2006 | dir: Justin Lin | 104 m
It’s easy to conceive of a universe where The Fast and The Furious franchise simply dissipated into the ether like a puff of exhaust from the tailpipe of a 1970 Dodge Charger. The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift had all the hallmarks of a direct-to-video release and a total lack of any confidence in its success on the part of Universal. With none of the stars from the first two films returning, Tokyo Drift appeared to be an attempt by a major Hollywood studio to capitalize on whatever shred of popularity they could sink their greedy little claws into. On paper, it seemed to be a Fast and The Furious movie in name only: it featured all new characters in an all-new setting with a narrative completely divorced from the movies that had proceeded it. All signs pointed to Universal trying to squeeze the last few drops of profitability from a (at the time semi-) recognizable brand name before discarding its desiccated rinds into the gutter like so much scrap metal.
Tokyo Drift might very well have sealed the series’ fate as a string of unrelated D-list, bargain-bin fare were it not for one unanticipated variable: director Justin Lin.
At the time he was tapped to helm Tokyo Drift, Lin had five directing credits to his name, only three of which were feature-length, and only one of which would likely to have been known by any Western audiences, the oft-overlooked Annapolis (which I highly recommend you check out). Annapolis and Tokyo Drift were likely intended as auditions by studios to see if the director could handle a lower-risk, mid-budget movie before being given the reigns on something with larger price tag attached. This is similar to the way Christopher Nolan was handed the Insomnia remake or Zack Snyder was given the Dawn of the Dead remake essentially to prove they had the chops to manage a project of a certain size.