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The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift

Wikipedia defines "drifting (motorsport)" as the tire-shredding power-slide that happens "when the rear wheels [of a car] are slipping at a greater angle than the front wheels…. The rear end of the car appears to chase the front end around a turn, [and] the driver utilizes both front and rear tires to control the actual direction." It's a balletic, controlled skid, in other words — a driving technique largely refined by Japanese pro- and street-racers in the 1970s. "Drift racing" is also the current Pokemon craze among Japanese gearheads — with drift-racers (and their wee, Matchbox-lurid, rear-wheel-drive cars) turning up in commercials, comics and cartoons. In real-world drift-racing, points are scored based on grace, precision, and speed. In The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006) — a dumb, fun movie set in Japan's drift-racing subculture — points are scored based on grace, precision, speed, smirking, collateral damage, pedestrian-dodging, and the ability to steal your opponent's girlfriend while causing him to flip his car as screaming girls film the whole thing with their cell phones. Tokyo Drift is a sequel in name only to the previous two Fast and the Furious movies. It follows an all-new white-bread doofus named Sean (Lucas Black), a big-mouthed, country-boy high-schooler who's shipped off to live with his dad in Tokyo after wrecking one too many cars stateside. Within minutes, he's running errands for a charming crook named Han (Sung Kang), trying to steal an insanely hot schoolgirl (Nathalie Kelley) from the local Yakuza heir (Brian Tee), and wrecking everyone else's cars while teaching himself to drift in silly parking-garage races.

The movie's utterly stupid, of course. Sean's a total blank — and with the beginnings of male-pattern baldness and a tuft of chest-toupee poking out from under his shirt, Lucas Black looks about as much like a high-schooler as Christopher Meloni. This is the sort of flick where people say things like, "It's not the ride, it's the rider"; where engines that worked great in fiberglass drift-cars are effortlessly transplanted to steel Mustangs; where Yakuza scores can be settled with races officiated by Sonny Chiba; and where we're meant to get insanely pumped-up by underground race gatherings that look like crosses between car shows and anime conventions. (When it comes to Kelley and her friends, the movie's practically a study in naughty-schoolgirl cosplay.) Still, as idiot car-crash movies go, Tokyo Drift is pretty fun. (It's certainly a more-than-decent entry in this particular franchise.) Director Justin Lin (Better Luck Tomorrow) pumps the races up nicely, even if they all feel the same after a while. There are a couple of truly wicked crashes. It's fun to see shots mimicking the opening of Lost in Translation turn up during a car chase through downtown Tokyo. And Sung Kang is ridiculously charismatic as Han — he always has a snack or beverage in his hand as he calmly watches Black turn cars into crumpled pop cans. Plus, you can only get so annoyed with a movie that choreographs a line of cars drifting down a mountain pass with such hilarious precision that you'd think the stunt coordinator was Esther Williams — only to cut to the inside of one of the vehicles, where Black and Kelley are talking as calmly as if they were sitting in a Wendy's drive-thru. Universal's DVD release of The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift features a solid anamorphic transfer (2.35:1) with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Director Justin Lin offers a commentary track, while other extras include the featurettes "Drifting School" (7 min.), "Cast Cam" (4 min.), "The Big Breakdown: Han's Last Ride" (8 min.), and "Tricked Out To Drift" (11 min.), as well as 11 deleted scenes with optional commentary and a "play all" feature. Keep-case.
Mike Russell



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