Home > Reviews > THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS: TOKYO DRIFT – Brian Tyler


Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

I’ve never actually seen any of the films, so it’s quite possible I could be missing something, but I’ve never fully understood how The Fast and the Furious became a franchise. The films themselves seem to be little more than elongated car chases filled with various kinds of sexy imagery – shiny chrome bodywork on the autos, scantily clad women draped over them – and star increasingly anonymous hunky male leads caught up in some kind of flaccid crime plot which involves having to drive at ludicrous speeds. Having already gone through Paul Walker, Vin Diesel and Tyrese Gibson, the third instalment stars Lucas Black (all grown up after his performance as a kid in the Oscar-winning Sling Blade), as Sean Boswell, a teenage troublemaker sent to live with his strict military father in Japan, and who gets caught up in the underground world of ‘drift racing’ round the streets of Tokyo.

For some other unfathomable reason, The Fast and the Furious also seems to attract top-name composers to write their scores. The original was scored by the self-aggrandising BT, the first sequel saw David Arnold brought on board by director John Singleton, and now this film sees Taiwanese director Justin Lin working with composer Brian Tyler; the two collaborated previously on Annapolis earlier in the year. I have said for a long time that I think Tyler is one of the most exciting composers to emerge in Hollywood since the turn of the millennium, as scores such as Darkness Falls, Children of Dune, The Final Cut and Constantine attest. His excellence with an orchestra is unquestionable, but we tend to forget that he’s still only in his thirties, and was brought up as much in the world of rock and pop as he was the classics. The best thing about The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift is that is gave him a chance to show that side of his personality; it’s very different from his more popular works, but no less impressive.

Quite a lot of Tokyo Drift sees Tyler in multi-instrumentalist mode. In addition to conducting the orchestra, Tyler performs the vast majority of the guitars and synths himself, albeit with one special collaborator: former Guns ‘n’ Roses lead guitarist Saul Hudson, better known to the world as Slash. The music, on the whole, is of the fast, energetic, propulsive variety, combining a large symphony orchestra with a vast array of electronic beats, R&B and hip-hop rhythms, synth overdubs, samples, screaming electrics, heavy metal guitars, pounding percussion, and so on. It’s all quite breathless stuff, and certainly does the trick of capturing the musical soul of a vibrant, modern sub-culture in which the sound of urban America is the dominant force.

Several cues stand out. The opening pair, “Touge” and “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift”, are astonishingly good: fast, exhilarating pieces with fiendishly difficult orchestral textures fighting to be heard above the powerfully driving electronica. At times, Tyler’s writing has the same kind of gritty intensity Elliot Goldenthal brought to his score for SWAT in 2003, and when you consider that Tyler did all his own synth programming as well as writing the orchestral parts, the level of his achievement on cues like this is immediately apparent. Subsequent action cues, such as “DK vs. Han”, “Downtown Tokyo Chase” and the thrash metal influenced “Megaton”, build upon the style of these cues, while the conclusive “Symphonic Touge” presents a stripped-down version of the main theme, without any electronics whatsoever, further highlighting the intricacy and strength of Tyler’s orchestral writing.

Cues such as “Neela Drifts”, “Empty Garage”, “Journey Backwards” and “Neela” are slower and more tempered, but still contain an edge of contemporary cool, and lend a distinctly romantic edge to the neon-shrouded streets that Boswell finds himself inhabiting. “Hot Fuji”, on the other hand, is ultra-modern, and features sampled vocal effects and finger-snaps that sound like they were lifted straight out of a Destiny’s Child backing track. “Sumo” and “Winner… Gets… Me”, however, actually sound like refugees from another score – a semi-ironic modern western, perhaps, with modern gunslingers squinting through a harsh desert sun. Slash’s performances, notably on “Mustang Nismo” and “Welcome to Tokyo” add a hard rock edge to the proceedings, and fans of his work with Guns ‘n’ Roses will certainly be able to identify his signature ‘guitar wail’ sound.

Unfortunately, some of the ‘mid-album’ score does tend to drag a little, and gets bogged down in an endless loop of quite bland repeated textures which do little more than add an extra dimension to the film’s sound palette, and are of very little musical worth when listened to out of context. It is these moments which knock off a star from the final rating; if the CD had trimmed some of the excess and slimmed down by 10-15 minutes or, it could have been a **** 40-minute album. If you have an aversion to hip-hop, heavy metal, or R&B, this might be one to avoid; otherwise, it’s a prime example that, when given the opportunity, film composers can rock out too.

Rating: ***

Track Listing:

  • Touge (0:46)
  • The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (7:05)
  • Saucin’ (4:28)
  • Neela Drifts (3:27)
  • Preparation (1:10)
  • N2O (0:49)
  • Mustang Nismo (2:21)
  • Underground (1:33)
  • Hot Fuji (1:55)
  • This Is My Mexico (1:23)
  • Welcome to Tokyo (1:54)
  • DK vs. Han (3:32)
  • Downtown Tokyo Chase (2:33)
  • Aftermath (1:22)
  • Empty Garage (1:01)
  • DK’s Revenge (1:09)
  • Journey Backwards (0:58)
  • Sumo (1:37)
  • Shaun’s Crazy Idea (2:44)
  • Dejection (1:12)
  • Kamata (1:32)
  • Two Guns (1:29)
  • I Gotta Do This (1:14)
  • Megaton (2:16)
  • Neela Confronts DK (1:47)
  • Winner… Gets… Me (1:21)
  • War Theory (1:54)
  • I Don’t Need You To Save Me (0:57)
  • Neela (1:44)
  • Symphonic Touge (6:50)

Running Time: 64 minutes 29 seconds

Varèse Sarabande VSD-6745 (2006)

Music composed and conducted by Brian Tyler. Orchestrations by Dana Niu. Featured musical soloists Brian Tyler and Slash. Recorded and mixed by Joel Iwataki. Edited by Gary L. Krause. Album produced by Brian Tyler.

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