Directed by Justin Lin
Written by Chris Morgan
Ok, so now I’m confused a little bit. So after the success of The Fast and the Furious, we follow up with a sequel without the best character in the original, and after the sequel, we get another installment which features, wait for it, NONE of the cast from the original! There are some very interesting conversation to have surrounding this decision and ultimately this film specifically. First, do we give the producers credit for planning this out, Avengers Assemble style, or not? I could get behind a style of here are some characters, here are some others, HERE THEY ARE ALL TOGETHER! But something tells me this isn’t the case. So another benefit of the doubt alternative is that the producers found fans like to see the cars and racing, and turned to Japan and a different style of racing, drifting, to titillate the fans. That’s a fun approach and more likely the case for explaining how we ended up with The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift as the third in the series. But that doesn’t save its quality.
Sean Boswell (Lucas Boswell) is an army brat who has found himself moving around from town to town, but not because of his dad, but because he gets in trouble in every city he and his mother go to. When he finally reaches the final straw, his mother ships him off to Tokyo to live with his dad, but there he quickly befriends Twinkie (Bow Wow) and gets involved in the drift racing scene. He makes quick rivals with the “Drift King” (Brian Tee), even flirting with his girlfriend Neela (Nathalie Kelley). Stubborn to be a winner, Sean gets help on his driving from Han (Sung Kang), and soon tensions mount between he and DK that will settle the score once and for all.
So much to talk about for this movie, including how it ultimately fits into the franchise, but I will reserve that conversation. Let’s turn instead to the film itself and its merits. To start, Lucas Black is even worse than Paul Walker. What a rather horrid performance. It’s not believable for a second, and even the character of Sean is unsympathetic. The franchise makes its money off telling stories of anti-heroes, but with Sean, he isn’t even cool enough to root for, he’s just annoying. He wants to win for his ego, he shows no real passion or sympathy for others (including wrecking someone else’s car after first meeting them). Black’s performance does nothing to help these issues, and ultimately the movie is sunk because of it. With no true central character to root for, the movie ends up lost, with no stakes to care about.
The one saving grace is Han, who is played magnificently by Sung Kang. His character is interesting, has a good backstory, is sympathetic, and even more, Kang gives a good performance. But as a secondary character, he’s never able to save the movie from itself. What is interesting is the driving. The idea of drift driving is completely new and different from the 10 second, 1/4 mile drag racing from the first movie, and the getaway driving featured in the second. The way Justin Lin shoots these racing scenes is fast, slick, and exciting. These moments were the only ones where I found myself truly invested in the film. As soon as the brakes were pressed on the cars, and we are returned to Lucas Black talking, all was lost.
I would say I am interested to see where they go with the series after this, but having seen the next three films (I think) I know we eventually return to our heroes. But without remembering the specific details, I will be interested to see where we pick up and how any of the previous two films will ultimately tie in to the larger series. When all is said and done, I can’t imagine there being more of an outlier from the series than The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift. While I really didn’t like the experience of this film, I can appreciate the potential intent of it, highlighting a new geographic location, and a new style of driving. It definitely delivers on the excitement of the racing, and Justin Lin’s potential is truly unlocked there, which is good considering his extensive involvement in the series moving forward. Here’s to greener pastures ahead!