The Fast and the Furious
Tokyo Drift
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir Justin Lin
scr Chris Morgan
with Lucas Black, Bow Wow, Nathalie Kelley, Sung Kang, Brian Tee, Brian Goodman, JJ Sonny Chiba, Leonardo Nam, Zachery Ty Bryan, Nikki Griffin, Lynda Boyd, Vincent Laresca
release US/UK 16.Jun.06
06/US Universal 1h44

Vroom baby vroom: Black and Kelley

black bow-wow chiba

See also:
2 Fast 2 Furious (2003) FAST & FURIOUS (2008)

Tokyo Drift The vroom-vroom crew is back with only the most tenuous link to the franchise beyond babes in miniskirts and pimped-out rides. This time it's even more macho, if that's possible: a meathead movie with no subtext at all.

Sean (Black) is always in trouble for reckless driving, and after a destructive road race, he's sent to live with his dad (Goodman) in Tokyo. Of course, on his first day at school, he meets Han (Kang) and his cool underground racing gang, who teach him how to drift--basically driving sideways in a controlled skid at 200kph. But when he falls for the seductive Neela (Kelley) he incurs the wrath of her boyfriend (Tee), the reigning Drift King.

The script is breathtakingly stupid--dopey dialog, painful plot exposition, clunky storyline. The filmmakers don't even try to be subtle (Sean's dad is rebuilding a vintage Mustang; gosh, what could possibly happen there?). But the rough and wild tone keeps us watching, and the race sequences are thrillingly well shot. A nighttime mountain drift-a-long looks like vehicular ballet, and every race is imaginatively staged with loads of details and surprises, whether in a multi-story garage or on a crowded city street.

Meanwhile, the cast hold it together, creating believable characters from the thinnest of stereotypes. Black looks a decade too old to play a 17-year-old, but he's likeable enough to get away with it. What the film really lacks, though, is humour. Not to mention the campness that made the first two films so much fun. Although some off-the-scale corniness does draw a laugh or two, such as Sean's peaceful solution to a deadly mob threat: "We race!"

There are some feeble attempts to paint a veneer of meaning over the story--something about character and loyalty--but it's all just a contrivance to lead up to a redux of the final race from Grease, only on a treacherous mountain road. And two final moments put huge smiles on our faces: a genius surprise gag that I'm certainly not going to spoil here, followed by a "don't try this at home" disclaimer.

cert 12 themes, violence, language 7.Jun.06

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... Tokyo Drift Laurie T, Minneapolis: "Okay, we like our cars - and the irony is not lost that I saw this the same weekend as the Minnesota Street Rods were in town - the whole metro area traffic swollen with the addition of 10,000 plus hot rods from the 40s, 50s and 60s. I loved Fast and Furious, the 2nd was kinda okay - but really, while I won't say this movie is awful, it just ain't the first. I grew up with muscle cars and 29 cents a gallon gas - but the original is a classic, and this just did not make it, in my opinion." (10.Jul.06)

Donna R Carter, Wisconsin: "Not having watched the first two in the series, I had nothing to base this one on, so I am having to give a review based solely on how this movie stands on its own merit. It wasn't as bad as I expected it to be. The story line was rather formulaic: bad boy gets another chance, messes up again, but learns and comes through shining (as well as a few other formulas thrown in). The cars were cool, the races were gripping. Plenty of eye candy both human and automotive, but it wasn't the story line that made it. It was the races." (21.Aug.06)

copy; 2006 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall