A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Tokyo Drift lacks the positive messages about family, friendship, and teamwork that run through other Fast and Furious movies -- when a key character dies, the narrative spends no time acknowledging his sacrifice. It also has toxic messages: A man's value is based on how fast he can drive. Endangering lives through reckless driving is worth the trip to the hospital if it means other people will notice you exist. Women are only attracted to power in a man and will switch partners based solely on who wins a street race. Women are objects to be traded and won by men; high school girls are hyper-sexualized.
Positive Role Models
High school kids race cars, smoke, and drink. Characters are sexist; men treat women as objects to be won, and women eagerly participate, bouncing from man to man depending on who's just won a car race. Yakuza villains deal illegal merchandise and beat up rivals.
Despite having a White male lead, Tokyo Drift stands out for casting several East Asian actors and being directed by Taiwanese American Justin Lin. It also introduces a franchise fan-favorite character, Han, who's played by Korean American Sung Kang. But other areas fall short: A Black character, played by Bow Wow, is tokenized as the funny, supportive sidekick. A fat character is bullied in slow-motion: Three high schoolers hold him down and spray paint his wobbling belly as the main character walks by without doing anything. Women are deeply objectified (a high schooler is introduced with a panty shot, and she offers herself up as the winnings for a car race). The main love interest -- played by Nathalie Kelley, who's Peruvian-Argentine Australian -- dates whoever wins a car race, having no agency of her own. Japanese women are walking stereotypes: The first one shown has tousled hair and rushes out of a White man's apartment, implying that she's a sex worker. The rest are exotified scenery, with women dressed in aughts-era "gyaru" style (but skimpier). Two women kiss at a party; rather than being a queer scene, it's clearly intended for a straight male viewer. (The main character stops in his tracks to watch them.)
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Violence & Scariness
Cars crash repeatedly, sometimes flipping over, leading to three teens going to the hospital (with no lasting injuries) and (spoiler alert) one key character who dies in an explosion. Characters beat each other up, leading to bruised faces, crumpled bodies, bloody mouths.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Women and high school girls are hyper-sexualized through revealing clothing, sultry dancing, and a camera that focuses more on their legs and bodies than on individual faces. One teen is introduced with a panty shot. Another teen takes off her bra (while keeping her shirt on) and throws it to start a race. Boys and men adorn their arms with multiple women. A few quick but heated kisses. Characters flirt and date. When the main character arrives at his dad's apartment in Japan, a woman with tousled hair and heavy makeup rushes out, implying that she's a sex worker.
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Several uses of "s--t," "hell," and "dammit." A Japanese character calls a Black man "monkey" and makes chimp sounds. A character boasts that he's such a good salesman he "could sell a rubber to a monk."
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Products & Purchases
Cars galore (including Volkswagen, Mustang, Toyota, VeilSide autos and Toyo tires), Tabasco sauce, neon billboards in Tokyo (Sanyo, KFC, McDonald's, Citibank, Il Primo), iPod, Snickers.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Villains smoke cigarettes repeatedly (plus a cigar); background smoking in clubs and at races; high school students drink in clubs and at parties.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that director Justin Lin's The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift is the third installment in the Fast & Furious franchise. It has lots of car races and crashes, including one that flips over and explodes, killing the driver (a disclaimer advising viewers not to try such tricks at home comes at the very end of the film). Teens fight until they're bruised and bloodied; yakuza gangsters make threats with guns (but there are no shootings). Women and girls are hyper-sexualized -- a high schooler is introduced with a panty shot, and women are treated like trophies to be won, often wearing revealing clothing and hanging off the arms of powerful men. High school kids smoke cigarettes and drink; the adult villain smokes a cigar. Language includes "s--t," "hell," and "dammit." In one scene, a Black character is called a "monkey" by a Japanese character who proceeds to make chimp noises. Overall, the film does stand out for being a big-budget action movie with a large cast of East Asian actors and a Taiwanese American director, but its reliance on a White male lead, sexist messages, stereotypes about Japanese women, and a fatphobic scene make Tokyo Drift difficult to consider a "win" for diversity. There's also less of an emphasis on family or teamwork than in other Fast and Furious movies. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Slick and shiny, this movie is part coming-of-age tale, part auto show, and part parade of girls in high school uniforms. The eye candy in The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift is generic, but the race scenes are terrific, inventive, and witty (even as they occasionally end in crashes). The script pays some attention to Sean's "outsider" status as a gaijin in Japan, but for the most part, he's another triumphant White American in a "strange" land. Upfront about its cliches (villain is grim, hero confident, girl pretty), the film glories in its gorgeous action sequences. Plot becomes irrelevant, though the pervasive sexism -- car babes treated and traded like objects -- might leave a bad aftertaste.
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Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
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