The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift
Directed by Justin Lin. Starring Lucas Black, Nathalie Kelley, Sung Kang, Bow Wow. (2006, PG-13, 104 min.)
REVIEWED By Brian Clark, Fri., June 16, 2006
The third installment in this flashy, wildly successful franchise opens with a bravura demolition derby through a developing suburban neighborhood. As cars barrel through half-built houses while rap-rock blares over the film's bone-crushing sound design, it's easy to feel the testosterone-fueled adrenaline buzz that made the first film a hit. Granted, the sequence is implausible, overblown, poorly written, and a bit misogynistic, but anyone buying a ticket to the third Fast and Furious film should be ready for all of that. Unfortunately, the rest of the film will likely disappoint even diehard fans as it plods through worthless characterization and mediocre race sequences, then fizzles without ever approaching the audacious energy of the introduction. Lucas Black (Friday Night Lights) takes the driver's seat this time as Sean Boswell, a racing enthusiast who joins his estranged father in Japan to dodge the numerous legal repercussions of his suburban joyride. Once in Tokyo, he quickly becomes entrenched in the city's racing underworld, which, as it turns out, holds close ties with the yakuza. But the organized-crime subplot proves inconsequential; the film's focus is racing and, more specifically, drifting, a technique that involves fishtailing around sharp corners or, in some cases, spiral parking garage ramps. It's a pretty neat trick. Soon though, the novelty wears off, and director Lin (who previously helmed the bold but shallow teen thriller Better Luck Tomorrow and the universally panned Annapolis) offers nothing to up the ante. Perhaps sensing this problem, Lin spends much of the film's second act developing Boswell's friendships and rivalries during his adjustment to the new locale. These long detours take him to a number of glitzy nightclubs and equally glitzy garages with plenty of beautiful women, but they kill the pacing of the film. Worse, Boswell is possibly the dumbest, least charming protagonist to ever grace this sort of film. He speaks exclusively in cliché fragments, which Black delivers like a casting reject from Varsity Blues on downers. And, with the exception of actor Sung Kang, who lends a bit of enigmatic charm to his equally awful lines, Boswell's friends aren't much fun either. But I digress. For all functional purposes, Boswell shouldnâ€™t even be talking to his friends. He should be racing! For the third entry in a series known for its excess, Tokyo Drift includes surprisingly few destructive driving spectacles. Also, sans the opening scene and an early drifting race through a parking garage, Lin shows almost no imagination when directing the spurts of automobile mayhem. To his credit, he uses minimal CGI, but every race still amounts to a series of hyper-fast cuts that never gives the audience a chance to situate itself in the action. And of course, it's all shot like a car commercial. Racing junkies would be better off browsing the myriad online drifting videos where the camera doesn't cut and the people don't speak. Film buffs would be better off watching Two-Lane Blacktop, but they probably already knew that.