THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS: TOKYO DRIFT (Justin Lin, 2006)
THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS franchise continues, but for TOKYO DRIFT it’ll have to do with a new cast and a move overseas. Lucas Black stars as Shawn Boswell, a road racer whose reckless driving has forced him and his mother to pick up and move where the local authorities don’t know him. Old habits die hard, though, and Shawn gets in a particularly destructive and dangerous race that results in his mother sending him to Japan to live with his long-absent Navy father. Although warned to stay away from cars, Shawn finds an underground group that specializes in a sliding technique known as drifting.
The car racing and stunts in THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS: TOKYO DRIFT are well executed and exciting in part from the sheer force of the soundtrack. Revving engines, squealing tires, and pounding music attack the eardrums. With its glittering pachinko parlors and active night life, Tokyo is a terrific new location for THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS. A chase through the downtown streets and a massive pedestrian crossing is thrilling stuff.
The third time around for THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS finds the franchise spinning its tires. Characterization isn’t the strong suit of this series of films, but then again, the key players are the autos, not the actors. Still, something has to hold together the scenes between the vehicle showcases. Shawn’s parental issues and cultural assimilation struggles are barely addressed, leaving Black with little to do. Bow Wow is underutilized as Twinkie, his military brat buddy with an emasculating name. The crime angle is typically the least interesting aspect of these films, and the yakuza subplot feels tacked on.