Wednesday 20 April 2011

From the archive: "The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift"

The first two Fast and Furious films were canny refits of 1950s hot-rod movies for the Pimp My Ride crowd. Until its final moments, this third - and hopefully last - instalment doesn't even feign continuity, replacing Paul Walker with the usually reliable Lucas Black, and dispatching his delinquent petrolhead Sean to the Japanese capital after one write-off too many. There, he goes about fitting in by making friends with an African-American rapper (Bow Wow) and falling for the only girl in school who isn't remotely Asian (Peru-born Nathalie Kelley). Oh yes, and racing noisy cars through public spaces.

Tokyo Drift cruises in as by far the least engaging Fast and Furious yet. Those first films may have been dizzy on gasoline fumes, but they proposed an appealing cultural melting-pot, in their own empty-headed way proposing we were all the same, under the bonnet. Despite the presence of Taiwanese-born director Justin Lin, this one characterises the Japanese as posturing Yakuza-in-waiting, Sumo wrestlers or otherwise faceless crowds for our brave white hero to motor through.

Gone is the positive multi-cultural message; in its place, we get occasional lectures (speed kills, learn responsibility) liable to pass over the heads of those viewers already itching to try out their handbrake turns in the nearest out-of-town retail park. As usual, the cars prove the real stars, even if Lin's chases all start to blur into one after a while. The performers, however, will only really be of interest to those with a yen to see TV child stars all grown up: Black was more compelling as the young boy in American Gothic, while his jock rival Zachary Bryan was one of Tim Allen's sons in Home Improvement. ASBOs to the pair of them, please.

(June 2006)

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