There are movies that you watch when you want a challenge, when you want your mind stimulated, your emotions inflamed, and your passion for life charged. Then, there are movies you watch because you’ve had a hard day, and you just want to relax and watch something explode while a beautiful woman in a fur lined bikini walks in slow motion. Fast and the Furious 3: Tokyo Drift is neither of these kinds of movie. It’s the type of film you watch in a cool theatre for 20 minutes when your air conditioner is broken, then decide it’s better to burn your skin than your brain and go back home to cook on the couch. This is the kind of movie you watch to punish someone. This is the kind of movie you watch to punish yourself. This is the kind of movie you watch when Superman Returns is sold out.
The Fast and The Furiuos: Tokyo Drift carries on the high-octane street franchise started by Vin Diesel's surprisingly successful 2001 film. It should be noted that The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift has nothing whatsoever to do with the previous two installments, save that they both involve cars, which is kind of like calling The Passion of the Christ the sequel to The Exorcist.
Lucas Black plays Sean Boswell, a rebellious high school student who likes to race and speak in a Texas drawl so thick it sounds like he’s missing a tongue and chewing raw meat all at the same time. We know he’s a bad-ass because he sets off the school metal detectors in the first scene of the film, indicating that his very soul is made of Judas Priest back patches and heavy metal. He gets arrested racing the blonde kid from Home Improvement, and as punishment is sent to Japan, a nonsensical plot development that serves no function other than to inform the viewer that they no longer need to pay attention. From there on in, things degenerate into a mishmash of the crime-and-cars action of the first two films and high school gender politics. There are lots of alpha male stare-downs, plenty of lunch room-style brawling, and the occasional cheerleader saying something like “Hey boys, let your cars do the talking”. I didn’t think anything could get worse than the first two films, but in comparison, this laughable version of Pretty In Pink in a Nissan 350Z makes the first two look like Touch of Evil.
Director Justin Lin is clearly more interested in cars and cell phones than he is in filmmaking, because nearly everything else is neglected in this movie. The actors stumble through their deliveries, eyes drifting up and to the left as they struggle to remember lines. The best performance, shockingly, comes from former Mini Pop rapper Bow Wow, a sign of the coming apocalypse as certain as the death of the last martyr. The flimsy plot, which essentially involves two high school students fighting over a girl like she’s the last slice of pepperoni a kid’s birthday party, comes to a halt when it’s time to race. However, once you get past the ‘thrill’ of seeing garishly painted cars slide sideways like a game of Mario Kart, there’s nothing left to enjoy. Sure, there are scantily clad women, and plenty of racial stereotyping, but you could get the same effect by flipping back and forth between a rap video and a demolition derby on basic cable.
All in all, there’s really nothing redeeming about this film. The script doesn’t hold up, and neither do the performances. Cars do crash, and turn corners sideways, and if that’s enough for you, then The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift may hold some interest. If you require more from your films than a list of modifications to a Mazda RX7 chassis, then you may want to look a little further. Perhaps to Superman Returns.