"Furious" face-offs: Fast cars, sex and testosterone in Japan -- got story? Film Review: "The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift"

By Omar P.L. Moore/June 13, 2006


                 Speed demons, sexy sirens and testosterone face-offs: these are the ingredients of Justin Lin's "The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift", the second sequel in the series.
                                                                                                                                    (All photos: Sidney Baldwin)

Justin Lin's third feature is a godsend to attention-challenged beings everywhere, as the title of this film speaks precisely as to its content.  It is fast -- images barely registering in the mind and the eye before being snatched away by edits of new ones -- and it is furious -- both in sound (screeching car tires burning rubber), and in the temperament of one D.K. (Brian Tee) the king of the drifters -- who is furious that a gaijin ("outsider") like Sean (Lucas Black) has the temerity to fall for his girlfriend Neela (Nathalie Kelley). 

Welcome to the world of "The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift".

The film is like a car wreck -- you know you shouldn't look but can't pull your eyes off it, but in this case that's only because it is faintly amusing or ridiculous (depending on your perspective) to watch two men strutting like peacocks in their cars in order to impress the scantily clad eye candy that is the women who sport ample cleavage and wear next to nothing.  Mr. Lin's film plays more like a spaghetti western on wheels than an action drama.  When Sean and D.K. (aka the "Drift King") square off in a face-off (see the third photo above), they appear more likely to smile and kiss each other than mean serious business.  They will soon drive around the most dangerous roads in Japan to resolve their little testosterone issue.

Nothing has to make sense in "Tokyo Drift", the second sequel and third film in the "Fast and Furious" series, as long as it looks appealing.  Fast cars and drift style equals fast access to women.  Essentially that's your story.  As Hollywood films go, and have gone for years, that's nothing new.  Repeat: nothing has to make sense.  Sean, an Alabama guy who in a previous race has already failed to win the affections and company of a blonde-haired American rich girl who looks like a Barbie doll, where the winner gets "me" -- her words -- has to escape a jail sentence, so he arrives many thousands of miles away in Japan to stay out of trouble -- and attempt to win the affections and company of D.K.'s girlfriend Neela (middle picture above).  D.K. is in with the Japanese Yakuza and does business for them.  Why would Sean want to get anywhere near this kind of situation?  Han (Sung Kang), an American expatriate now at home in Tokyo, says to Sean, "why don't you get yourself a nice Japanese girl, like all the other white guys around here?"  That suggestion, an observation and commentary on a particular social interracial dating pattern, falls on deaf ears, and Sean complicates things for himself, naturally doing things the hard way.  At one point he says, "it's not the ride, it's the rider."

     Director Justin Lin on set; Bow Wow, the hip-hop artist, makes his debut in an action drama role -- he plays Twinkie, the best buddy of Sean, in "The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift."

Mr. Lin's film is not the vehicle for anyone who wants a movie that is coherent. 

Near the end, Sonny Chiba, the veteran Hong Kong legend, appears as the Yakuza boss, but is great talent is wasted in as a gimmick rather than as any statement to authenticate the film as an effort in serious drama.  At the very end however, there is another presence which much of the audience will welcome.

As for the actors: hip-hop music artist Bow Wow in his first dramatic role, plays Twinkie, a charismatic salesman who has wowed the young Japanese students into buying his products at a cut rate price but who himself sometimes pays the price for the products he sells.  Brian Goodman as Sean's estranged father, a military man who is no-nonsense, does his job well, but belongs to a different movie.  Predictably, it is only a matter of time before the strict disciplinarian act wears thin on Sean.  Brian Tee snarls his way through this film as the Drift King, as does Lucas Black.  As Sean, Mr. Black likes to scowl plenty.  He drawls too.  For some reason in this film he resembles the former National Football League quarterback Troy Aikman and sometimes looks like the Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning.  As for Neela, played by the beautiful Nathalie Kelley, as D.K.'s girlfriend, her character sees disinterested early on, as if she'd rather be with anyone but D.K., so it is not surprising when her loyalties shift.  It is only a matter of time before it does.  Ms. Kelley makes her film debut here.  Born in Peru and raised in Australia, she is luminous and gorgeously attractive.  As the saying goes, the camera loves her.

There has already been a summer film that focuses its attention on cars, but this second film focuses on loud music, screeching cars, and on women who look more at home at Hugh Hefner's mansion than on a car-racing field.  Mr. Lin, who directed the intriguing and strong debut film "Better Luck Tomorrow" which featured Mr. Kang, expands his horizons with his first big-budget Hollywood effort.  It is not that Mr. Lin doesn't competently hold his own, it's just that the absence of a credible story speaks volumes and Mr. Lin deserves better.  Better luck tomorrow, Mr. Lin -- you will go on to fight another day.  There are movie projects which Mr. Lin is working on and has completed that will make the memory of this film go away nearly as fast as the sleek red-hot cars that roar down the streets of Tokyo.

Copyright 2006.  All Rights Reserved.




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