Why ‘Tokyo Drift’ is the best ‘Fast and Furious’ installment

We appreciate good driving
by Ollie Kew | May 2, 2020
PHOTO: TopGear.com

Guess how many Fast and Furious movies we’ve had, so far? Nope...more. Eight. Eight! And that’s leaving out the shiny-headed spin-off punchfest known as Hobbs & Shaw. Altogether, the F&F circus has pocketed almost $6 billion (P304.1 billion) worldwide. It’s the ninth most profitable film franchise of all time, bigger than Pirates of the Caribbean, Mission: Impossible, and, er, Twilight. It’s a phenomenon.

And yet, in one of life’s little ironies, the best of the whole bunch is the film that took the least money at the box office. Yep, the king of the street-race movie genre is The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift.

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Obviously, you’ll agree. But, should you come across someone unenlightened who does not, here’s a watertight argument to borrow free of charge.

First off, we narrow it down to the first three films. After the fourth one, not-at-all confusingly called Fast and Furious, the series switched from focusing on fairly humble street racing to massive, improbable heists. From there, it swallowed a cannister of nitrous and morphed into literally saving the world with horsepower, wisecracks, and punching. Disconnect your brain at the door to the cinema, and you’ll have a blast. But they’re not about cars anymore.

So, that leaves us with the original The Fast and The Furious, the sequel with a name from a dubious private numberplate, 2 Fast 2 Furious, and 2006’s Tokyo Drift. Next, we can discount the second installment, because of three words: purple Mitsubishi Eclipse.

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It comes down to the original and the third film, then. The two high points of what newspapers like to dub ‘high-speed thrills, high-octane spills, and high heels!’

The Fast and the Furious is a corker, I’ll give you that. Highly quotable, with ‘Danger To Manifold’, “too soon, junior,” and crustless sandwiches all memes in their own right. “More than you can afford, pal.” Ah, memories.

Then there’s the cringeworthy moments: the VW Jetta with no brake calipers, and the Dodge Charger managing to pop a wheelie...while wheel-spinning. With smoke pouring from the tires. In a film aimed at car nuts. Whoops.

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But Tokyo Drift is the one. The peak. The apex of the genre. Why? Because of the driving sequences. By being based around balletic skidding rather than drag racing, there’s a lot less ‘hmm, I better shift up and push the pedal further’ nonsense. Some of the multiple drift sequences are properly eye-popping. And the conflagration of noises: straight-sixes, V6s, wankels, turbos...it sounds more exciting than any F&F flick.

Sure, it lets itself down with the overly CGI’d Mustang-versus-350Z finale, which looks like a Need For Speed PlayStation cutscene. Yes, it’s true the iconic Veilside RX-7 and the RB26DETT-engined ’Stang were so slow, the other hero cars had to back off to keep them in shot when filming. And the idea that anyone would expect you to believe Lucas ‘young Lurch’ Black was of school-attendance age is about as plausible as a hustler like Bow Wow choosing to tour the Japanese underground racing scene in a Volkswagen Touran. With a monobrow.

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But so what? The fact is, we watch these movies for the race scenes, the getaways, the stunts. And none of them are more authentic, better-shot, and as damn rewatchable as the drifts, skids, and slides from F&F’s Tokyo installment. I’m not wrong. Am I?

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NOTE: This article first appeared on TopGear.com. Minor edits have been made.

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PHOTO: TopGear.com
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