The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift
2006Director: Justin Lin
Cast: Lucas Black, Nathalie Kelley, Sung Kang
h, the fine art of drifting, a technique that until now I didn’t even know existed. Maybe it doesn’t. I tried drifting out of the parking ramp after the film, but my efforts were met with mixed results. For safety’s sake, I probably should refrain from a second attempt at it. Then again, if injury prevents me from ever having to sit through The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift again, it may not be such a bad thing.
I can’t honestly say I watched the movie so much as I was run over by it. So testosterone-driven and frantic its style, I only vaguely recall taking anything away from the experience, except for possibly the idea that women love to have their future romances decided by the results of street races. Come to think of it, the film suggests that the internal mechanics of a car are more complicated than that of a woman. Consider, for instance, the character of Neela (Nathalie Kelley). Taken in by another family in Tokyo after her mother died, she gets involved with DK (which stands for Drift King, see if you can guess what role he fills in the film), a relative of her caretaker. He treats her poorly, but she stays with him anyway. By the end of the film, when our hero beats him in a race (oops! Was that a spoiler?), she ends up with the good guy instead. Why? Certainly not out of love, since never once did I detect any hint of actual romantic chemistry between them. It’s as if her decisions aren’t based on actual feelings, but simply on the degree of racing skills one possesses. The scary thing is, between all the hooting and hollering, no one else in the theater appeared to have a problem with this.
But who is our plucky young hero, the character we have to spend the next 90 minutes with? Why, it’s none other than good ole Southern rebel Sean Boswell (Lucas Black), who talks as if he’s forever chewing on a gerbil, or some other small mammal. He’s a street racer and car enthusiast (obviously) whose antics have landed him in hot water with the law. His mother, employing a plan of questionable legality to keep him out of juvenile hall, decides to send him to live with his father in Tokyo, where he will learn some discipline and get a proper education.
A “proper education” may be overselling it a bit. Maybe I missed something here, but they send him to a school where all the teachers speak Japanese. The film makes no attempt to convey that Sean understands Japanese. So, I have to ask: what is he honestly learning here, or is there some fundamental I don’t understand about how humans gather information? Clearly, his father either used to be in the navy or is currently in the navy (you can tell because he constantly walks around in a Navy t-shirt). Couldn’t he recommend a school more appropriate for Sean, such as the one on the Navy base? This is but one example of how plot takes a backseat to the races. Everything else is either half-assed or underdeveloped.
For example, the film offers repeated attempts at philosophical insight, but it comes off more like random quotes one might find in the corner of a day planner. Wait, I’m looking at one now: “You don’t stop laughing because you grow old. You grow old because you stop laughing” -- Michael Pritchard. If I just take one of these from each month, I could build my own philosophically-fused Fast and the Furious movie. If only I knew how to race.
Which reminds me, I haven’t really mentioned the racing yet. Let me put it this way: have you ever seen To Live and Die in L.A.? Well, it’s not that. I can summarize every racing scene with the following sequence: exterior shot of car; cut to shot of hand shifting gears or shot of foot pressing on pedal (not always in that order); another brief exterior of cars racing; zoom in on villain’s face as he sneers; cut to hero’s face as he laughs (or scowls, depending on his current position in the race); exterior of both cars, now computer-generated, doing something crazy. Sometimes the order differs slightly from scene to scene, but the shot structure rarely diverges much from this system.
The director is Justin Lin, whose name sounded familiar, but I couldn’t quite place. A quick Internet search tells me that he directed Better Luck Tomorrow, a film with a lot of promise, that nevertheless didn’t live up to my expectations. This may explain why every once in a while Tokyo Drift provides a scene that demonstrates some semblance of directorial skill. Not that it matters, since, when you clutter such scenes with scantily clad women, no one really pays much attention to the direction.
There’s an old Japanese saying that may or may not exist externally from this film: “The nail that sticks out, gets hammered,” meaning the outsider among us gets singled out for abuse. Well, watching Tokyo Drift, I discovered I was that nail and I did get hammered. But it wasn’t all for naught. Alas, I did drag from it one indispensable life lesson that I shall heed for the remainder of my life: Never drift with another man’s woman.
The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift is playing in theatres across the country.