Sean Boswell (Lucas Black) always feels like an outsider, but he defines himself through his victories as a street racer. His hobby makes him unpopular with the authorities, so he goes to live with his father in Japan. Once there and even more alienated, he learns about an exciting, but dangerous, new style of the sport. The stakes are high when Sean takes on the local champion and falls for the man’s girlfriend.
After watching the first two films in the Fast and Furious franchise last week, it was clear to me that already, the series needed some new life injected into it. The first entry was quite strong and had a ton of fun moments and plus, it showed just how charismatic Paul Walker and Vin Diesel are in the roles of Brian O’Connor and Dominic Toretto respectively.
But as soon as I finished watching 2 Fast 2 Furious I knew that the series was somehow already running out of ideas. They needed to do something new. Something that’s a little bit different than what they did in the first two outings and see if it sticks. And if it did, they could apply these same elements to later movies. Justin Lin‘s The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift is exactly that kind of movie. It’s certainly a Fast and Furious movie so don’t expect Oscar-worthy filmmaking here, but what you can expect, is to have a load of fun.
The racing scenes that made the first two movies fun are back and better than ever here, and one of the reasons why they’re a lot more entertaining this time around is because of the drifting moments. I’ve always found drifting to be ridiculously fun to watch on YouTube videos. There’s just something so smooth and satisfying about seeing a car go around a corner and smoothly slide like butter across the road. It’s so hard to put into words, but it’s a sleek move that’s deeply satisfying, and there’s a ton of drifting in Tokyo Drift as one would hope.
Plus Justin Lin really knows how to make a racing scene intense. The previous installment in this franchise, 2 Fast 2 Furious, still had those amusing racing scenes, but they really weren’t all that intense. You knew the outcome of the races before they were even over, but the same can’t be said here. The races are actually intense and memorable, with the final one being a true standout and the best race of the series up to this point.
Before going into this film, I was worried that the absence of Paul Walker and Vin Diesel was going to throw me off and make it not as fun, but I was pleasantly surprised by just how much I dug these new characters.
Lucas Black does a great job in the role of Sean Boswell, who actually gets some good character development which sadly, is rare for at least the first three movies in this series. A high-school student who loves racing, he is forced to move to Tokyo with his father to avoid jail time due to his reckless driving habits. Although the film doesn’t dive deep enough into his character or his father, the film still does a pretty good job at giving us a lead protagonist that we can get behind.
Another fun new addition to the cast is Sung Kang as Han Lue, a highly charismatic and deeply mysterious character. He’s one that we don’t learn a whole lot about in this film, but the mysterious aspect of his character is one that’s fun to unravel as the film progresses.
Don’t get me wrong, Tokyo Drift still incorporates some of the dumbest tropes in the Fast and Furious franchise and it’s still a hilarious, over-the-top movie in many ways, but that’s going to be in every film in the franchise. What’s important is whether or not the filmmaker behind each entry is self-aware. Justin Lin’s Tokyo Drift is definitely self-aware and it embraces it fully. While absolutely not a perfect movie, Tokyo Drift is nevertheless a whole lot of fun.
Overall Grade: B+
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for reckless and illegal behavior involving teens, violence, language, and sexual content
Directed by: Justin Lin
Written by: Chris Morgan
Distributed by: Universal Pictures
Release Date: June 16, 2006
Running Time: 104 minutes