Alfred Hitchcock’s Influence on Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (Part 2)

As mentioned in Part One of this Freak the Geek miniseries, I think there’s a scene that director Justin Lin lifted directly from Hitchcock while making The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift. (No harm nor foul, it’s just artistic license.) It comes from To Catch a Thief.

But to get there and see the connection, let’s back up a bit. Often dismissed as Hitchcock’s greatest puff piece, To Catch a Thief is all about the chase. Everyone in this movie is either pursuing someone, or they’re being pursued: Grace Kelly chases flirtatiously after Cary Grant, who’s chasing down the bad guys who’ve framed him for a series of robberies; the police are also after Grant — and an intrepid insurance adjuster is after a cache of stolen jewelry. In short, everyone from the cops to the robbers are after someone or something.

Naturally, this movie has all kinds of literal chases — on foot, by boat and by car. As Rope’s Phillip drunkenly says, it’s a game of “cat and mouse, but who’s the cat and who’s the mouse?” Watch the video above and see for yourself how the speeding scenes in the hills above Monaco match up rather closely with those staged by Justin Lin in the hills above Tokyo.

Here’s something else that Lin has in common with Hitchcock. For most of his career, critics thought of Hitch as just another reliably good entertainer. He never even won an Oscar, and it wasn’t until later on that the French (always the French!) started to recognize him for the genius he was.

In the same way, people tend to look at franchise movies like Fast and the Furious as mindless fluff entertainment. But in recent years, a movement has been gaining traction to reconsider the work of these so-called populist directors. It’s called the “vulgar auteur” theory — and guess what? Justin Lin’s name often figures at the top of the list. For instance, people are starting to pick up recurring themes in his films — dislocation from home and the tensions arising from cultural differences — as evidence of a singular artistic vision.

The point is, it can be tempting to dismiss his films as less worthy of our consideration because they appeal to a mass audience. Hitch faced those prejudices in his day. Yet, sometimes the best art of our times is hiding in plain sight. I wouldn’t necessarily put Tokyo Drift in that category, but it is an exciting film, and the framing and editing of the racing scenes have a dreamlike lucidity to them that I think Hitchcock would have appreciated. Maybe it’s time to give Justin Lin a second look.

Great news! I’m now producing Alfred Hitchcock Geek as a video series. Combining a lifetime of scholarship with film sequences, rare behind-the-scenes clips, interviews with Hitch himself and more, I’m doing my part to bring Hitchcock studies into the 21st century while building a community that thinks more expansively about film, art and maybe life itself. It’s a huge undertaking and I can’t do it alone. Check out some of the videos I’ve made so far. If you like what you see, I’d be honored to receive your help!

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Writer, filmmaker and Alfred Hitchcock geek.

Writer, filmmaker and Alfred Hitchcock geek.