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The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006) October 17, 2007

Posted by gproject in : Recently Viewed , trackback

Directed by: Justin Lin

The Fast and the Furious franchise has always baffled me slightly in terms of its continuing popularity and if there’s a more knowingly teen-male-targeted movie out there, I’m yet to see it.  After a mildly enjoyable first film we were forced to endure the significantly weaker sequel with a name so full of txt-speak that nobody over 25 could decipher it (or under 25 for that matter – what could ‘Too Fast Too Furious’ even mean?).  Now it’s back, but this time transported to Japan and with none of the original cast or characters.  Futile doesn’t even begin to describe it.

Sean Boswell (Lucas Black) is a rebellious high school kid who is sent to live with his estranged father in Japan after his street racing addiction gets him into trouble in the US.  Once there he quickly finds his way into a new kind of underground racing circuit: drift racing – a highly skilled variety of driving that takes place illegally in Tokyo.  Sean’s nature means he quickly makes a rival of expert drifter DK (Brian Tee), whose links to the Japanese mafia make him a dangerous foe.  But Sean also finds a crew of his own, headed by DK’s partner Han (Sung Kang), where he learns to drift so that he may take on his rival and maybe win the heart of the beautiful Neela (Nathalie Kelley) at the same time.

Right from the off we’re introduced to the two main elements of this plot: wild stereotypes and completely unrealistic situations.  The set-up itself involves the classic high school jock racing the kid from the wrong side of the tracks, while I find it rather convenient that a car enthusiast could move half way around the world and then manage to find himself in the centre of a giant car ‘meet’ within 24 hours.  It goes on and on like this: with apparently every high school kid in Tokyo driving a car that they probably couldn’t afford if they combined their savings, and of course, there’s always someone with a link to the Yakuza – this is Japan after all!

The most annoying detail however is actually in the title: I know it’s called Tokyo Drift and everything, but did they really have to talk about ‘drifting’ quite so much?  According to this movie, if you go to high school in Japan then all you live for is the art of drifting a car round corners – no other driving techniques have made it out there yet.  Characters talk about drifting, they argue about drifting, your ability to drift is the social currency and one girl even reminisces about drifting with her friends when she was younger.  It’s practically parody at times and words alone cannot emphasise how ridiculous and grating it becomes.

With all the above evidence it’s quite easy to conclude that the plot is totally lazy and will allow anything to happen in order to advance the story where it needs to go.  The final showdown between Sean and DK is laugh out loud stupid as Sean goes to a member of the Japanese mob to propose, not a truce, but a race (which mostly consists of drifting, obviously) in probably the writer’s clearest admittance of an “I don’t care” attitude.  Even the characterisation is bad, with an unconvincing romantic thread and a main character who, forced with the decision about behaving himself or being sent home to prison, chooses to keep recklessly driving and picking fights for no other discernable reason than: he’s an idiot.

There may be something to enjoy in the cinematography, although it’s mostly so fast that you really don’t get a chance to take it in.  Some reliance on CG to create the more demanding shots also left me slightly cold as it does nothing we haven’t seen before.  And if you’re a fan who argues that all of this doesn’t matter because the Fast and the Furious movies are all about the cars, then prepare to be disappointed further, as this film doesn’t really focus on the cars in the same way as previous outings.  Sure, they’re there, but show little detail for real car enthusiasts to take in – just lights and decals for the easily distracted teenage mind.

All this negativity and I haven’t even mentioned Lucas Black’s rocky performance, or the painful final moments as the film tries to forge a link with its previous instalments  - it doesn’t work, the link is tenuous at best, and it all comes way too late.  It’s blindingly clear that this is a generic racing movie that has had ‘The Fast and the Furious’ tagged onto it in order to sell some tickets which, unfortunately, is a marketing tactic that almost certainly worked.  There’s nothing redeeming about this vapid throttle-fest though, as plot, characters and even the moral implication of glamorizing street racing are glossed over by the bright sparkle of headlights against the Tokyo skyline.  Please let this be it: 4 Fast 4 Furious, we don’t need.


1. shawnduhast - May 14, 2009

So did you like this or not?
I wasn’t quite sure…
Please be a bit more direct and forthright in your opinions next time ;-)

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