Sam Strange Remembers: THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS - TOKYO DRIFT

Sam Strange recalls the time he lost his NO5 sponsorship but invented the prequel.

So, if you recall, my last Fast and Furious film had a scene where Paul Walker’s NO5 ejector seat fails to eject a seat as planned. I did this for simple tension-raising reasons, but the NO5 people took it as a slight against their project and pulled funding for the next Fast and Furious film.

This presented all kinds of problems. For one, the new film couldn’t feature Paul Walker because Sideshow Luke Perry, the actor playing him, is owned by NO5. Also, because NO5 owns the Fast and Furious franchise title, I couldn’t make or release the film in copyright friendly America. But more than that, the film couldn’t involve any NO5 itself, which meant I had to feature real actual racing, something I knew very little about.

Luckily, I’ve got a pretty big brain on my shoulders. By utilizing the mythology already developed in the previous two films, I was able to pull out a street racing, continuity rich, science fiction masterpiece called The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, and it will teach generations how real pros play the franchise game.

We begin in the late 1990’s as Young Paul Walker (this time played by Lucas Huckleberry) takes his first step into a larger world. Already a delinquent kid, Young Paul Walker gets into a deeper kind of trouble when a chubby jock (Jonathan Taylor Thomas) demands they race cars for his girlfriend’s hand in marriage. Young Paul Walker couldn’t care less about marrying the dickhead’s girlfriend, but he’s drawn to the car race as though it were his destiny. The two drive recklessly fast through a suburban cul-de-sac still under construction. By the time it’s over, both cars are totaled, Jonathan Taylor Thomas is dead, and Young Paul Walker has found his true calling in life.

Finally fed up with her son’s rebellious bullshit, Young Paul Walker’s mom sends him to Japan to live with this ex-military father. Japan is pretty crazy. For instance, you can’t wear shoes indoors. Other than that it’s pretty much the same. Everyone speaks English and listens to Crunk.

Young Paul Walker’s first day at school is very eventful, both for him and for the series. First off, this is where he meets Roman “Rome” Romeo (this time played by Baby-Cakes Bow Wow). The attraction between the two is palpable, but, being that this is high school, they still pretend to be into women. Lil’ Romeo shows him around all the cool kids, who love/hate him instantly because he’s so white bred. Of the lovers, there’s Young Suki (this time played by Kristen Kreuk). Of the haters, there’s her boyfriend and chief High School Yakuza representative, Takeshi Kitano (played by Akira Kaneda). Takeshi is better known by his street racing name: DK, which stands for Donkey Konger.

Sensing that his girlfriend likes the new white kid, DK challenges him to a parking garage race that night. Young Paul Walker would love to participate, but he can’t because he has no car and Lil’ Romeo won’t let him touch his awesome Swamp Thingmobile, a Mini-Cooper covered in wet reeds and toxic footprints.

But then everyone hushes as a robed figure enters the scene and hands Young Paul Walker the keys to a racer. “To defeat DK,” he whispers, “you must first learn to drift.” Young Paul Walker doesn’t have the slightest idea what he’s talking about, but takes the keys anyway.

So now we get our first glimpse of drifting, the emotional glue of this film and the key to the rest of the series. Basically, since NO5 hasn’t been invented yet, races must utilize frequent twisty turns to stay exciting. By braking your front tires while simultaneously burning-out the back tires, one can drive sideways without losing any speed, seemingly defying all laws of vehicular nature. For the first time, the Fast and the Furious series acknowledges nuclear driving skill as one of the many things young people of all races exceed at.

Of course, DK drifts his way through the entire race while Young Paul Walker moves like the mean fat girl in a bumper car. Afterwards, the mysterious stranger approaches him and reveals himself as Han Kenobi. “You work for me now, Young Paul Walker,” he says. “The fate of the world depends on you learning how to drift.” Young Paul Walker is like, “Sure thing, cuz.”

So now Young Paul Walker splits his time going to school, doing illegal errands for Han, and learning how to drift. It turns out drifting is a highly spiritual thing, requiring a driver to connect with his inner NO5. Because Young Paul Walker is both young and Paul Walker, it takes a long time for Han to turn the 311 of his soul down quiet enough to connect.

But time is one thing they do not have. To fund their lessons, Han has been stealing money from DK, and through him, top dog Yakuza crime lord, Sonny Chiba. When all this comes to light, the Yakuza kill Han Kenobi and challenge Young Paul Walker to a race against DK.

To make matters worse, DK’s girl, Young Suki, falls more and more in love with Young Paul Walker thanks to their many evenings together eating ice cream and shopping for designer shoes. Before the big race, DK finally has enough and beats the shit out of Young Paul Walker, inspiring Young Suki to break up with him then and there, making Paul Walker the first person to ever win a hot chick by getting his ass beat. Too bad he’s not interested.

Finally, the day of the big race arrives. Scores of people gather along a dangerous mountain track to see who wins the day. Young Paul Walker still doesn’t fully comprehend drifting, but he can’t back down now. DK knows how to drift the track like nobody’s business, and thanks to Suki, will be Driving Angry 3D. Things don’t look good.

For the first part of the race, DK gently toys with Young Paul Walker’s car, nudging it close to the mountain edge before playfully backing off. Young Paul Walker’s frustration blocks his concentration at every turn. He simply cannot drift.

Things take a turn, however, when Young Suki leads all the viewers who ever got bullied by TK to twist a handheld drum between their palms. The soothing rhythm enrages TK but finally calms Young Paul Walker. In this zen state, a voice appears in his head. “Young Paul Walker, use the NO5. It is within you all the time.” It’s Han, talking to him from the dead. “Dom NO5ed me from the future to teach you to drift, Young Paul Walker. You must not fail!”

Suddenly, Young Paul Walker gets it. From that point on, he drifts every turn. He even drifts while driving forward. He drifts so well that he manages to drift TK right off the mountain.

Afterwords, everyone parties while also mourning Han. In the midst of the celebration, yet another robed stranger approaches Young Paul Walker, this one big, bald, kind of black, and beautiful. Instant attraction flares between the two, but Young Paul Walker can’t figure out why. “You did good, kid,” he grumbles. “Thanks, cuz,” Young Paul Walker says. “Do I know you?”

“Not yet,” the giant says. “But you will.” And with that, he gets in an American muscle car and red-buttons himself into a worm-hole, leaving Young Paul Walker choking on his intoxicating fumes. (To explain this sudden NO5 stuff, NO5 saw a rough cut of Tokyo Drift and begged to get back into the Sam Strange business.)

So who was Han, really? Why does Young Paul Walker need to drift? What’s going to happen in the world yet to come? Well, don’t worry FFfans. We’re not done with this race by a long shot. After all, this is a story spanning time and space, told one quarter mile at a time. Stay tuned up…

(three stars)

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