Review: Films Set In Japan – ‘The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift’ (2006)

As someone who can’t drive and has no interest in cars I had no interest in this franchise for many many years and just assumed it was dumbed-down, brain-dead, lad-popularist titilation designed for people…..well people like me who have a short attention span and just wanna see some mindless action and car chases on screen for an hour and a half. That probably still stands true but despite my scepticism and desperate urge to hate these films I have somehow ended up enjoying them. I have seen four of the five films thus far in a real random order starting with the third installment thanks to the obvious Japan connection.

 

Last years ‘Fast Five‘ was the guilty pleasure of the year and surprised not only me but many others too given its rating on sites likes Imdb and Rotten Tomatoes. Since then I have gone on to see the first two ‘Fast and Furious‘ films and so now seems like a good time to take a closer look at the ‘Tokyo Drift‘ one which is supposedly set after the fifth one on its timeline.

Needless to say, the script and story are hideous. The acting is on a par with that of Vin Diesel and Paul Walker which is to say that it is equally awful but I never got bored during the film and probably by the end of it just about got more than I bargained for from it.

Like all international films which come to Tokyo it seems that Shibuya Crossing has to feature and whilst the real one is seen for a scene or two its quite clearly not the real thing when we see one of the most absurd car chase scenes supposedly disperse the masses of people who cross in all directions every three minutes.

This time the action follows Sean (Lucas Black) who plays an American tearaway who comes to Tokyo to live with his military father in order to avoid a jail term (why? who knows!) and inevitably he gets caught up in the underground world of drift racing in a low-rent area of the Japanese capital. To his credit, Sean is a white guy who makes more of an effort to fit in with the Japanese culture than usually happens in these ‘fish out of water’ movies where they usually make fun of or perhaps begrudgingly accept things.

Main protagonist DK is easy to dislike and the other main Asian-American character is Han who helps Sean adapt to Japanese society but I’ve always thought of him as someone who brings very little to the franchise other than ticking the box for having an Asian-looking person in the film. Probably not his fault but down to the producers not giving him anything too exciting to do.

Overall this third instalment is just about above the satisfactory mark, despite its cheesy dialogue, but just be sure to park your brains outside before you watch this flick!

London Filming Locations: Basic Instinct 2 (2006)

What’s going on here then?! Basic Instinct filming locations!! In fact these aren’t even from the 1992 thriller but the hilarious sequel which actually is funny but not in the conventional way as its the ludicrous plot which is seemingly treated so seriously by all those taking part. Its so daft that even ex-Leicester City striker is in it at the start. OK, he only played a few games for the Foxes and is far more for famous for plying his trade with other teams as well as his off-the-field problems but with a site called Tokyo Fox I have to jump on to these tenuous links to my club! His character is off his head on drugs as crime novelist Catherine Tramell (Sharon Stone) drives them through the Limehouse Link Tunnel in her car at high speed before inevitably crashing at Heron Quays into the water below. What’s more ridiculous is that despite no ramp the car flies off the bridge at a height way greater than it is!

Freemasons’ Hall on Great Queen Street in Covent Garden is on screen after 11 mins and is the court where Tramell is found to be suffering from risk addiction. Somehow I still haven’t passed by this place which is a shame as its design is quite interesting and has been used in many other films including the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Agent Cody Banks 2, Johnny English and the interior was used by director Paul Greengrass in ‘Green Zone‘ as the Republican Palace.

I have to say that I didn’t go out of my way to find any of these locations but did so when they were nearer far more interesting ones and before I knew it I had unwittingly accumulated a number of places featured in this not-so-anticpated follow-up. First up is the phallic shaped gherkin officially known as Swiss Re Tower (below) which is the office of Police Psychologist Dr Michael Glass (David Morrissey) where Tramell is waiting for him on 21 mins in anticipation of him becoming her therapist. The London landmark can be seen in glittering style again on 25, 44 and 55 mins.

 

 

After a wild sex session with his date fuelled by the image of Tramell’s face on her book besides their bed, Dr Glass gets a phone call from his ex-wife who is in a distressed state. He takes a taxi to 4 Princelet Street (below left) on 40 mins where her journalist partner Hugh Darcy has been found strangled to death. Furthermore, Darcy had been writing a negative story about Glass which leads him to think Tramell is trying to frame him for murder.

  

Tramell is followed by Dr Glass to Diamond Jack’s (above right) at 5 Walkers Court on the hour mark where he catches her in an orgy although she does see him peering through the glass roof. It appears again after 85 mins.

65 mins in is when Hakkasan (below left) at 8 Place is the bar where Glass has an altercation with his ex-wife shortly before she is found murdered. This place also appeared in the 2002 film ‘About a Boy‘.

 

The Magpie at 12 New Street (above right) close to Liverpool Street Station is not a gay bar although it did seem like it in the film where it was full of male-only police officers. It can be seen after 78 mins where Glass goes to talk to Detective Washburn and hand in some possible evidence found in Tramells fridge.

Dr Glass lives at Stone Buildings (below left) which is seen on 83 mins and is where Washburn catches up with Glass to fill him in on the forensic report.

London Filming Locations: Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels (1998

The film that put director Guy Ritchie’s name on the map starts off in Shoreditch with Eddie and Bacon on the run from the cozzers having had their street stall scam rumbled. Its the films opening scene and is accompanied by ‘Hundred Mile City’ on the soundtrack by Ocean Colour Scene. This is a pretty difficult location to describe but its on the Pedley Street side of a bridge crossing the train line from Cheshire Street. The steps (below left) are covered in graffiti and look a little different compared to the darker, grittier London portrayed by Ritchie on the 2 minute mark.

   

Hatchet Harry’s sex shop (above right) is in Shoreditch not too far away from the films opening stairwell scene. It appears on screen after 6, 15, 40, 87 and 91 mins and is at 42-44 Cheshire Street and is actually a shoe shop called Blackman’s Shoes.

Side by side on Park Street are the gangs hideout and Dog’s place (below left) at 15 and 13 respectively but I was really disheartened to see that it is now a ‘Paul Smith’ designer clothes shop which is all a far cry from the dark, dirty colours in the screen grab. This area is first seen 8 mins into the film when both sets of lads enter their hangouts just missing each other by seconds. The exterior appears again on 53, 64, 83 and 85 mins.

   

St John Street has been used for a few films and at number 40 is the bar which is run by Sting (above right) who plays the father of Eddie who is one of the gang members. It appears on screen after 14, 96 and 100 mins as ‘JD’s’ but in reality it is known simply as Vic Naylor.

The gang turn up for a game of poker at Repton Boys Club on 18 mins (below left) where ex-boxer Steve Collins makes a cameo as the bouncer. This place is also on Cheshire Street and the exterior is seen briefly again after 26 and 30 mins.

   

Samoan Jo’s is more commonly known as The Royal Oak (above right) on 73 Columbia Road near the flower market. It first appears after 19 mins and is where Bacon is later served some elaborate cocktail having asked for a refreshing drink! This very boozer has featured in a few other films and TV shows over the years.

London Filming Locations: Goodnight Sweetheart (1993-1999)

We take a little detour from the usual filming locations to take a one-off look at a few pivotal shots which were used in this popular 1990′s BBC sitcom featuring Nicholas Lyndhurst. He played Gary Sparrow who became an accidental time traveller going back and forth between the 90′s and the war torn 40′s in a love story where he juggles two women; one from each era.

Ezra Street (below) in Bethnall Green plays the part of the passageway Ducketts Passage which when he walks down it leads him back in time to wartime London. The litter bin and telephone boxes were props added to make it look more 90s-like.

  

As the camera switches angles we see Gary in the 1940′s continuing on down the lane (above) where he finds and enters The Royal Oak pub (below) where he meets landlady Phoebe. The screenshots featured here are from the first ever episode which was when Gary stumbled upon that time period and so was not dressed for the era as he was on all subsequent visits of which there were many.

 

Having bought and subsequently watched the complete six series of the show last year I was very excited to locate this pub which also appeared as ‘Samoan Jo’s’ in ‘Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels‘ and as an East end boozer in ‘The Krays‘. It can be found at 73 Columbia Road, E2 7RG close to the famous flower market.

Review: Films Set In Japan – Gung Ho (1986)

Michael Keaton plays a cocky, obnoxious, arrogant and disrespectful American called Hunt Stephenson whose big car manufacturing company in Pennsylvania is on its knees and needs buying out by Japanese firm Assan Motors. He goes to Tokyo to convince their bosses to buy the plant. ‘Don’t get me wrong‘ by Chrissie Hynde provides the soundtrack to a montage of ‘fish out of water’ scenes showing Stepehson’s arrival in Japan and includes him:

* crawling out of a capsule hotel

* wandering through Akihabara’s electric town

* looking at some typical Japanese dishes and then moments later exiting McDonalds!

* being confused by the station map

* asking a non-English speaking Japanese guy where Assan Motors is

* ending up in a rice paddy having taken wrong directions

* trying to stop a passing train and then riding on the back of someones bicycle as a result

I think Keaton portrays Hunt very well and finds himself caught in the middle of a war between his American colleagues and the Japanese bosses. He wants to stick up for the workers but he also has a sly side to him and wants to save his own ass while also doing what is right for the community which relies on the car plant.

‘Gung-Ho’ director Ron Howard shows how two very different work ethics operate and how they need to cooperate to succeed.  The individual-orientated American workforce work to live but are often caught up in trade unionism whilst the teamwork-orientated Japanese live to work and live and breathe their company. Of course they appear here as emotionless, robotic workaholics (where ever did they get that idea?!) who are made to feel part of the company as a whole and seek to produce quality products whilst examining defects instantly as opposed to the “its not my problem” attitude of the American characters. The Japanesese management struggles with things that are acceptable in the American workplace such as reading the newspaper on the toilet and Hunt, a working class guy with average intelligence who possesses people skills, has to smooth over the cracks acting as an intermediary.

A failed and shamed Japanese worker is given one last chance to become a success and is in charge of the American workers who are not permitted a union, are paid lower wages, are moved around the factory learning every job, and are held to seemingly impossible standards of efficiency and quality.

The 112 minutes of ‘Gung Ho‘ is a humourous look at the conflicting workforces, with their strengths and weaknesses equally considered. Admittedly, most of the humour is derived from how different and “weird” the Japanese are as well as other cultural things such as eating with chopsticks, bathing together in the river near the factory and doing exercises as a group before starting work which all adds to the strain in their relationship. Of course theres a moral to the story showing how people from different cultures can come to a compromise for the good of all……or something like that!!