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Review: The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006)

The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006)  

Directed by: Justin Lin

Premise: The third film in The Fast and the Furious franchise. After destroying his car and private property in a drag race, high school troublemaker Shawn (Lucas Black) travels to Japan to stay with his father (Brian Goodman) to avoid prison. Upon arriving he gets involved in Tokyo’s underground racing scene.

What Works: Compared to the other two installments, Tokyo Drift is something of a step up in the storytelling for this franchise. Where the lead characters of the first film were obnoxious and the plot of the second film was just inane, this film is comparatively coherent and engaging.

What Doesn’t: While it succeeds in ways that its predecessors failed, Tokyo Drift is still a highly troubled movie. The script introduces characters but does very little with them and every one of the characters, from Black’s white trash American, to Bow Wow’s hip conman, to Goodman’s Navy father, to Nathalie Kelley’s trophy female, to Brian Tee’s posturing, would-be gangster, are all just shallow stereotypes. There is a protracted racing sequence about every fifteen minutes and very little is accomplished in them. Moreover, the racing sequences are shot and edited in such a way that the action is very difficult to discern. Most of the scenes in the film, especially in the second act, could be rearranged in any order and it would not affect the narrative. The relationship between Shawn and his father is entirely wasted. Most bothersome is the film’s decision to locate in Japan. It makes no difference to the story if it had been set in Tokyo, Los Angeles, Miami, or Mankato. The only element of the setting that the film uses are large numbers of female Asian models in miniskirts (Incidentally, Tokyo Drift may set a record for the largest number of Asian models used in a single film). This is a very troubling element because it goes beyond mere female objectification and drifts into exploitation of the exotic other.

Bottom Line: While it is better than the other two installments, The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift is still not a very good movie. People who actually enjoyed the other two films will probably like this one too, but those who demand narrative competence from their films will not find anything worthwhile here.

Episode:#101 (June 18, 2006)