The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift
Director: Justin Lin
Starring: Lucas Black, Bow Wow, Nathalie Kelley, Sung Kang, Sonny Chiba, Vin Diesel
I’ve got nothin’ but time
Oops, so yeah…spoiler alert…but the movie is 7 years old and 3 sequels ago.
Three years following 2 Fast 2 Furious, we get what appears to be an attempt at a reboot or a one-off. The film appears to be completely free of the universe and events of the first film until the final seconds tick down and we are given a shocking connection. This film was apparently originally written for Paul Walker to return, but when he was busy, they reworked it to have the character of Shawn Boswell. And boy, do we actually kinda wish Paul Walker was back (look what this series is doing to me! Haha).
Tokyo Drift gives us the fish out of water story of a reckless, race addicted, unlikeable kid named Shawn, who is kicked out of one too many schools and is shipped to stay with is dad in…yes…Tokyo. When in Tokyo, we get a whole lot of “What does that mean” moments to establish our plot and background. He discovers the underground world of above ground parking garage racing. Shawn meets a bunch of equally unlikable people to learn to add finesse to his speed crazy driving. He is helped by Han, the only enjoyable character in the entire film, who is killed off due to mob ties and pissing off the boss and his dad/uncle (sorry, can’t remember). To avenge Han’s death, Shawn puts the stakes to racing. Shawn wins, and in the end, through all his experience and education he has become a reckless, race addicted unlikable kid who beat the #1 racer in the parking garage. So…yeah, there’s a lot of progress made in 104 minutes.
But WAIT, as I spoiled, a massive cameo appears at the ass end of this movie. Vin “I don’t do sequels unless its Riddick and I’m done with The Fast & The Furious” Diesel shows up. He claims that Han (I remind you, the ONLY likable being in this) and him used to run together. I KNEW there was a reason I liked Han! Toretto is the person I wished the first sequel would have focused on, so I’m happy he’s here. It leaves this mediocre to bad movie on a very high note.
Getting back to Tokyo Drift, what was the point? I dunno, to keep the franchise going? It’s a pretty basic, seeing every twist and turn coming in the plot. Most of the characters are kinda dumb dumb or degrading or annoying and it’s a little tough to get on board with the cast. But, unlike the last one, it was trying to be a good film. It never spun out of control and really tried to ground itself. It also tried to flesh out its characters and let them breathe more. The only real crime against it is that it was paint buy numbers and maybe not the characters, but some of the cast they chose for this just wasn’t likable.
I’m gonna give Justin Lin a lot of credit. He was handed a steaming pile and did his best to turn it into something good. The car races are all well done and aren’t pretty like we’ve been seeing. Cars bump, cars go out of control when they’re too fast. The cars in this movie get damaged and need good driving to accompany them. Its all spelled out in a silly, ridiculous but incredibly fun to watch opening race in which Shawn takes on Tim the “Tool Man” Taylor’s son Brad in the race for a low morals self degrading woman (massive strike to scoring it with Kid Rock, though). If Lin has done one thing his predecessors haven’t, its making the races and car chases look and feel dangerous, even if we could care less for who’s in the car. There’s great potential here with him and I guess we get the chance to see it flesh out as he directs the next 3 movies after this as well.
So, three movies and this franchise and where is this franchise. The films were making money at the box office, but looking like it would soon be running fumes. As for story, there’s fancy cars and they race and get chased, but is there anything else to offer? This is almost the equivalent of a slasher franchise but with cars (please note that I LOVE slasher movies), but it comes down to who does the formula best. And sadly, the franchise just delivered its most solid all around player with Tokyo Drift, but I don’t think many people were interested. Aside from an unlikeable lead character who learns zilch in his journey through this film, this is a pretty solid film overall.
But I know what’s coming. Next time brings some excitement for me. The gang is back. However, I do realize that this is coming to fruition after all the cast members basically have no choice but to go back to this well. Will it work? Am I getting a little bit excited for something that is merely going to be slightly better than what’s come previous? We’ll see. I’m looking for anything here really. Are we done with the beating and ready to start the healing process? Justin Lin’s return is a big plus for me going in.
Next Up: Fast & Furious
Ahh, clever, take out the “The”s and its not quite the same title, but looks like a fresh new movie for those who won’t realize this is a sequel. Clever! /sarcasm