Hey action fans, it’s Slick Dungeon here! I thought I would drift on over to you to review the third film in the Fast and Furious franchise, Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift. Be forewarned there are spoiler for The Fast and the Furious, 2 Fast 2 Furious and Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift in this review. So, if you have not seen those films, buckle your seatbelts. hit your NOS, take a sharp turn, watch the movies and race on back here to read the review.
If you want to see my previous reviews you can check out the review for The Fast and the Furious here and my review for 2 Fast 2 Furious here.
Also, before this gets mentioned in the comments below, yes I know, this order is not the best way to watch the movies, but the theater where they are showing these is putting them on in release order so there you have it. I will be reviewing in release order but the chronology definitely gets a bit weird with watching them that way so just bear with me.
The first movie gave us a glimpse into the niche underground world of illegal street racing in Los Angeles. The second movie lost one of the main stars with Vin Diesel unable to return but gave us a pretty standard action film full of fast cars and furious drug lords. So where did that leave us for the third film? In Tokyo… for, umm… some reason? But yes the Fast and Furious series first goes international with this film which does not focus on the stars from either of the first two films.
This movie needed to please action fans, bring people who were familiar to franchise back to the box office without its main stars and do so in a setting the movies hadn’t explored at all.
So, did the film accomplish this objective or did it just drift right into a side wall and crumple any chance of future films? Let’s dig in and find out.
Spoilers follow below!
Bro, Do You Even Drift?
The film starts out with our main character, Sean Boswell getting into an altercation with a fellow high school student. They have beef with each other so what’s the best way to solve it? Yeah, a race, of course. Sean races a guy named Clay in a suburban construction site where new homes are being built. Sean wins the race but Clay’s Ferrari is demolished and so is Sean’s car. Sean literally drives his car through a wooden frame of a house. Apparently Sean has a history of this kind of behavior and as a result, he has a choice to either go to jail or go live with his estranged father who is a Navy officer stationed in Tokyo, Japan.
Sean arrives on the scene, not too happy about his fate and is given two rules by his father. First, he’s supposed to come straight home after school and second, he’s supposed to stay away from driving any cars. Guess what rules he breaks? We see a scene of Sean getting used to school in Japan where he meets Twinkie (Bow Wow) who is an army brat hustler, and Neela (Nathalie Kelley) a girl who seems interested in Sean but is dating someone else.
After school, Sean goes with Twinkie to an underground race. There he meets DK, which stands for Drift King (Brian Tee) and Han Lue (Sung Kang). Sean learns a few things pretty quickly. First, DK is connected to the Yakuza. Second, Han seems to be more cool and collected than DK. And most importantly, he learns this underground race circuit is nothing like the one he is used to. Instead of a ten second drag race, these races rely on a new maneuver we learn about called drifting. Essentially the car makes a sliding turn and glides along the track. Sean doesn’t have anything to race but Han gives the dude a chance and loans him his car. And it turns out Sean is a terrible driver. He smashes the hell out of the car and barely even finishes the race.
The next day Han shows up and tells Sean he has to go collect money from a Sumo wrestler. Sean does it but it doesn’t go well. But, Sean is now essentially working for Han because Han knows it gets under DK’s skin. Also, Han agrees to teach Sean how to drift. Sean is still a terrible driver. He gets more intimate with Neela, which makes DK really mad because she is his girlfriend. Sean improves his drifting skills just enough to beat out one of DK’s thugs, although he still damages the car a bit. DK finds out about Sean and Neela and DK beats the crap out of Sean.
Han tells Sean he only races if it’s for something really meaningful. He’s not that interested in winning. Han shows off his drifting skills to impress some women and it’s clear Han is a much better driver than even DK.
DK’s uncle who is the Yakuza member of the family shows DK that Han has been stealing from them. Enraged, DK comes to Han’s garage where Han admits to stealing, saying they are not in the boy scouts. Twinkie causes a distraction to allow his friends to get away. DK chases after everyone and there is an insane moment where the cars drift through Shibuya crossing, the most heavily crossed intersection in the entire world, and go on this huge car chase. Han proves he’s the best driver in the movie by getting between DK and Sean, allowing his friends to get away. But in the end, Han flips his car. We see him trapped in the vehicle and the whole thing explodes. (Write this down cause several movies later this will be a thing)
Sean heads back to his dad’s place where there’s an armed standoff but Sean’s dad is a no nonsense Navy officer so DK leaves. In an attempt to fix things, Sean decides to go see DK’s uncle. Twinkie gives Sean some money so DK’s uncle won’t just kill him on sight. Sean somehow makes it in to see the uncle and he proposes a peaceful solution which will satisfy DK, Sean and DK’s uncle. Guess what it was? (Checks notes) Yep, a race! If Sean can drift race down a mountain before DK can, DK has to leave town. And vice versa. For some reason, the Yakuza member is totally good with the plan that might get his nephew kicked out of town forever.
There’s a race and Sean bangs his car up really bad but DK literally ends up driving off the mountainside. DK seems like he’s ok though. Sean gets to stay and be part of the Tokyo drift scene and he also gets the girl.
But what About that CAmeo?
If after reading all of that, you started to wonder if you were really watching a Fast and Furious movie at all, don’t worry, there’s a cameo and it’s possibly the best part of the movie. Sean is ready to race when he’s told there’s a challenger who wants to meet him. This is a guy who has been beating drivers all over Asia. And what’s more, he is said to have known Han, who he considered, “family.” And, yes, as soon as we heard that the audience assumed this had to be one of two people, either Brian or Dom, but most likely Dom. And sure enough Vin Diesel as Dom Toretto shows up. He tells Sean he got the car he is driving after beating his friend Han. Sean warns him that this is no ten second race. Dom replies he’s got nothing but time.
Any objective observer watching these movies would know, Sean is one hundred percent going to crash his car and Dom Toretto is going to smoke him with superior driving skills. In fact, out of all the heroes in all the Fast and Furious movies, I think Sean is the only one who crashes, or at least hits walls, ever single time he gets behind the wheel. Dom will eat this dude for breakfast. Still, it was nice to see Dom back here and although it’s a quick cameo it does make it feel like a part of the franchise.
This film did the worst out of all the sequels when it comes to box office. I can understand why there are people who really don’t like this one at all. Lucas Black’s performance feels a bit too, “aw shucks” for the most part. But Han is definitely a breakout character and he’s the most magnetic personality in the whole film. You can tell he’s the one really in charge, even when he just stays in the background.
But for all of its flaws, this film does something the first film pulled off well. It takes us into a little known world and shows us a niche community where we get to see a small family story. This doesn’t have the chemistry of the first one but it does feel a lot more personal than the second film. Personally, for me, this is one of my favorites of the franchise because we still get to see cool car stunts, the story makes sense (mostly) and there are real consequences to the actions of the characters.
This one is not for everyone but I enjoy it. And if you want to know about one of the key characters in films later in the franchise you do have to watch this one. It’s best to just go with it and have fun along the way and not get bogged down in the details of why it’s set in Tokyo or if there really is an underground drift circuit there. (Although it’s Tokyo so yeah they have everything there)
If you are looking for a fun time watching cars slide around with a bit of action and a pretty decent cameo, this one is worth a watch.