Welcome back Beardlings! Today we’ve got the next entry in the Better Late Than Never Movie Review series and up next is “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift”, the third film in the “Fast and Furious” franchise. Now, full disclosure, pretty much everyone I told about this little project said that I could just straight up skip this one and pretend it didn’t exist. There was one guy who didn’t, he actually said it was his favorite. When I pressed him on it, he conceded that “oh no it’s a shit movie but I love the cars”…… He’s a car guy. A big car guy. I go to him for car advice, he comes to me for movie recommendations – it works. Needless to say I had some reservations about this one but I was still gonna watch it because to do a marathon right, you have to take the good with the bad – Right Star Wars fans? (*sigh*)
Now as I said in my review of “2 Fast 2 Furious”, having only one main cast member return for a sequel raises major red flags with me and the is even more so when NO main cast members return for the second sequel as is the case with “Tokyo Drift” – that plus people warning me away from watching this had me fearing the worst but honestly while it’s not great…. it’s not God-awful.
Let’s kick it off with the story. The plot of “Tokyo Drift” drifts (HA puns….) pretty far away from what we were given in the first two “Fast and Furious” movies. Instead of a cop/ex-cop Brian O’Conner using his driving skills to infiltrate and bring down criminal organizations, we have troubled teenager Sean Boswell who can’t keep out from behind the wheel of a car and eventually get’s himself shipped out to his estranged Navy father in Tokyo, Japan. That change, in and of itself, already set’s this movie apart from the rest of the series or at least the ones that I am familiar with.
The rest of the plot is pretty formulaic – new kid doesn’t fit in (white boy in Japan), tries to fit in with the cool kids only to get rejected (Sean finds an underground racing group and completely fails his first race because he doesn’t know how to drift), one of the “cool kids” (Han – more on him in a bit) decides to take him in and show him the ropes (how to drift), new kid falls for the ringleaders (wannabe Yakuza) girlfriend and trouble ensues (Sean gets his ass beat), new kid learns how to be a part of the cool kids (learns, nay, excels at drifting after a classic ‘learning montage), new kid is eventually forced to challenge the ringleader (challenge him to a drifting race on a mountain where ringleader has never lost before), and after all his new found friends rally around him, new kid manages the impossible and beats ringleader (Sean narrowly defeats wannabe Yakuza) and gets the girl. It’s a story we’ve seen an many a teen movie and honestly this movie felt very “high school” at times and suffered because of it.
As far as characters go, again, they are pretty formulaic. We have Sean played by Lucas Black of “NCIS: New Orleans” fame (fame? sure, let’s go with that) who is pretty flat in this movie and seems a lot like his NCIS character to be frank (yea I watch all three NCIS shows, whatever…). Next up is the love interest that is at the center of one of the main conflicts played by Nathalie Keeley who doesn’t really have much to do other than facilitate the conflict between Sean and DK (the aforementioned Yakuza wannabe). She is the classic girl character that is taken for granted by her current beau and feels a connection with the newcomer because they have more in common with each other – in this case they are both gaijin or outsiders. As flat and plug-n-play as the character is, Neela does get a pretty good and strangely beautiful scene while they are driving on the mountain road that will serve as the race track for the final sequence. She is leading a caravan of fellow drift drivers along through the curves at night and the almost dance like stunt driving combined with a rather serene piece of music makes for a moment in this film that caught me off guard.
Bow Wow also plays a character in this movie. I’ll leave it at that.
DK, Yakuza wannabe, is played pretty well by Brian Tee. Again, his character is a bit formulaic but I think Tee pulls it off well. DK’s uncle is a real Yakuza boss and DK is trying to follow in his footsteps only to be taken down by his uncle, newcomer Sean, and his own hubris. Fairly standard tragic character but you do kind of feel for him especially in the scenes where he get’s cut off at the knees by his uncle.
Lastly we have Han played by Sung Kang. Han is probably my favorite character in “Tokyo Drift”. Kang gives him that little bit of charm that characters like Brian and Rome had in “2 Fast 2 Furious” that was honestly absent from the rest of the cast. Han is part of DKs crew but also not really a part of it. He hangs out with DK but doesn’t really want any part of the Yakuza world or care about the money that comes with it. He values trustworthiness and character above the false bravado of being in a gang. I guess this is a SPOILER for an eleven year old movie but Han, seemingly, dies in a car wreck at the end of the second act of the movie which was quite shocking to me. With the impending release of “The Fate of the Furious” and more sequels coming, I saw a headline about a rumor that Han could return to the franchise in the ninth installment. About half way through the movie, I was totally on board with that as I saw Han as the only character from “Tokyo Drift”, a largely stand alone film in the series, that could fit right in with the character we already know. I don’t know if Han shows up in movies 4-7 and I don’t want to look it up because if he does I’d rather be surprised.
At the very end of the movie, we get a cameo by Vin Diesel which is really the only thing that lets you know that this is a “Fast and Furious” movie past the title. It’s a nice little nod to the fans and I guess was enough to keep the franchise alive to get to the next movie.
All in all, “Tokyo Drift” is a paint by numbers three-quel with little to link it to the rest of the series. I can definitely see why people would skip this entry during a marathon or at least make it the movie that you don’t feel the need to pause when you have to pee, get a fresh beer, or answer the door for the pizza guy.
What did y’all think of “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift”? Did you hate it? Did you like it? Do you even remember it? Let me know in the comments below!
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Until next time, Thank You for reading and…..