There is a bit of genius in the formula that producer Neal H. Moritz has found. That formula is one where he has found a way to take a mediocre story, slap some hot cars and a hot cast in for good measure, and come out the other end with a film that is entertaining and appealing — something that has created the Fast and the Furious series.
Of course, the formula has worked to varying degrees over the past years; the original Fast and the Furious was a surprising success to everyone except… well, the film’s producer. It combined a hot action star (Vin Diesel) and an up and coming soap opera heartthrob (Paul Walker) and some of the best street racing action seen on film — ever. It appealed to the young boys who wanted to drive their cars fast and the young girls who wanted… well, Paul Walker or Vin Diesel. It was a smash hit both in theaters and subsequently on DVD, so much so that I can remember being a retail store employee and that film being one of the first films to only be released to DVD and not VHS. So many bought DVD players just for that movie — that's power!
The second film, 2 Fast 2 Furious, tried to grow up too quickly and didn’t win over any new fans. Its story was overcomplicated and it lacked the spirit of the first film. It left so many yearning for so much more. So what did Moritz and crew do? They went back to the drawing board in order to churn out a third film, and the result was a film that has recently rocked DVD shelves once again — The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift.
The winning ingredient for Tokyo Drift is its simplicity. The story is, as it should be, very easy to follow and ultimately predictable. It is anchored by a young man who has been in nothing but trouble due to his love of cars and going fast (Lucas Black, Friday Night Lights) being shipped off to live with his father in Tokyo. And you can guess what he finds in Tokyo — cars that go fast and a girl (Nathalie Kelley) who is alluring, but already claimed by a dude who is – dun dun dun – a Mafioso! Oh, the originality of it all! So now with the help of his rapper-in-real-life sidekick (Bow Wow doing his best to channel Ludacris), he must race to earn respect and win over the girl.
Is this something audiences have seen before? Yes. Should they care? No. They don’t care because the film is one heck of a ride. The atmosphere is purely electric and stylish, showing off the Tokyo underground as a haven for “rice burner” enthusiasts. The cars are red hot, the cinematography is slick, and the soundtrack pounds away, giving the film the feeling of a rock video on the Speed channel. It is easy for everyone to forget about the lack of originality of the plot and focus in on the adrenaline rush of the action. And once you add in the appearance of Zachary Ty Bryan playing a character that's about half his age, you get everything you need in a movie like this. It is a wonder why this film only did $62 million this summer at the box office.
But just like the two films before it, Tokyo Drift was meant for success within the confines of a retail environment — something of which the filmmakers were well aware. That is why they compiled plenty of behind the scenes material during the production; from featurettes that show how the stunts were executed to the actors telling all about the amazing experience of learning how to drift like a pro. It creates a solid experience for fans all around.
In the end Tokyo Drift is a great choice on DVD. It will pound away at your home theater system and deliver enough action that you will not feel as if you wasted $15. The film is entertaining enough and the DVD has plenty of extras to pass the time. Whether it rocks your Netflix queue or earns a permanent spot in your collection, you can’t make a bad choice.
And did I mention Zachary Ty Bryan as a high schooler? Isn’t that guy like 35?
The Upside: A thoughtless thrill ride! No deep messages to uncover, no codes to break – this film is just here to entertain.
The Downside: See “The Upside”. For some, that is a downside. But that is a personal choice.
On the Side: Over 100 cars were destroyed/wrecked during the filming of this movie.
Release Date: September 26, 2006