A nod to the old “new kid in town” formula film that was came from the “rebel without a cause” genre. And it’s better than you might expect.
Sean Boswell (Lucas Black) is a high school senior with two talents: cars and getting into trouble. After nearly killing himself in yet another illegal street race, Sean is sent to live with his enlisted father in Japan. There he meets Twinkie (Bow Wow) and quickly gets caught up Tokyo’s underground racing called “drifting.” True to form, it isn’t long before Sean has made enemies of the local top driver, D.K. (Brian Tee), gotten too close to his girl, Neela (Nathalie Kelley), and even drawn the attention of D.K.’s Uncle Kamata (JJ Sonny Chiba). Can the new kid beat the current street king, steal his girl, and restore the peace? Or do we just wanna see beautiful people driving cool toys way too fast?
Tokyo Drift is set in a fictional world where the cops seem oblivious to illegal activities and where anyone with moxie can prove their worth by challenging the best to duel, winner take all. And being set in Tokyo, Japan gives it that extra edge and fashion sense that says, “Ya’ll ain’t in Kansas racin’ fer pink slips, Buford.” The cars range from the exceptional to the outrageous, and everything else quietly fades into the background as scores are created, met, and settled by whosoever can (literally) get to the top first.
Which brings us to “drifting.” With tight turns down mountain roads, racers looked for ways to get through 180-degree hairpin turns without losing precious momentum. Drifting is an intentional oversteerage done with the intent of swinging the back wheels of the the vehicle around to align for the next straightaway; this keeps the speed of the vehicle up instead of breaking into a turn and powering out. It also eventually destroys the rear tires and, if executed poorly, can throw a car off the road or flip it, but when done correctly is like (to paraphrase), “Watching the best parts of a race over and over again.”
But somewhere in all of this is a plot about a generally good person trying to find his place because the one thing that he’s both good at and that seems to hold his interest is the one thing he’s forbidden to do. Sure, the plot can be transplanted to any sport (king of the mountain, king of the golf course), but a decent cast, sincere cast, and eye for editing to keep everything moving along quickly enough not to think to hard about makes for a fun time at the movies. Oh, and there’s lots and lots of pretty, shiny, cool, tricked-out, and any other adjective you can think of CARS everywhere, all doing things you don’t how to do and would probably kill yourself trying.
Do you like cars? Do you hate traffic cops? Do you like speed? Ever dream of how cool it would be if people talked with their racing skills instead of just talking trash? If yes was the answer to those questions, you won’t be throwing your money away. If you answered no to any of those questions, you probably have children in their teens or never enjoyed driving to begin with.
(a two and a half skull recommendation out of four)