The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006)

"There's no wax on, wax off in drifting. The first drifters invented drifting out here in the mountains by feeling it. So feel it!""There's no wax on, wax off in drifting. The first drifters invented drifting out here in the mountains by feeling it. So feel it!"

“There’s no wax on, wax off in drifting. The first drifters invented drifting out here in the mountains by feeling it. So feel it!”

Through the first two films in this Fast and Furious franchise the overall takeaway from both previous films is that they are entertaining popcorn movies that don’t require a lot of thought behind them. The first is Point Break with cars and the second should be erased from the history books. The same can be said with The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift. Like it’s predecessor 2 Fast 2 Furious, this motion picture is far from perfect – it’s flawed in many ways that feature the same reoccurring issues yet, it’s a giant-sized step up. I can gladly confirm there is no medieval torture tactics from the antagonist this time around, yet I wouldn’t be surprised if it happened again given how traditional the values are. Leave all of it on the street and let the cars do the talking. 

When looking at the three films as a collective, it’s difficult to imagine that it’s a trilogy, that all three films belong to the same universe but if you look close enough these films are setting the stage for what could potentially come down the quarter mile in the future. There isn’t a ton to connect the films, in fact, writer Chris Morgan makes us wait 100 minutes of the 104-minute runtime before connecting Tokyo Drift to the first two films.  With 1 line of dialogue and one singular shot a million questions come to mind. The ending is enough to create a buzz of anticipation with endless story options with what direction the franchise could go in the future.


But for now, the focus is on the underground racing scene in Tokyo where drifting is the only way to race correctly. If you aren’t drifting, you aren’t racing. It’s a religion, one that is sacred, one that is nourished and passed down from generation to generation. The big draw to these films is the racing. Emphasis is placed on the racing sequences to give the utmost respect to the culture, creating an atmosphere of severe FOMO. It’s one giant party when cars line up and 3,2,1 go is screamed at the top of someone’s lungs.

While I appreciate what Tokyo Drift does right – world building, becoming more inclusive with its mostly Asian cast and laying foundation, Tokyo Drift does just as much if not more wrong. At the center of that is the script that places the focus on the driving and racing rather than the characters. If the characters were written correctly, the racing would supplement them as an extension of their personality the way The Fast and the Furious had done previously. Dominic Toretto and his muscle cars are synonymous with one another the same can be said about Brian O’Connor and his imports. Tokyo Drift’s main character Sean Boswell (Lucas Black) doesn’t have that easily identifiable extension of himself largely because he has zero personality to him.

Tokyo Drift is the first film that doesn’t have Vin Diesel or Paul Walker to anchor it. Both of their presences are sorely missed which Lucas cannot match. Hes not terrible but he doesn’t show any emotion throughout the duration of the film. The dialogue is weaker for him as a cause for this expressionless character. It also doesn’t help that Lucas looks like a 40-year-old playing a teenager – a sense of authenticity is missed. Instead, the supporting characters have more charm and charisma than Sean. Every scene Twinkie (Bow Wow) and Han (Sung Kang) are in the attention is immediately placed on them. Not that they have much depth to their characters whatsoever, both are just that much more interesting compared to Sean.

What plagues Tokyo Drift the most as did the 2 previous films is the villain. Takashi (Brian Lee) is but another wasted opportunity in the villain category that’s easily forgettable. Whats his motivation for hating Sean, that he’s an outsider while showing interest in Neela (Nathalie Kelley). Takashi is the best drifter in Tokyo, earning the title of DK (Drift King). There’s a similarity between DK and Johnny Tran from the first film – both have annoying sidekicks that are there just to stir the pot. Neither character adds any substance to the storyline and are meant to be a vessel to make the villain look good even though neither villain is that decent at being a villain. 


The best aspect about Tokyo Drift as can be said about the previous films is the racing and how the action sequences are shot. Particularly the final race down the mountain with every twist and turn. Director Justin Lin builds the tension in these moments of uncertainty because it’s anybody’s race for majority of the race even though we can ultimately predict the outcome. Every drift increases the heart rate as you can feel the pressure Sean and DK are in to win. The true enjoyment of this sequel is in these moments. The adrenaline pumps as fast as the pistons with each lead change, the pulse quickens, you find yourself holding your breath.

All the racing sequences make up for the many flaws this trilogy seems to run into. These few sequences make this film worth it to keep revisiting well after the first experience with it. If you can stomach the poorly written characters, bad dialogue and chemistry, Tokyo Drift isn’t as bad as it’s made out to be. I quite enjoy this film to be honest. If not for Sean, come back for Han.

The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift is written by Chris Morgan based on characters by Gary Scott Thompson, directed by Justin Lin is Rated PG-13 and has a 37% on Rotten Tomatoes. The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift was released on June 16, 2006 in the United States and has a runtime of 1 hour and 45 minutes. The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift can be bought by online retailers like iTunes, Amazon, and Google. 2 out of 5. 

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