think it's offensive and dated, and I don't have any intention of doing it!” That was Justin Lin's initial take on the Tokyo Drift script.
Of course, that was back in 2003 when Lin could afford to pick and choose and dictate terms as Hollywood's latest kid from the future. His Better Luck Tomorrow — hailed by young Asian Americans as the first flick that didn't make them cringe — had left Sundance audiences gasping for breath and top critics falling all over one another to kowtow and pay homage. In that golden aftermath eight Hollywood offers to direct big-budget movies besieged Lin. He certainly didn't have to sign on to Universal's out-of-touch script that saw Tokyo as a city of gongs, Buddhas, temples and height jokes.
Universal promptly agreed to shed the hoary nonsense and gave Lin a bigger daily shooting budget than the entire $250,000 spent to complete his career launcher. As with most such arrangements, the side that caved in completely ended up winning big. The third installment of The Fast and the Furious raked in $62,494,975 at the box office and $16,710,000 in rentals, making it one of Universal's two big moneymakers for 2006.
“I know I can do a big summer popcorn movie now,” says Lin of that little adventure.
He's being modest. He also showed beyond doubt that he has the sensibility to pull off the ultimate accomplishment of the American directorial art — a squealing car commercial. And the critics said as much. Ouch. Lin's artistic conscience must have been stinging, because he has studiously avoided publicity while that popcorn movie was fresh on everyone's minds. He has been eager to establish that he is more than chrome-adoring slo-mo chase sequences.
“I know I can make a middle-of-the-road studio drama, too,” he was careful to add. “But if that's all I did, I wouldn't be happy.”
Indeed, especially if that middle-of-the-road studio drama happened to be titled Annapolis (Touchstone). It's not so much that it was one of the biggest box office bricks of 2006, but more that it fueled suspicions about Lin's ability to develop character in an original way. Most critics thought Annnapolis was a boring assemblage of corny elements from old military dramas that tries to make up for lack of originality with too many tight pore shots and artsy-fartsy slo-mo sequences.