Although I cannot (legally) drive, my friends briefly adorned me with the nickname “Drift King”. It wasn’t for any achievement I had made in real-world drifting, but for my unfounded abilities to drift like no other on The Simpsons: Hit and Run. So, as an honorary Drift King, I was looking forward to the inclusion of drifting in The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift. I’d had my doubts about this one from the get-go, but ultimately, this is a sign of things to come for the Fast and Furious series. At least, I hope it is, I truly do. This is rubber-burning brilliance, an action-packed flick that has all the fast cars and forgettable characters you could hope for, and it squares up with the rest of the series with ease.
Controversial it may be to ditch not only Paul Walker, but Vin Diesel also, The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift is better off thanks to such a change. We follow the far more interesting pairing of Sean Boswell (Lucas Black) and Han Lue (Sung Kang). Boswell isn’t quite the polar opposite of Brian O’Conner, but the rebel attitude Black brings to the role matches better with the underground lifestyle of these drifting racers. It’s far better than the inarticulate, if ever-pleasant charms Walker brings to his role in the series. Still, his brief expulsion from the series and replacement by Black and Kang is a noticeably strong change, one that brings life to a lighter side of the fast car showcase, focusing on camaraderie in a far more engaging and interesting way.
That’s not to put down the dynamic between Diesel and Walker, though, because although the films they appear in so far have been dire, irrefutably boring pieces of cinema, at least the two had the consistency to make it last. They’re rather endearing, to some degree, and the charms between Boswell and Lue are only good enough for a handful of brief flutters. Much of The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift depends on something the previous instalments don’t have, consequences. Not just consequences for the outcome of races, but the actions or inactions of characters. Dialogue feels much sharper and punchier due to this, and we receive a plot that mixes the rebel attitude of Boswell with his discovery of underground racing.
I’m not ashamed of how much I enjoyed this one, the energy it brings to the series is so far unrivalled. Far from perfect, and the wear and tear on the direction and plot begins to show rather quickly, but The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift is a wholly enjoyable piece that won’t have trouble winning some new fans over. It’s the film that has given me some sliver of hope that there is indeed light at the end of this never-ending tunnel.