By Laurence Washington
Taken on its own terms, "The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift" is a successful overhaul of a sputtering series that was badly in need of a tune up. Easily one of the best popcorn flicks of the summer, this new "Fast and Furious" entry moves the action to the exotic location of Japan.
Admittedly we’ve seen it all before; multiple racing showdowns to prove who has the bragging rights to call themselves the fastest driver in town. However, "The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift" isn’t as pretentious as its predecessors. It’s actually a stylistic race car film about the Japanese-born driving style known as drifting – sweeping a street racer sideways through turns without traction while exercising great pinpoint precision using your hand break and clutch to control your speed in the rotation.
The film opens with troubled high school student Sean Boswell (Lucas Black) racing the school’s top jock for a date with the football player’s girlfriend. After ripping through empty streets and wrecking a new housing development under construction, Sean finds himself bundled aboard a jet plane headed to Japan to live with his dad, a burned-out Navy officer.
As soon as Sean arrives, his dad reads him the riot act: "Come straight home from school and no street racing. So naturally the first day of school Sean is late coming home after getting into an altercation with D.K. (Brian Tee), a local street racer whose colorful nom de plume means Drifter King.
Sean ends up challenging D.K. to a race through a corkscrew parking-garage ramp and wrecks an expensive car loaned to him by Han (Sung Kang), D.K.’s right-hand man. However, even though Sean lost, he impresses the crowd showing that he has "the right stuff." So he’s befriended by Twinkie (Bow Wow) a hustling entrepreneur, Han and most important D.K.’s girlfriend, Neela (Nathalie Kelley).
Neela’s friendship with Sean of course drives D.K crazy and leads to several more altercations between the two. Of course the result is inevitable – a rematch between the drivers, but instead of a garage drift, they race down a steep winding mountain road. Now a skilled drifter, Sean has been studying under the strict tutelage of Han, who has been falling out of favor with D.K., and is ready to drift this time.
Despite its predictable ending, "The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift," manages to stay fresh right up to a surprise crowd pleasing guest appearance by … "Oops! Sorry, I’ve said too much." The film’s exotic locations and its twist on racing to American audiences, makes "Tokyo Drift" high octane entertainment.