The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift
Directed by Justin Lin. Produced by Neal H. Moritz. Written by Chris Morgan. Release date: June 16, 2006.
The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift is such an odd film in the Fast and Furious canon. Initially looking like a simple spin-off, we eventually learn that, despite being released third, it took place after Fast & Furious, Fast Five, and Furious 6, placing it sixth chronologically. It introduced to us Han, who became a main character in Fast Five, despite being killed off in this film. Still, it wasn't until the end of Furious 6, when we learn who was behind Han's death, when it really became important. What was once a skippable Fast and Furious movie suddenly because worth seeing. It also served as the first Fast and Furious entry to be directed by Justin Lin; he would then go on to direct the next three chapters.
Sean Boswell (Lucas Black): Our leading character. He's a 17-year-old who is really good at driving cars but is terrible at school and gets in trouble with the law. He gets sent to live with his estranged father in Tokyo after a dangerous street race. This was his first and, until Furious Seven, only appearance.
Han Seoul-Oh (Sung Kang): One of the series' most beloved characters, despite debuting in a spin-off. He hires Sean, becomes his friend, and teaches him the way of drifting. He would later appear in Fast & Furious, Fast Five and Furious 6.
Takashi/DK (Brian Tee): The film's villain. His uncle is a Yakuza head, so he's mean to people because of the power that grants him.
Neela (Nathalie Kelley): Sean's love interest and the primary object over which DK and Sean fight. She is never seen after this film.
Sean Boswell is a racing fiend but, like all street racers in this series, is constantly in trouble with the law. He races a school bully at the beginning of the film and, despite winning, once again gets in trouble with the authorities. It's just a way for him to be forced to leave America and go live with his father in Tokyo, where street racing has evolved to feature drifting, like you do in the videogames.
It's in Tokyo where Sean meets Han. Han is business partners with DK, whose uncle is a Yakuza boss. Han teaches Sean how to drift, and in return Sean works for him, collecting money. Sean also falls for DK's girlfriend, Neela, because they're going to fight over a girl. Han and Sean become fast friends, with Han telling Sean that he trusts his character, something rare in his life. Somehow, in just a few scenes, their duo did something that Paul Walker and Tyrese Gibson couldn't do in an entire movie. Things get heated between the team of Han/Sean and DK, which leads to a massive chase scene through the streets of Tokyo as DK chases, rams and shoots at both Sean and Han. Sean gets away, but Han winds up being hit not by Sean, but by a "random" car, and dies in an explosion. His death matters because he's got actual character development, marking the first dramatically powerful moment in the series. His death becomes a central focus in Furious Seven, as it will revolve around our main cast of characters fighting against the man who was behind Han's death.
Eventually, the climactic battle - a "Loser Leaves Japan"
match race - between Sean and DK happens, which sees DK try to cheat but lose after driving off the mountain. Sean wins, gets the girl, and is allowed to remain in Japan.
Our final scene shows Sean - now called "DK," since that stands for "Drift King" - pull up for a race against a man who is later revealed to be Dominic "Dom" Toretto, seeing Vin Diesel return to the series after being absent from 2 Fast 2 Furious and for most of this one. Dom claims that Han used to be part of his crew; the next three films in the series show us what happened during that time.
Is It Any Good?
The drifting element adds a much-needed rejuvenation to the race and chase scenes, even though it becomes too heavily featured to remain enjoyable. It's a film that's retroactively improved, not gotten worse, because of the added importance placed upon it. It was initially an inconsequential spin-off, but now that it's become a pivotal film, it's become better. The Tokyo setting is fun, it's got a slick look, and its final scene is fun just because it sees a return of Vin Diesel to the franchise, something that would pave the way for the future.