Any movie franchise, when it goes on long enough, will have its rough spots. For the Fast & The Furious franchise, Tokyo Drift is that film – or potentially the first of those.
First off, the film changes a lot from the previous two films. Our protagonists are no longer adults, but High Schoolers. Paul Walker is nowhere in sight, and the Point Break dynamic is gone with it. Instead, we have Sean Boswell (Lucas Black) who we are introduced to when he’s provoked into a race with a jock classmate. Sean wins the fight, but both cars are totaled in the process. The Jock gets off free, while Sean, to avoid jail, is sent to live with his estranged father, a US Navy officer living in Tokyo.
Then, along with fellow emigre “Twinkie” (Bow Wow), Sean is introduced into the (shockingly Eurobeat free) world of Drift Racing. After a disasterous first outing, Sean is taken under the wing of Han (Sung Kang), who is the business partner of Takashi (Brian Tee), with the two doing some loan sharking and collections for Takashi’s uncle, Kamata (Sonny Chiba). Takashi also races and is known as the “Drift King”.
Ultimately, Sean ends up in conflict with Taksashi over his girlfriend, Neela (Nathalie Kelly), and over Han skimming money.
As with the firrst two films, the stunts are incredibly well done and, with a handful of exceptions, practical. That said, the main problem with the film, one which makes some of the practical stunts, unfortunately, look fake, is the transitions. The film likes to do a hyper-zoom effect – where the camera starts to zoom before doing a blur transition to a second, closer shot – with the blur masking a cut. It’s an effect that’s very much a 2000s thing, and it is jarring. It really throws me out of the film whenever it’s used. That said, it’s not just a Justin Lin thing – it’s a general 2000s thing, so I can’t exactly fault him for it.
There is a little exoticization in the film of Japan. Stuff like viewing elements of Japanese fashion as somewhat weird and strange. It’s not called out as such, but there’s just enough dwelling on it early on where that, plus the protagonist being a white guy, makes it a little rough. That said, having an Asian director at the helm does help blunt that, as there is that sense of being aware what he’s doing with this. That it’s more fish out of water stuff than an exoticization and fetishization. That said, some of the soundtrack pieces undercut that. The title track, a collaboration between the Teriyaki Boyz (a Japanese rap supergroup manufactured by Def Jam, which makes me wonder who came up with the name – the group or some executive at Def Jam) and Pharell, doesn’t help.
I did enjoy the film, and am looking forward to going down to the rest of the Fast Franchise’s journey into absurdity.
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