Tokyo Drift is often - and I feel unfairly - disregarded as the worst movie in the Fast and Furious franchise, but I truly believe it to be a misunderstood gem.
The high-octane series has historically thrived off its own insanity, reveling in cars crashing into boats, Vin Diesel driving through 2 (TWO!) consecutive skyscrapers, and the world's longest and most logic-defying runway chase. These movies are, rightly so, measured on their pure batshit craziness, and in many ways Tokyo Drift is the craziest and most fascinating installment of all. Here's why...
1. It Totally Said 'Fuck It' To Franchise Chronology
This was the movie that threw linearity out the window, because, you know, a true artist should never be constrained by 'mainstream' notions of time. But seriously - Tokyo Drift explored an era of the series' narrative that the seventh movie has only just now caught up to!
The foresight required to make this bold move is truly admirable, and just goes to show that there was a master plan in the works from the very beginning. In it's refusal to comply with traditional conceptions of storytelling, we can see Tokyo Drift borrowing from classical literary traditions, following in the footsteps of Homer's 'In Medias Res' narrative technique displayed in The Odyssey. Plus, drifting is obviously an allegory for Odysseus' burning desire to return to Ithaca (where his family reside), mirrored in the movie's excessive representation of burning rubber. Who said that English degree was useless?
2. Han Existed Before Any Fast & Furious Movie Was Made
"Whaaaat?!" I hear the legions of Furious-ites exclaiming in outraged unison. That's right, Han - who's pretty much at the center of all this nonlinearity tomfoolery - appeared in a totally different movie!
When he took the Tokyo Drift job, director Justin Lin was coming off the back of 2002 crime drama Better Luck Tomorrow, which featured a character called Han (played by none other than Sung Kang) who had a penchant for stealing cars. We can safely assume that this is the same guy, meaning only one thing: the Fast and Furious franchise is just too world-shakingly insane that it can't even by contained by the boundaries of its own fictional universe! I think you'll agree that that's pretty crazy.
3. Dom Was Never Meant To Be In It Until Vin Diesel Cut A Last Minute Deal
As if there wasn't enough adrenaline-fueled insanity going on in front of the camera, a whole world of craziness was occurring behind it. After negative test screenings of the film, Universal started freaking the hell out, mistakingly questioning the unquestionable work of pure genius they had committed to film.
Luckily, this artistic self-doubt led to the only possible way they could've improved Tokyo Drift: adding Vin Diesel. The legendary Dom agreed to return for a cameo on two conditions:
- 1) He would get the rights to the Chronicles Of Riddick series so he could make a third movie.
- 2) He would get a sick pair of wheels.
Nicknamed the 'Hammer,' the 1970 Plymouth Road Runner Universal hooked him up with is a thing of beauty. The guy knows how to strike a damn fine deal.
4. The Soundtrack Is Crazy Good
Okay, I won't say much here, as simply indulging in Tokyo Drift's mind-blowing musical numbers for yourself is far more convincing than any argument I could possibly muster. For example, check out this timeless banger called 'My Life Be Like' by Grits:
5. The Studio Thought Paul Walker Was Too Old to Return
Remember when you all went "Whaaaat?!" when I told you Han appeared in a totally different movie? Well, I imagine something similar just happened.
That's right - Universal didn't even ask franchise figurehead Paul Walker to return for Tokyo Drift, believing he was too old for the role. I guess they soon realized their mistake, tapping him to return for Fast & Furious 4. Walker went on to build the franchise into the world-dominating blockbuster property it is today, may he rest in peace. Why oh why Universal didn't want him for the third movie is nothing other than insane.
6. Real Life 'Drift King' Keiichi Tsuchiya Cameos In Tokyo Drift
The exquisite sideways driving featured in this movie was so hard to pull off, the filmmakers had to approach the very best in the business in order to film the craziness they had conceived in their heads.
Forget Ken Block, this guy's the real deal. Professional race car driver and confirmed drift-master Keiichi Tsuchiya made a brief appearance in the franchise's third outing, playing the unimpressed fisherman seen above.
Tsuchiya also served as a stunt director and stuntman, driving one of the car's in the movie's climactic downhill drift race.