by Corey Hall
Bad boys in hot cars and the ladies who love 'em: It's evergreen Hollywood formula. This third entry in the Fast and the Furious franchise is simply the newest model of a car tarted up in the latest automotive drag in this case, American muscle fused with Japanese cool, layered over a blistering sound track of hip hop and J-rock.
The Asian street-racing craze known as drifting is a complicated shifting maneuver that leads to controlled spins as cars slide through hairpin turns at breakneck speeds. It's highly dangerous and looks cool as hell and only losers drive in a straight line anymore.
Paul Walker has left the series (will anyone even notice?) and is replaced by leading-man-in-training Lucas Black, (Friday Night Lights, Jarhead). He plays Sean Boswell, a high school gearhead with a boulder-sized chip on his shoulder and an addiction to speed. After one of his drag races turns into a demolition derby, mom ships him off to live with his hard-nosed Navy dad (Brain Goodman) in a tiny Tokyo apartment. Not one for playing by the rules, it takes our hero about 12 seconds to get in over his head with DK (Brian Tee), a street racer with Asian mob ties and a nasty grudge against foreigners. Sean's entourage includes rap star Bow Wow as the sidekick, Nathalie Kelly as the marginal love interest, and karate icon Sonny Chiba as DK's gangster uncle.
Predictably, plot takes a backseat to big noisy race scenes, full of screeching tires, insane stunt work and heavy damage to dozens of ridiculously expensive tricked-out hot rods. Director Justin Lin gets the most out of the locations, from the neon-drenched Shibuya entertainment district to twisting mountain pathways.
The cliché-ridden script is as predictable as the rising sun, and often aggressively stupid, but nobody comes to a flick like this for the character development. You can almost smell the diesel and burnt rubber.
Corey Hall writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.