Everyone in the automotive community can agree that The Fast & The Furious franchise was a much-needed reprieve from the American Pies and Legally Blondes that dominated the movie scene in the early aughts. Although the series has always pushed the envelope, the movies became less realistic about their portrayals of the car community. Somewhere over the years the Fast franchise lost touch with its roots, becoming an action orgasm instead of a car film.
If you long for a real “car enthusiast” film, Fast has a gem hidden in the lineup. Fast and Furious 3: Tokyo Drift. Everyone remembers hitting the theaters and seeing a whole new kind of driving; our inner car enthusiast imagining taking every curve sideways. It was thrilling and different, and it was a fresh take on the series. This movie helped kickstart the drifting craze in the US. It is not a coincidence that the year after Tokyo Drift hit the theatres that ESPN picked up the TV rights for Formula D in the US. This is the impact Fast 3 left on our lives.
The film is about Sean, who gets in big trouble for street racing some kid at school and totaling his car. After that escapade, he ends up being sent to live with his father in Japan. First of all, I’d like to be the one to point out that fleeing the country doesn’t absolve you of your crimes in the greatest country on earth, but we can let some plot holes slide. While in Japan, Sean ends up meeting up with the car enthusiasts at his new school and ends up in the exact same situation as before. The difference here is the racing involves the beautiful and elegant art of drifting. Being a kid from the country, Sean has no idea what he is getting himself into and foolishly challenges the Yakuza’s “Drift King” to a race.
With the plot set up, the rest of the movie is pure eye candy that features your favorite Japanese cars doing sick tricks all over Tokyo with a tale of redemption and trying to win over the girl woven in. This film features everything you need to have a good time. There is action, romance, drama, wicked stunts, and great cars.
This film opened our eyes to a new style of racing, a new way to put the rubber to the road, and some fresh cars for the series. Gone were the muscle cars of Dom Toretto, replaced with machines like the Mazda RX-7, Nissan Skyline GT-R, and you know you’re not stylin’ like a real drift king if you don’t have the Volkswagen Touran. It became less about the muscle under the hood and more about the skill of the driver. Sean learned this lesson well by the end of the movie. After 104 minutes and a pile of banged up cars later, Sean came out on top with a new understanding of a style of racing many of us never even knew existed. For the “JDM, yo” folks already savvy in the way of drifting, Tokyo Drift made you the coolest kids on the block.
With Tokyo Drift, the world of Fast and the Furious and the US car scene was changed forever. So next time you’re browsing through your car movies for something to watch on Friday night, before you pick up Cars 2, remember Tokyo Drift and its contribution to the rest of the world.