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There’s one thing that surpasses
Every culture, race, and creed,
A deep, unsleeping hunger
Men across the globe must feed,
A simple, primal craving
That I’ve yet to see suppressed:
The ever-fervent appetite
To prove themselves the best.

It’s not at all a shock that
Wars and races share a cause,
For when a challenge beckons,
We put common sense on pause.
The winners plan their parties,
And the losers future wins.
I guess that competition’s
Not the worst of mankind’s sins.
______________

MPA rating:  PG-13

Boy, you never realize how little time you have until college courses take it from you. My apologies for being absent lately, but it’s time to return to the Fast and Furious series. Tokyo Drift feels like the black sheep of the franchise. The lack of any characters from the previous two films (mostly) is evidence that the filmmakers were willing to just experiment with story lines as long as they still revolved around the testosterone-fueled art of street racing. It simultaneously fits in with this franchise by emulating its predecessors while also having every right to just be a separate movie with no connection at all.

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Tokyo Drift could conceivably even work as some kind of origin story for Paul Walker’s Brian O’Conner, showing how he became such a good driver, but no, it’s instead the origin of one Sean Boswell (Lucas Black), a rather dull teenage Walker wannabe with a Southern accent. Prone to vehicular recklessness and the inevitable trouble that follows, Sean’s only option other than juvie is to move in with his Navy dad in Tokyo, but even there he can’t stay away from the thrill of racing for long. In a way, his transfer-student introduction to his high school is like a live-action anime at first, but soon the plot shifts to borrowing heavily from The Karate Kid: Part II, with the plucky foreigner butting heads with a Japanese hotshot (Brian Tee) over a girl (Nathalie Kelley) and being trained by an experienced master (Sung Kang) to challenge his rival.

Now three films in, I’ve gotten a grasp on what I like and don’t like about these movies, and both are integral to them so far. I love the car races and chases. Who doesn’t love a good car chase? In the spirit of the classic Initial D anime, Tokyo Drift is all about drifting (the horizontal swing of a car rounding tight corners that is clearly harder than it looks) and it makes good use of the concept, from a unique race through the levels of a crowded parking garage to a climactic set piece down a winding mountain road. What I don’t like is the requisite pre-race party scenes full of macho attitudes and scantily-dressed women, which is a little more concerning here since several of the characters are high-schoolers. I don’t know how close this atmosphere is to actual street racing culture, but I have even less interest in said culture if it’s accurate.

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Tokyo Drift doesn’t reinvent the friction-worn wheel, but it’s an entertaining car-centric flick, whether as part of the Fast and Furious world or not. Sung Kang as the cool, mentoring Han is easily the best new character, though I’m not sure if we’ll get to see any of these characters again after things swing back to Walker-Diesel-land in the next movie. It may not do much to serve the franchise, but Tokyo Drift is a watchable slice of East-meets-West automotive action.

Best line: (Sean) “Why’d you let me race your car? You knew I was gonna wreck it.”
(Han) “Why not?”
(Sean) “’Cause that’s a lot of money.”
(Han) “I have money, it’s trust and character I need around me. You know, who you choose to be around you lets you know who you are. One car in exchange for knowing what a man’s made of? That’s a price I can live with.”

 

Rank:  List Runner-Up

 

© 2020 S.G. Liput
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