The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006)

(In theaters, June 2006) There’s something about this series, I don’t know what, that hits all of the buttons that come pre-installed with the Y chromosome. I’m no car freak, and yet plunk me in front of a The Fast And The Furious instalment and watch me cheer over the hot cars, the race sequences and the kissing girls. (It’s not a Fast And Furious film if there are no kissing girls.) Here, the action takes us to Japan, a move that plays heavily on the cultural dissonance and the most outrageous aspects of Tokyo culture. Here, drift-racing clubs take on the air of an cosplay convention and some movie-magic transforms drifting from a tire-squealing risky manoeuvre to a romantic, even heroic endeavour. The film makes no sense, of course, but that scarcely matters once the action has begun. Yup, the hero is a moron; sure, he looks twenty-five; no, he couldn’t have done all of that without being Pearl-Haboured by the Yasuka. But who cares: There are cars, there are girls (whoo, Nathalie Kelley), there are races and there is plenty of fun. As a B-movie, it’s remarkably successful… and it’s even better than 2 Fast 2 Furious.

(Second viewing, On DVD, July 2007) A year later, this film holds up surprisingly well. Yes, the cars and the action scenes are still the only reason to see the film: The emphasis on drifting makes it feel fresh and original, and the script knows how to vary the thrills of the action sequences. On the other hand, well, the script is still as bland as it was in theatres, with too many incoherences to count and a final act that really misses Sung Kang as the film’s most intriguing character. But what makes the film hold together even as other cheap teen action films fade away is the unusual Tokyo setting, the rapid pacing and the go-for-broke modernity of the atmosphere where reggeaton, a southern white boy, a latina girl and American hip-hop all mix joyously in a Japanese setting. It almost makes one hopeful for the future of the younger generations. In the meantime, there’s still the cars, the girls and the terrific soundtrack to enjoy.

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