offend me, as I knew what to expect, and it met my expectations.  Fans of the first two films that enjoyed them for the great racing scenes will probably be content with the film, and might even like this one more if they prefer the cars and drifting style of the racing.  However, I see the appeal as limited to this audience only, as the first two films had something which Tokyo Drift lacks -- the hunk factor.  The female audience that primarily were drawn to see eye-candy men like Walker, Diesel and Tyrese strut their macho stuff, often without a shirt, will probably not care enough to see Walker-wannabe Lucas Black and comic relief cute, Bow Wow, especially as the film is mostly chaste from a romance point of view.  This one's strictly for the car nuts, as well as those that enjoy mindless action films.  For everyone else, Tokyo Drift is so vacant from good drama or interesting new developments, it will make you want to drift, drift, drift right into a sound sleep.

- Followed by Fast & Furious

Qwipster's rating:

©2006 Vince Leo