Lucas Black as Sean Boswell
Bow Wow as Twinkie
Nathalie Kelley as Neela
Sung Kang as Han
Brian Tee as DK
Brian Goodman as Major Boswell
Sonny Chiba as Uncle Kamata
Never the most imaginative of franchises to begin with, “The Fast and the Furious” has fallen on hard times indeed as not a single original cast member or creator bothered to return for the third outing, which naturally has nothing to do with anything that has come before it, all but admitting that it was a series predicated on speed and not character or story. In that sense “Tokyo Drift” more than lives up to its pedigree.
It’s predicated on the typical teenage persecution fantasy – an outsider who gets into trouble with rich, popular kids (who must then by definition be scum), eventually finding a place to belong amongst other outsiders, and nary a parent to be seen except for a few throwaway moments that exists for them to hand over responsibility for their children’s lives to their children. It’s supposed to be empowering, but it’s just pandering.
The secret to street racing in Tokyo is the drift, to let go and let gravity take control in an elegant and graceful dance that Aussie transplant Neela (Nathalie Kelley) describes as the only really sense of freedom in the world. Mastery of the art of the drift is enough to elevate a person to king-like status, like it’s done for the Yakuza wannabe DK (Brian Tee), and that seems to be all that any of the character’s are looking – to drift, to float along without reason or purpose, just trying to have fun and calling that life. It’s actually very depressing.
Lucas Black (“Sling Blade”) was once a few genuinely talented child actor, but in his first lead role as an adult a lot of his talent is wasted, though that seems more of a problem with the material than anything else. Sonny Chiba (“Kill Bill”) shows up late in the film to offer some much needed gravitas as Yakuza boss Kamata. Chiba has really matured as an actor in the last decade, with a great deal of charisma and control, and it’s well on display in “Tokyo Drift” but it’s too little, too late. The rest of the cast, unfortunately, seems to be more cast for their look than anything else. Style definitely wins out over substance in “Fast and the Furious.”
The race scenes are well done, but uninspired and occasionally hard to follow visually. For the most part they do the job, and are really the only thing worth watching. Director Justin Lin (“Annapolis”) directs this fairly standard sports film in an aggressive MTV-style, though to be fair, the film’s problems are more conceptual in nature and don’t really have anything to do with him.
“The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift” is an uninspired, unoriginal entry in what was already an unoriginal franchise. It’s fun to look at, but its narcissistic message is unappealing in the extreme. Avoid it.