The Plot: Remember back in 2006, when drifting was all the rage? You’d be driving to the grocery, come back home, rev the engine as you pulled the e-brake and slide sideways into the driveway? No? Well, you must not have been living in Tokyo, where apparently this kind of thing happened all the time. The third installment of the Fast and Furious franchise lands us in the land of the rising sun, where teen Sean Boswell (Lucas Black) has been shipped off to live with his father who is stationed there in the Navy (he wears “Navy” t-shirts all the time to remind us of that). Sean, who could be described as being from the wrong side of the tracks, has been exiled to Japan after competing in a street race with a kid from the correct side of the tracks that goes spectacularly wrong.
Side Note: YES! THAT IS THE KID FROM “SLING BLADE”! OMG! HE’S NOT CUTE ANYMORE!
Told in no uncertain terms that he is to stay far away from cars and racing in any way, shape or form, Sean is immediately drawn into the underground street racing scene (not a bad trick for someone with no working knowledge of Japanese, but the kids obligingly speak English). Instead of going fast in a straight line, however, racers in Toyko “drift,” or slide around corners sideways. One reason for this, most likely, is that Toyko is shown in this film as a overcrowded craphole. He’s led to this new hobby by Twinkie (Bow Wow, formerly Li’l Bow Wow), and soon fulfills one of the “F&F” themes by falling for the bad guy’s girl, Neela (Nathalie Kelley, no relation to Futurama’s Neela, because that would be weird).
Sean finds himself in a race for honor with local tuff Takashi (Brian Tee), who’s uncle is in the Yakusa, or Japanese mafia. Turns out that drifting is a different animal from just driving really fast in a straight line, because Sean immediately wrecks the car loaned to him by Han (Sung Kang), one of Takashi, business associates. Why did he loan a total stranger with no proven skills an insanely expensive car to destroy? Because these cars must grow on trees somewhere.
Anyway, Han takes Sean under his wing to teach him the ways of the Japanese underground. Will he find his way in this strange land? Will Sean get the girl? Will good triumph over evil at breakneck speeds?
Spoilers: Yes. Kinda (You get the feeling the guys in these films are more comfortable with cars than women). Kinda (It’s all about the drift, not the speed).
Thoughts on The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift:
• If a girl ever goads you into an ill-advised contest by saying “the winner gets … me,” there’s a name for that, and it’s isn’t (or shouldn’t be) the future Mrs. (your name here).
• The first 10 minutes of this film kind of play out like one of those cautionary driver’s ed films – “Don’t Race for Skank.”
• Since speed isn’t the determining factor in drifting, as I understand it, there’s only one time that nitrous oxide is used, and it really just feels like fan service the way it’s used here.
• The Billy Bob Thorntonless Lucas Black in this film plays a young man with very little impulse control (he’s both fast AND furious), but the most troubling thing is that he has a deep, deep Alabama accent, and neither of his parents do.
• There are language barriers in this film, to be sure (although not as many as there really should have been), but apparently mini-skirts are the universal language.
• This film is a departure by having a completely new set of characters (with the exception of a cameo at the end that links it to the “F&F” universe). It’s kind of like the Halloween films, in that the third had no Michael Myers in it (neither the killer nor the Wayne’s World guy).
• Takashi’s uncle with the mob ties is played by Sonny Chiba. I should probably watch some Sonny Chiba films. I’ve heard he was quite the badass in his day.