Dir: Justin Lin. US. 2006. 104mins.
An efficient butpummeling ride, the latest entry in TheFast And TheFurious franchise is an entertaining vehicle that doesn't have quite enoughin the tank in terms of plotting or characters. Nevertheless, it proves a solidshowcase for its up-and-coming director Justin Lin and star Lucas Black.
Lessa continuation of the Furious storyline than a transplanted variation on the series' non-stop-car-chasestrademark, the third film (which opens June 16 in the US) lacks thehigher-profile actors that graced the first two installments (Vin Diesel, PaulWalker). Because of that, Drift mayhave trouble matching the original's $144m domestic tally ($62m international)and 2 Fast 2 Furious' $127m domesticmark ($108m international). But the brand name should still hold plenty ofappeal, if not in theatres than certainly in rentals.
Beyondthe US, expect a bigger percentage of this episode's returns to come fromoverseas and especially the likes of Hong Kong and Japan, where street racinghas a strong following (similarly-themed racer feature Initial D proved a sizeable hit in the region last year).
Americanteen Sean (Lucas Black) is sent to live with his dad in Tokyo after the latestin a string of incidents with the law concerning his reckless street racing.Despite halfhearted promises to change his ways, Sean gets involved with theTokyo underground and its loose women, shady mobsters and illegal car racing.
Thoughcertainly aimed at the hyperactive teen audience - almost every scene includesthumping hip-hop music on the soundtrack, shots of scantily-clad young Asianwomen or adrenaline-mad car chases - director Justin Lin (Better Luck Tomorrow), in his first job at the helm of a big-budgetsummer film, supplies Tokyo Drift witha stylish, kinetic sheen that never feels gratuitous.
Whileproviding plenty of action, Lin crafts the movie as a B-movie noir, pitting outsider Sean against a group ofJapanese thugs who would not seemout of place in a Humphrey Bogart picture. Cinematographer Stephen F Windonadds to the film's sense of tawdry danger by imbuing Tokyo with an exotic,vaguely sinister aura.
Tokyo's brightest attraction, however, is Black's rugged, sexy performance.With his Deep South accent and easy smile, Black makes Sean both cocky andself-depreciating, instilling a stock bad-kid-with-a-good-heart role with amplecharisma. Including his turns in FridayNight Lights and Jarhead, he hasconsistently shown an unassuming star appeal that certainly makes him worthfollowing.
But while Lin andBlack both make the most of their moment, TokyoDrift is weighed down by the franchise's slavish need to have everything bebigger and louder than the earlier films. Though several of the drivingsequences are stunningly executed, they grow monotonous as Lin struggles tofind new angles and tricks for shooting one automobile in pursuit of another.
Also problematicare Sean's confrontations with local tough guy DK (a hammy Brian Tee), which veeroff into silly cliche when DK's uncle (an intimidating mob boss played by JJSonny Chiba) enters the film more than halfway through. What starts off as ahigh-octane, superficial coming-of-age action drama awkwardly then evolves intoa would-be adult crime thriller, and the skin-deep characters do not have theweight to pull off the tonal shift.
Obviously a filmbearing the title The Fast And The Furious simply needs to provide sufficientcrashes and chases to satisfy its target audience. But even though Lin andBlack give this latest installment much more vitality than one would reasonablyexpect, it's ultimately disappointing that they're trapped in an overlyfamiliar summer blockbuster. Hopefully, they'll team up in a newer model nexttime out.
Neal H. Moritz Production
Neal H Moritz
Stephen F Windon
JJ Sonny Chiba