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Dustin Putman

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Learn more about this film on IMDb!The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift  (2006)
1 Stars
Directed by Justin Lin
Cast: Lucas Black, Bow Wow, Nathalie Kelley, Brian Tee, Sung Kang, Leonardo Nam, Brian Goodman, Zachery Bryan, Lynda Boyd, Sonny Chiba, Vincent Laresca, Nikki Griffin, Vin Diesel
2006 – 100 minutes
Rated: Rated PG-13 (for violence, language and sexual content).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, June 17, 2006.
A more commercial, less sexually explicit telling of David Cronenberg's controversial 1997 film, "Crash," "The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift" is a 100-minute depiction of car fetishists and their obsessive mission to bring their masturbatory fantasies to life. If this sounds like an extreme, far-reaching reading of what is, in essence, a mindless, nutrition-free summertime adrenaline rush, consider that all of the main male characters show only a passing, slightly distracted interest in the opposite sex, but more or less orgasm every time they get behind the wheel of a revving, pimped-up ride. Moreover, their desire for a little danger moves quickly beyond a side effect of teenage rebellion, and into psychotic, suicidal delirium. By the end, as two sparring racers swerve recklessly down a cliffside road of sharp turns and blind curves without much of a purpose beyond the obvious—a juvenile jerk-off session of battling machismos—only one thing is certain: these people have severe death wishes.

With none of the actors of 2001's "The Fast and the Furious" and 2003's "2 Fast 2 Furious" returning in any substantial fashion, "The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift" is a stand-alone second sequel that manages the impressive feat of being even dumber and more plot-deficient than its silly predecessors. Instead of bringing in an undercover cop angle to the world of underground street racing, this latest tale is told mostly from the points-of-view of teenagers who look like they're pushing thirty. Nothing of consequence is at stake for these human stick figures—their very lives are viewed as a mere sacrificial means to an end—and so why should the viewer care about them? Besides, audiences watching this trashy dud have something more serious to worry about: the loss of brain cells.

From what can be processed of the lame-brain story, high schooler Sean Boswell (Lucas Black) gets into big trouble after an irresponsible car race with a rich, snooty classmate (Zachery Bryan) leads to the destruction of public property. In lieu of being sent to juvenile detention, Sean is sent to live with his father (Brian Goodman) in Tokyo, Japan. In a foreign land of curious customs and cultural whiplash, Sean makes do by promptly befriending Twinkie (Bow Wow), who introduces him to a gang of car aficionados with a specialty in drifting—the act of driving sideways by pressing the accelerator and brake at the same time. As Sean begins studying the art of drifting behind the back of his father, he gets more than he bargained for when he falls under the bad graces of DK (Brian Tee), the self-proclaimed "Drift King" whose girlfriend, Neela (Nathalie Kelley), happens to be the babe Sean has eyes for. That is, when he can peel them away from his objectification of all things auto.

Directed by Justin Lin (2006's "Annapolis") and absurdly scripted by three writers—Chris Morgan (2004's "Cellular"), Kario Salem (2001's "The Score") and Alfredo Botello—who have trouble brainstorming a single line of interesting or smart dialogue, "The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift" is loud, obnoxious drivel for the attention-deprived set. Alternating between empty character moments, copious montages of car parts and women's backsides, and action set-pieces that put the fast and the furious in the title, the picture musters up a few fleeting scenes of pulse-pumping, brain-rattling intensity. Unfortunately, said tension begins and ends within the confines of the scene itself and by utter default of the onscreen freneticism. The plot doesn't have a valid conflict so much as an excuse for a conflict, and there is never a connection with the people in the cars or any of their fates. All involved are immature jerks, anyway, with no direction in their lives and no opportunities in the screenplay to grow or experience arcs.

This includes protagonist Sean Boswell, whose criminal trouble in the States leads to a switch in countries and a chance to mend fences and grow up. Instead, he continues on his merry way of breaking the law and lying to family members until the end credits show up. A lesson is never learned, the rocky relationship between himself and his uninvolved father remains barely touched upon, and he doesn't even get the girl in any substantiated way. The usually engaging Lucas Black (2004's "Friday Night Lights"), looking way too hairy and mature to still be playing high school age, portrays Sean as a series of smirks, eye winks and teeth flashes. Deeper exploration is not breached. As new friend Twinkie, Bow Wow (2005's "Roll Bounce") sticks out in a bad way, his every appearance akin to the scraping together of silverware. Meanwhile, Nathalie Kelley (in her movie debut) fulfills the need for a female lead as the brooding, sexy Neela, and Brian Tee (2005's "Fun with Dick and Jane") has more bad boy charisma than everyone else combined as the piece's heavy, DK.

"The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift" has a breathtaking setting that makes one long to be watching 2003's transcendent "Lost in Translation," another Tokyo-set picture, instead. All the flashy cinematography and snappy song bites (mixing American and Japanese rock and hip-hop) in the world can only do so much to disguise the desperation on Universal Pictures' part to relive the box-office successes of the first two series entries. They were no great shakes, but at least had a distinctive beginning, middle and end. The same does not hold true for "The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift," so in need of thematic relevance and a point—any point—that all it can do is skid on fumes to the finish line. These characters and their bizarre autoerotic (in both senses of the term) actions don't just warrant a psychiatric evaluation, they demand a full-blown lobotomy.
© 2006 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman