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The Independent Critic

STARRING
Lucas Black, Bow Wow, Nathalie Kelly, Sonny Chiba
DIRECTOR
Justin Lin
SCREENPLAY
Chris Morgan, Alfredo Botello
MPAA RATING
PG-13
RUNNING TIME
104 Mins.
DISTRIBUTED BY
Universal
 "Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift" Review 
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Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift" is a surprisingly tolerable piece of cinematic fluff devoid of plot but sufficiently filled with hot babes, fast cars, high-speed racing, and a surprisingly authentic approach to its Japanese setting that elevates the film significantly above "2 Fast 2 Furious," its woefully inept predecessor.

"Tokyo Drift," as I shall call it for short, stars Lucas Black as Sean, a young, misdirected young man who is sent to Japan to live with his father (Brian Goodman) after repeated run-ins with the law in California (This sounds an awful lot like George W. Bush foreign policy...send the troublemakers overseas).

Being the bad ass that he is, Sean quickly hooks up with Twinkie (Bow Wow), a hottie named Neela (Nathalie Kelly) and her equally bad ass boyfriend, DK (Brian Tee).

Director Justin Lin, fresh from his disastrous James Franco flick "Annapolis," adequately handles the race scenes here. However, "Tokyo Drift" tries to pack in too much storyline...remarkably unnecessary considering the film's storyline is basic and predictable, and the film's only surprise is actually disclosed in the film's advertising. It would be sort of like the marketing geniuses for "Snakes on a Plane" suddenly deciding to try to build a secret around the fact that there are, in fact, snakes on the plane.

It just wouldn't work.

Lin, at least recognizes that guys who do street-racing are, in fact, obsessed with their cars. They are obsessed to the point that virtually nothing else matters, and every moment of every day essentially serves to work toward the next race. Even their hottie girlfriends serve, essentially, as nothing but hood ornaments. This fact comes home time and again during "Tokyo Drift," a fact that is offensive yet feels remarkably true.

The performances here are nothing special, but nothing special is required. The guys are sufficiently macho, the girls sufficiently hot and the bad guys sufficiently creepy. Sonny Chiba, as a Yakuza boss, offers an effective performance, while Bow Wow gives an oddly appealing performance.

One almost longs to see Walker back in the main role here, as Black doesn't quite have Walker's cinematic presence or depth (Wow, who thought I'd ever say that?). In her feature film debut, Nathalie Kelly has some nice moments and it will be interesting to see if anything a bit more substantial comes her way.

"Tokyo Drift" is surprisingly respectful of its surroundings, something remarkably absent from my other film review this week, "Garfield's A Tale of Two Kitties." Where the latter film just sort of plopped itself in its British setting, "Tokyo Drift" seems more devoted to truly exploring the Japanese culture ranging from the Yakuza to Sumo to quite a few Japanese-specific cultural traditions. It's a nice, surprisingly effective touch that added a remarkable humanity to a film in which the humans play second fiddle to the cars.

"Fast and the Furious: The Tokyo Drift" ends up being a slightly pleasant surprise despite a lead performance that lacks the style and attitude of Paul Walker in the "2 Fast 2 Furious." The film is both hindered by and benefits from the stylized but disconnected directing style of Justin Lin, whose work here more resembles that of "Better Luck Tomorrow," his Sundance darling.

If you can suspend belief...and I mean massively, then "Fast and the Furious: The Tokyo Drift" offers a modestly entertaining afternoon of eye candy, action and cinematic fluff. While it's not for everyone, fans of the "Fast and the Furious" films will undoubtedly find themselves happy with "Fast and the Furious: The Tokyo Drift."
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic
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