Tokyo Drift
I think there’s something wrong with your car, dude.

Theatrical Release Date: 06/16/2006
Director: Justin Lin
Cast: Lucas Black, Bow Wow, Nathalie Kelley, Sung Kang

3 Fast … 3 Furious.

When I first heard this film was being made, I thought, “Oh great, Paul Walker in Japan.” That’s like retaliation for Pearl Harbor.

Then I found out, there is no Paul Walker! Break out the happy dance and light a candle for the Lord! Hell, that’s worth a rating point right there. So no bag of hammers coming via the Orient Express for “Tokyo Drift”.

Then I found out it was being directed by Justin Lin, who did “Better Luck Tomorrow”. First of all, go out and see that film. It’s truly a great, unsung independent film from 2002. Second, I held out a little hope he could make something out of this franchise. So therein lied a possible second ratings point.

The question then became: Could the film really garner a passing rating?

As the movie began, I was pleasantly surprised at the tone and music immediately thrown out. It wasn’t just a dumb, flashy feature a la the first two of this series.

Then, once the protagonist gets to Japan (via a thinly plausible explanation), the movie amps itself up even more. The music continues to be appropriate for the action and fun (I’ll be looking for the soundtrack), the drifting is done really well and looks awesome, and the story isn’t so bad that you’re cringing every 14 seconds.

Actually, I was really liking Sung Kang (who also starred in “Better Luck Tomorrow”), as he portrays a mini crime boss of sorts. He’s the kind of slick operator you just instantly want to keep on your side, because as cool as he seems, you know he could probably ruin your day if he wanted to.

Bow Wow was doing a fine job of being the plucky sidekick character, not chewing up too much scenery. Aussie Nathalie Kelley is tapped to be the love interest of the movie and you can add her to the list of women I’ll be wishing for when a falling star streaks across the night sky.

And while his accent can at times be distracting and hard to believe, I thought Lucas Black was doing a fine job of being the gaijin learning to drift his way to success.

I was really enjoying this film, almost cursing the notion that my hopes of panning this film were fading fast (furiously fast?).

That is to say, I was enjoying this film … until a fire alarm was pulled elsewhere in the mall and we had to leave the theater.

Son of a bitch.

So why is this review being written? Well, mostly because I was having a good enough time that I wanted to see the rest of “Tokyo Drift”. We hadn’t even gotten to Sonny Chiba’s part in the film yet! Or Vin Diesel’s needless, uncredited cameo!

I know it’s a bit weird to say without seeing the last 30 minutes of the picture but I’m going to recommend this film.

I thought the drifting was great, the acting was passable to good, the story not too lame and the tone and music were great. This is true summer popcorn fare!

I applaud Lin for crafting a gem within a series that was dumber than Paris Hilton at a Geography Bee.

Without even seeing the ending, I’m going to give “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift” a strong 3 out of 5. It won’t challenge your beliefs or require too much brainpower to follow along but I wouldn’t feel bad throwing a few dollars at the box office for this one.

I was having fun and will take the time to see the rest of this movie in the near future. I may or may not revisit this review once I do so but if you’re looking for a fun film that’s more in the vein of a Hollywood summer flick, “Tokyo Drift” handles nicely.

** I did go back and finish the film. I can’t say I’m surprised by how it turned out and I actually didn’t miss all that much.

The cameo by Vin Diesel is hilarious and really, from right about where the fire alarm went off the first time to the end of the film, is just an insane, cheesy ride.

I think in all fairness, I should downgrade the film to a lower-end 3 out of 5. The promise it started with had its tires deflated by the last 20 minutes but it was still a fun film to watch.

If you’re looking for style and cheese, “Tokyo Drift” has that in spades.