Tokyo Drift : faster but not more furious

The third film in the Fast and Furious franchise, Tokyo Drift highlights the Japanese underground racing scene and in particular the technique known as “drifting.” While this might provide American viewers with a fresh element to the franchise, Asian film buffs will have already seen these driving stunts in Hong Kong’s very own blockbuster Initial D.

Despite being panned across the board by most critics, however, I found the film an enjoyable romp. The plot is nothing to write home about – American youth lands in trouble at home, flies to Japan to avoid jail, hooks up with the wrong people and has to race to settle the scores. The director simply does not bother developing the characters and forgoes giving viewers a preachy lesson about the dangers of reckless driving. Which is a welcome relief. Setting the film in Tokyo provides the film with beautiful city landscapes – something that was missing in the previous films where the racing took place in deserts and abandoned roads. The heavily-modified speedsters here streak down the urban surroundings and dart along Tokyo’s highways. Quite a site.

Tokyo Drift features a no name cast – unlikely that any of them will become superstars – with a cameo by Vin Diesel and a minor role with Sonny Chiba (who for some reason is credited as JJ Sonny Chiba) as a yakuza. Real life Tokyo “drift king” Keiichi Tsuchiya served as technical advisor. And of course the real stars of the film are the to-die-for road racers.

The verdict : recommended for B-grade film lovers, though HK fans will no doubt prefer Initial D