The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift

Directed By: Justin Lin

Starring: Lucas Black, Sung Kang, Bow Wow, Brian Tee, Nathalie Kelley, Jason Tobin, and Vin Diesel

The Fast & Furious franchise has had a very unusual path to becoming a global box office phenomenon.  The Fast and the Furious was a decent but hardly memorable racing film that had some cool one-liners, hot chicks, and slick 10 second cars.  2 Fast 2 Furious was a solid spinoff starring Paul Walker and a brand new supporting cast.  With The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, things start to get strange.  For this one, we're across the globe and dealing with some delinquent teens and their juvenile antics.  What happened to the good old days in Los Angeles with Vin Diesel running things?

Alabama teen Sean Boswell (Lucas Black) has a way of finding trouble.  He certainly finds a healthy dose of it when he gets into a race with a guy at his high school over some girl and crashes into a home under construction.  From his mother's (Lynda Boyd) perspective, Sean's knack for trouble has earned him a one-way ticket to Tokyo to live with his father (Brian Goodman).  This doesn't help too much though as Sean finds his way to Tokyo's street racing world with the help of his new friend Twinkie (Bow Wow).  Because of a girl named Neela (Nathalie Kelley), he soon finds himself in a very familiar position all over again, drifting into more trouble with local street racing champion DK (Brian Tee).

The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift is a teen movie.  I just have to say that one more time.  The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift is a teen movie.  Whoever thought turning what can most aptly be called a testosterone-fueled action franchise into a sappy teen movie was out of their damn mind.  People don't come to a Fast & Furious film for juvenile nonsense.  High school drama and street racing just don't go together, and it's apparent from start to finish in Tokyo Drift.  From pointless schoolyard fights that offer no thrills whatsoever to a wannabe crook crying when his uncle talks a little tough, the teen factor takes away a great deal from this third installment in the series.

The presence of adolescents in Tokyo Drift is only one symptom of a bigger problem with this third Fast & Furious film.  This movie clearly demonstrates that the franchise has lost its edge.  In a series in which subpar acting and storytelling are the norm, that edge is absolutely essential.  It's all they've got.  When the bass-pumping soundtrack and the multitude of hot chicks are nothing more than a mere memory in this teen racing flick, then we have a serious problem.  Stripped of the typical strong points that define a Fast & Furious film (with the exception of shiny 10 second cars), we're left with poor acting and even poorer writing, the symptoms of a terrible film.

Amongst a plethora of poor performances from lead Lucas Black and his co-stars, two supporting cast members are noticeably bad.  As Neela, Nathalie Kelley is this girl next door who always offers blank listless expressions.  For a primary love interest and a frequent damsel in distress, Kelley brings no warmth or emotion to the film whatsoever.  I don't have anything better to say about Brian Tee in his performance as DK.  As the local drift king, Tee literally pouts the entire movie. 

For screenwriter Chris Morgan, inconsistency is the name of the game in Tokyo Drift.  The characters don't stick to their guns on anything they say.  The best example of this is Sean's father portrayed by Brian Goodman.  Given dad's tough talk, Sean should be on the first plane back to the States once his father sees the first sign of trouble.  A case can also be made for Brian Tee's DK who oscillates between a wannabe criminal and a whiny brat.  All in all, these characters and their issues reflect the lack of consistency in Morgan’s screenplay.

With all of the bad parts of a Fast & Furious film and none of the good, Tokyo Drift leaves me no choice.  This third installment in the street racing franchise gets a wasted rating.  Down some jäger bombs for this one.