The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift

It should be noted that most of the characters in The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift are all supposed to be of high school age. That means that all of them, somehow or another, have acquired a fantastic amount of wealth, allowing them to purchase the super-cool cars that will draw fans to see this movie. The sad thing is that this is the part I have trouble believing. Given how ridiculous and preposterous the first two Fast and the Furious films have been so far, something must be wrong with me if this is the first thing I’m having difficulty with.

Okay, so we have these high school kids who have fancy cars and can spend all night racing them. Accept that, and you might be able to enjoy Tokyo Drift. Perhaps not, as it’s silly and lacks a real plot — what else is new considering the series’ track record? — but maybe you will. It’s said that these people go to school, and occasionally we do see them in the classroom, but that’s forgotten about at the midway point. For all intents and purposes, these characters are grownups. What is the point of making them underage?

My guess is that the filmmakers wanted to make everything they do feel riskier. You know, if a kid does it, it’ll feel more dangerous and therefore the audience will care more. My other guess is that there needs to be a bit of growing up in regards to our main character, so making him a teenager means that he shouldn’t already be that way by the start of the movie. Because adults don’t have to mature in any way once they reach the age of, say, twenty one, right?

Anyway, our high school protagonist is Sean Boswell, who has been shipped off to Japan after yet another street race. I don’t know if he won the race, as both participants ended up crashed and badly injured. He went farther, though, so let’s give it to him. In Tokyo, he is staying with his father (Brian Goodman), as that’s the only choice not named “juvie.” He’s told that street racing is a no-no, although that doesn’t stop him, as he’s back on the streets the second night in the new country.

Unfortunately, Japanese racers have a different idea of racing. In America, there aren’t a ton of tight turns, so drifting isn’t even though of. Drag races are far more common, I suppose. In Japan, everywhere is a potential track, including a parking garage. Drifting is essential, and suffice to say that Sean gets schooled in his first attempt to become the best racer ever. He crashes the car, ends up in debt to Han (Sung Kang), and basically does the same thing that Paul walker’s character did in the first film, except without an ulterior motive.

I’ll admit that all of this drifting looks cool the very first time you see it. That first race, the one that takes place in a parking garage, is a lot of fun. Seeing the opponent and main villain, Takashi (Brian Tee) just barely miss each wall as he zooms around the corner is exhilarating and I was looking forward to seeing more drifting as the film progressed. I was also looking forward to the montage of failed drift attempts by our main character, but that’s beside the point.

Problematically, too much of anything will make it seem less impressive, and the same is true of drifting. When the cars are drifting with every lane change, you know something’s gone wrong. There’s no way anyone would drive like that; it’s just not smart. Unlike in Mario Kart, there’s no magical boost gained from snaking like that. I started laughing at what was supposed to be a very intense scene, and realized that Tokyo Drift had come off the rails. One could say it drifted astray, but one could also be shot for stupid puns.

The plot ends up being familiar and stupid, with silly being the side dish. That’s par for the course in this franchise thus far, and I’m kind of glad that they’re not actually trying to be serious. Still, the obligatory love side plot could have been excluded without much of a problem, and that would’ve trimmed 10 minutes off the running time, which would have helped the pacing. Do we really need to see a jealous boyfriend show up to beat up a guy … twice? No we don’t.

I was happy to see that the action scenes looked more realistic this time around, which was the biggest issue I took with 2 Fast 2 Furious. Instead of looking as if the actors were superimposed onto cars that were nowhere near them, I actually believed that these people were driving these cars. They probably weren’t, but through the magic of competent filmmaking, I bought into them being able to. The actors don’t sell it as much as you might like, but since the filmmakers made it look so real, it didn’t matter.

The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift is a spinoff film. It features none of the cast of the first two films — except for a last-minute, uncredited cameo that’s sadly the film’s highlight — and it ultimately inconsequential. Is the drifting fun? At first, sure it is. It’s used too frequently to stay that way, but at first, it was pretty cool. Some of the chase scenes are still fun, and I can’t say I was frequently bored, but this is just another Fast and the Furious film. Everything you expect is there, and everything previously absent still is.

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