“It’s not the ride, it’s the rider.”
Bro, do you even drift? Only in Tokyo. Seventeen year-old Alabama teenager Sean Boswell (Lucas Black) is an outsider in the high school scene, but he doesn’t seem to care one iota. The only things he cares about? Cars, and driving them “fastly” (and furiously) in street races.
After causing an large amount of damage to property, himself, and his car during a race against the school jock, Sean is looking at serious jail time with the strong possibility of being tried as an adult. To avoid this predicament, his mother sends him to live with his father in Tokyo, Japan in hopes of keeping him away from trouble and cars. She should have done more research. In Tokyo lies an underground racing scene featuring a type of stylish but dangerous style known as drifting. It only becomes natural that Sean gets involved with it, eventually setting him on a path with the criminal underworld and Drift King (DK) of Tokyo.
The passage of time can sometimes allow for something to be looked at much differently than previously before. The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift is seen by many as the oddball of the F&F franchise; the absolute low. Before 2009, many thought it would be the last notable release before the then car-racing series went the way of straight to DVD/Blu-Ray, if continued at all. Yours truly isn’t saying that TFATFTD (or just TD) isn’t oddballish, or one of the best installments. But I am saying that it simply belongs in the franchise.
None of the F&F movies will ever win an award for best screenplay. But with that said, TD may be the most nondescript of them all. Take the teenager-with-attitude but a good-guy at heart and place him in a fish-out-of-water scenario to become a hero. Add in a humble beating from his immediate nemesis, a wise sage who teaches him what he needs to know to take down the opposition, and a love interest along with a strained father relationship. Convoluted it may sound, the story really isn’t so; it just isn’t something that is as “memorable” as the others. Even the family theme, fueling much if not all of the franchise, is barely here, which does make it feel like a completely separate, disconnected entry.
Still, Tokyo Drift does one thing as well as if not better than the rest: Racing. Under the direction of Justin Lin (Annapolis, Better Luck Tomorrow), every racing scene is a visual and thunderous celebration of speed and acceleration, and the drifting aspect does add to the races. At times, Lin himself appears to be filming as if he is on speed or crack, but his first exposure to F&F made it clear that he had the tools to do more with set pieces if given the chance. Tokyo serves as the perfect backdrop for what he wants to do as well, giving a pseudo-futuristic style to the movie’s look.
Lucky to look just enough like a late teenager is Lucas Black as the movie’s protagonist. Black is serviceable, even solid in places, but he does lack the screen presence as a whole that the other stars in F&F possess. Additionally, he has little chemistry with his co-stars, but yours truly is going to put more of that blame on his co-stars.
Probably cast more for her looks than any real ability, Nathalie Kelley is the requisite love interest of the hero as Neely, and from the first time the hero walks into school with her there, the love is forced. But, its nothing compared to an embarrassingly bad “love drive” moment narrated by her. Bow Wow makes an appearance as a character named Twinkie, and he basically sells stuff and talks with a lot of swagger because he’s supposed to be cool and the audience is supposed to think so also. Yeah. Opposing Black is Brian Tee, playing a character who evokes memories of Johnny Tran from the first. He does enough to be hated, but not remembered.
With so many average and below average characters, there is however one that gives Tokyo Drift much viewing enjoyment along with the race sequences. Sung Kang as the enigmatic Han without a doubt outshines everyone else in this flick. Not much is known about him which makes a first watch, if doing so in the order of the actual and not fictional timeline, leaving one wanting more information and backstory. Knowing the fictional timeline now, so much of what Han says carries more weight and understanding as opposed to just sounding cool and mysterious.
Years ago, it was unfathomable to think that The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift would ever link to its . Whether intentionally or just a stroke of luck (probably the latter), Justin Lin made something that actually fits into the rest of the series. All it took was a little time to realize it.
Photo credits go to imdb.com, moviehunters.com, and nerdlocker.com.
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