OK, OK, let me say say it outright: I think Lucas Black is adorable. Call me surprised to be totally enamored of this actor’s thick-as-molasses Texas accent (especially since a certain President has equated that drawl with being as dumb as a bag of rocks), not to mention his excellent scowly eyebrows. WAY cute. Black always has the aura of being a smart thoughtful kid (and now man) ever since co-starring with Billy Bob Thornton in the excellent Sling Blade, and has upped the quality of movies like Friday Night Lights and Jarhead just by showing up. So despite my non-response to the earlier Faster and Furiouser movies in this series, I have to admit I was secretly excited to see Tokyo Drift.
The film opens somewhere in the Southwest, with working class hottie Sean (Black) challenging the school jock to a race after the latter mocks Sean’s muscle car. Of course the jock’s girlfriend offers herself as the prize to the winner after winking at Sean from behind her boyfriend’s back (can you blame her?). The boys race through the streets, through a new housing development, and even through a new house (I half expected a Dukes’-style “YEEEE-HAWWWW!” as Sean’s car soared through the air). But the race ends in car-carnage, and Sean’s mother (and the cops) say enough is enough—so Sean is sent to the penal colony of Japan.
Hmmm. Am I the only one who thought it a little odd that when all options are used up, a single mom sends her kid to one of the most expensive cities in the world? Whatever. Turns out that Sean’s dad lives there, and is not exactly happy to see his son on his doorstep either. One tour through dad’s tiny apartment and a school uniform later, Sean suddenly finds himself in a new regimented life that is meant to keep him out of trouble.
But wait! Japan has cars! Holy crap! I guess Sean’s authority figures didn’t think that one through. After making friends with the savvy and scrappy Twinkie (Bow Wow—no longer Lil’), Sean wastes no time finding the underground racing scene. The small Japanese cars are souped-up and shiny with plenty of bling to spare, not to mention being adorned with short-skirted Japanese girls draping themselves over the car hoods and the boys. Cocky Sean gets challenged to a race through the parking garage and finds himself whipped by D.K. (Brian Tee) and a new style of racing called “drifting”. Drifting involves a car spinning its wheels and sliding sideways around turns—pretty neat and baffling to watch, to tell you the truth.
So, you ask: Will Sean learn how to drift from one of the masters, Han (Sung Kang), a vagabond Asian-American? Will Sean immediately catch the eye of the only native English-speaking girl around (Nathalie Kelley), despite the fact that she is D.K.’s girl, and D.K. is yakuza? Will this fish out of water gain respect from the locals? Will he win a triumphant race despite suffering the loss of one of his friends? Well, what do you think?
The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, despite its intriguingly different location, is formula, formula, formula (and I’m not talking Formula 1, har har har). My pal and I started calling the plot turns at least a scene or two in advance, laughing at how predictable the film was. But despite this, and despite the fact that all the major Asian roles were played by Americans (does that seem a little lazy?), Tokyo Drift was good, clean fun. Drifting is fun to watch, and so is Lucas Black. At least for me. Whatever. And if you can’t get enough (of the cars, at least), the DVD comes with tons of extras, much of it featuring the cast and crew crowing about the tricked-out cars involved in the film. Apparently, the token girl in the cast, Nathalie Kelley, had the most natural ability towards drifting… the boys tended to get a little too excited and lose control. It figures.