3 1/2 Stars
The Fast and Furious series have always depicted Asian dominated car culture with Caucasians or African-Americans in the lead. After increasingly larger international box office grosses, especially in Asian countries the producers finally decided to set the entire film in a foreign country. Universal pictures decision to hand the franchise to then unproven director Justin Lin was a brilliant move. Lin’s style and visual energy reinvigorates the series after the unimpressive second outing. Working with a predominately oriental cast in a foreign country is no small feat, but Lin has been able to craft a genera picture that works for American audiences and also one that will hold special appeal to the international market.
Gone are regulars Walker, Diesel, and any other member of the previous films. Instead we have Southern born Lucas Black as the white-boy displaced in Tokyo. Sending him to Japan was a masterstroke by screenwriter Chris Morgan, making the protagonist a literally outsider in a foreign land entering a sub culture he never knew existed. The world of street racing was explored in the first film, 2001’s ‘Fast and Furious’, but the second outing, 2003’s ‘2Fast 2Furious’, was more interested in drug running and ‘Tony Montana’ like villains, the whole thing played like a high-brow ‘Miami Vice’ episode. In this picture the filmmakers have made a good choice in telling a smaller story but one that involves all the elements fans of the series have come to expect.
Sonny Chiba star of 1970’s grade-z karate exploitation films ‘The Street Fighter’ is brought back out of retirement and put to good use as a Yakuza boss. Chiba’s few scenes on-screen leave a indelible impression and his presence though unseen hangs over the events that follow. Also making a mark is Sung Kang playing Han. A low-level hood and racer hiding from Interpol agents while living in Tokyo. Apparently the filmmaker felt strongly about Kang as well; he is the only cast member here to make an appearance in subsequent sequels. Outside of Kang this film is largely ignored in the ‘Fast and Furious’ mythology and it’s a shame this is one of the best films in the series.
Director: Justin Lin
Stars: Lucas Black, Bow Wow, Nathalie Kelley
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