Liz Tells Frank What Happened In “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift”

Dear Frank,

So this week, we have a VERY SPECIAL REQUEST, from a VERY SPECIAL YOUNG LADY. Your girlfriend Lauren (whose many wonderful qualities are not limited to, but do include, being a vocal fan of Liz Tells Frank) asked me a couple of weeks ago if I would tell you about a certain movie which she adores — one you’ve apparently resisted watching with her? For shame, Frank. For shame.

Okay, to be honest, I also haven’t seen this installment of American cinema’s most enduring and popular car-racing franchise. But this is Liz Tells Frank and Liz Tells Frank is all about keeping an open mind. Or is it all about being snarky and dismissive? Hmm. One of the two of those, definitely.

Anyways, let us begin The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (or, for sequel titling purists, 3 Fast 3 Furious), which opens with an introduction to the most American high school that ever was a high school in America. I mean, a bunch of football players slaughter a Indian pinata. The only way it could be more American is if they were simultaneously chugging high-fructose corn syrup and not voting.

Important casting fact: Lucas Black is the star of this movie. Seems like only yesterday that he was falling down a sinkhole and getting infected by the black oil aliens in X-Files: Fight the Future, but now he is all “grown up” — i.e., playing a teenager at the age of 25! But don’t worry, he’s still talking with a crazy-thick Southern accent (yes, like he also did in the movie Sling Blade, because he was also the kid in the movie Sling Blade, but I identify him with the movie I’ve seen more times).

The X-Files Kid is an outsider at this school, while the oldest Taylor kid from Home Improvement is fulfilling our dumb jock quotient for the day. I’m going to look up how old he is in a second because WHAT THE FUCK, Hollywood? Friday Night Lights seems to have no trouble finding kids who haven’t been playing teenagers since 1994. There are plenty of adolescents who know how to act.

(Zachary Ty Bryan: Born October 9, 1981. He’s a Libra!)

And after a weird standoff in the parking lot, Brad Taylor and The X-Files Kid agree to race — initially for pink slips (you know, like James Dean), then for a Sarah Michelle Gellar clone whose only signs of Buffy-esque spunk appear to be:

1) No fear in baring her midriff.
2) The gumption to offer herself up as a prize in a drag race. A drag race scored with KID ROCK.

Current theory, Frank: You know how there are all these rules time travelers have to follow in order to maintain the integrity of the space-time continuum? Based purely on the mind-bending mix of decades-dead cliches, actors ten years older than their characters, and music I thought we all agreed to stop listening to after the 90s ended, I suspect that this scene is the result of a Time Cop fucking up a mission.

Jean-Claude Van Damme, this is all your fault.

It doesn’t really matter, though, because the drag race goes badly, our Young Hero gets busted by the cops, and his mom ships him off to Tokyo to live with his dad. Who saw that coming?!? Anyone who didn’t think the title was a metaphor, I suppose.

So Dad’s kinda a wastrel who sleeps with young-looking ladies and doesn’t want XFK to ever drive a car, and XFK is attending a Japanese school that requires a dorky uniform and at least a passing knowledge of Japanese (only one of which he has). Oh, but lunch looks AMAZING. Man, I haven’t had Japanese food in forever. Yum.

It’s at lunch that XFK meets Bow Wow, who XFK wants nothing to do with until learning that Bow Wow has a car: a custom-decorated HULK CAR. It is gorgeous, but totally lost on XFK, because he is a moron — never the less, XFK deigns to let Bow Wow take him to the local let’s-drape-ourselves-over-our-cars hangout joint. XFK has a lot in common with the popular girls in high school, I’m finding.

At the local let’s-drape-ourselves-over-our-cars hangout joint, XFK pisses off one of the car scene’s bigger players by talking to a cute half-Asian chick who also attends Dorky Uniform High. (Talking to cute girls and then having to race their boyfriends appears to be this film’s primary motif.)

XFK doesn’t have a car, but another guy lends XFK his car, wanting “to see what he can do,” and we’ve got ourselves another race — but this time, it’s in a tight-as-hell parking structure. Advantage: not XFK.

I will say this to Tokyo Drift‘s credit — this movie emphasizes the unique challenges of the Tokyo car racing scene, and the focus on maneuverability over power is actually really interesting, presenting a unique challenge for Our Hero. I kinda wish Our Hero was at all likable a character (“no ability to show human emotion” has been confused with “tough and cool” here), but that is a pretty cool twist.

The race goes badly and XFK puts some serious dentage in the loaner. So the next day, that guy who lent XFK his car — let’s call him Other Guy, because I honestly can’t remember his name — picks XFK up from school and demands a favor: Retrieving owed money from a sumo wannabe.

Other Guy, I like — he has cute longish hair, is always eating something, and seems pretty chill about everything. He’s clearly some sort of mid-level gangster, and drafts XFK as a delivery boy to make good on his debt. This brings Other Guy and XFK closer together. They’re quickly besties!

New reason to love Other Guy: He doesn’t see the point in racing unless it’s for something important. I’m honestly falling in love with Other Guy and his Zen-ness. He’s approaching levels of coolness previously only seen in Brad Pitt during Ocean’s 11, in fact — a performance used by scientists as a baseline of Ultimate Cool.

XFK’s feelings for Other Guy apparently match my own, Frank — he moves out of his dad’s place and into Other Guy’s garage. We’re moving from bromance to romance at an impressive rate. And XFK? Now drifting like a pro.

(Please note that I don’t really know how to describe “drifting.” It appears to be along the lines of using a car’s lightness and momentum to execute really tight twists and turns? I dunno. It’s a cool car thing that happens with cars. I know as much about cars as I do tire places, so don’t ask me if you pop a tire and need help. Here is a YouTube clip, if that helps?)

XFK attempts to deflect these new, strange and confusing feelings for Other Guy by amping up his pursuit of that cute girl he got busted talking to before — turns out her momma was Australian, and was pretty probably a whore, which has made her feel like an outsider her whole life. XFK gets beaten up after their first real date, because the player guy from before hasn’t ever heard that “if you love something…” cliche before.

Player Guy, when it comes to underworld hijinks, is also Other Guy’s boss, thanks largely to having an uncle in the Yakuza. But what Player Guy doesn’t know is that Other Guy is stealing from him! That’s according to Uncle Yakuza, anyway. Player Guy cries a single tear when he figures it out. It’s sad.

By the way, Player Guy has exactly one look, and he does it all the fucking time, and fortunately it’s kind of charming. It is this:

But he is now attempting to kill my new boyfriend Other Guy! Oh no! They are racing for their lives! It is slightly more exciting than lip-syncing for your life. Working against it: No drag queens. Working for it: a moment where XFG (Hot Half Asian riding shotgun) drifts his way through a crowded intersection, which is pretty awesome. Things are looking good, I think they’re gonna make it–

FUCK! MY BOYFRIEND JUST GOT BLOWED UP BY HIS FLIPPED-OVER CAR! NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

Other Guy, you may have died to escalate the plot, but you will live forever in my heart.

Instead of running from his problems, XFK has decided to fix the mess he’s in. Lookit, character growth! Of course, his solution for fixing things to is ask Uncle Yakuza for the opportunity to race Player Guy, because that will settle things “once and for all.” So, you know, not a LOT of character growth.

And then all of XFK’s friends help him fix up a classic Mustang to use in the big race! And then there is the race, where they drive very fast down a curving mountain road, but XFK drives the fastest and wins! This solves every plot problem! The end!

It’s a Fast and the Furious movie — you were expecting more? Well, okay, there is a little more: Vin Diesel shows up for a quick cameo, because apparently he and Other Guy used to “roll together” back in the day. If you know what I mean. You know what I mean.

(BRB writing Vin Diesel/Other Guy fan-fiction.)

But THEN it’s the end. Hooray! This was a completely fine and enjoyable movie, despite the fact that XFG had more charisma and star power when he was getting infected by the black oil aliens. The soundtrack and all the drifting stuff were pretty cool — I think it’s a somewhat genuine recommend!

Just don’t get too attached to Other Guy, Frank. Don’t let your heart get broken like mine.

Love,
Liz

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About Liz Shannon Miller

Liz Shannon Miller, based in Los Angeles, is a writer for the screen and the web, her work including G4's Attack of the Show and the tech blog GigaOM. She also co-hosts the podcast Timey Wimey TV, contributes to the video curation site Here's Some Awesome, and tells her friend Frank about stuff at Liz Tells Frank.

Posted on January 3, 2011, in All the Spoilers, Movies and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. To be fair, I’ve seen the guy who plays Player Guy (real character name ‘DK’ for ‘Drift King’ [btw Japan’s real Drift King has a cameo in the ‘new set of tires!’ drift-practice sequence as a fisherman who approves of XFC’s skilz]), Brian Tee, in a few guest star roles wherein he actually acts. I was pretty impressed since my expectations were lowered so much by this movie (which I kind of love if you haven’t already noticed).

    Also, I am amused that two main Japanese male characters in this movie are actually Korean and _look really Korean not Japanese_. Well Brian Tee is half Japanese, but whatevs. I guess it’s the Eastern side of the ‘every European villain has a British accent; Americans will never notice’ coin.

    • Yeah, I was too lazy to do the research, but wow those guys did look super-Korean.

      These are fun facts, by the way! And also explains why they were calling XFK DK at the end. For some reason I just assumed that beating the original DK meant that he’d completely assumed DK’s identity, like in a Philip K. Dick short story? Which didn’t seem right.

    • “I guess it’s the Eastern side of the ‘every European villain has a British accent; Americans will never notice’ coin.”

      It’s true. I don’t even notice in film and TV when the Americans aren’t Americans. (see Liz Tells Frank about Fringe.)

      This all sounds wonderful! I think Lauren and I will finally be having a 3 Fast 3 Furious date night.

  2. LTF has planted the seeds of romance!

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