The story of Han is a deep and complicated one. The character originated from Justin Lin’s Better Luck Tomorrow, a 2002 independent movie, and ended up being in all Fast and Furious movies from the third to the sixth. This was due to Lin being selected as the new director of Tokyo Drift, a role he accepted after obtaining the right to change the script, because in the beginning it was just something like “cars drifting around Buddha statues and Geisha’s” (in Lin’s words), a thing he found a little bit offensive. He came up with the idea of introducing Han, Sung Kang’s character from his first indie movie, into Tokyo Drift, changing the franchise forever and into a much better direction. It was the first time that an independent movie became a part of a Hollywood saga, and after Vin Diesel saw the first cut of the movie he wanted to be a part of it. So together with Lin and script writer Chris Morgan, they began discussing the future of the franchise, creating a “mythology” and adding deepness and a whole new gear to the saga, launching it into something different, something that doesn’t just appeal to people that simply want to watch action movies with explosions and fast cars, but also character development, references and Easter eggs to many cultural things and interesting subplots. Vin was driven by his childhood passion for Dungeons and Dragons into creating this thing they call “mythology” and, considering the franchise doesn’t only include Better Luck Tomorrow but also Lin’s movie Annapolis (Daric Loo from BLT is in this movie, same actor and same character, portrayed by Roger Fan and confirmed by Lin himself in his last F&F Twitter Q&A), they’ve managed to do something great, not just financially speaking. Regarding this, it’s really important to quote Kurt Russell when he said that when speaking with Vin Diesel about the movies he was surprised that Vin called them a “saga” and not just a simple “series”.
At the end of Tokyo Drift Vin Diesel’s character Toretto appears, stating that he’s a friend of Han and that the car he is driving was actually won from Han himself. This cameo revealed that there was more to show, more things that we didn’t know and that maybe could shed light on Han’s mysterious speeches from the movie. After this, every movie in the franchise that came out (Los Bandoleros, Fast 4, 5 and 6) were prequels, each one with the subplot of showing us Han’s back-story and inner journey.
Justin Lin also wanted to bring Asian-American actors and culture to the big screen, trying to free them from all racial conceptions and prejudices. He said that he didn’t feel right with the fact that in the first Fast and Furious all the Asians were the bad guys. Sung Kang stated that the Fast saga helped him very much with his career, not having to play anymore minor roles like “waiters” or “Yakuza member” but also major ones, on par with every other Hollywood star, helping him to grow as an actor and as a person. This was very important to Lin, starting from Better Luck Tomorrow and proceeding on in the next movies, and in the end he managed to do that. Han has become a much loved character through the world, and the Fast saga managed to gather a big multiracial cast that surpasses racial prejudices.
The Story of Han
Better Luck Tomorrow
This movie depicts Han’s high school life, confirmed by Justin Lin himself. The movie is about four Asian-American guys from Alhambra, California, which enter a downward spiral of sex, drugs, money and little crimes, who all despise being 4 students with high grades and a good family. In the movie Han is Virgil’s cousin, a bit older than him and Ben, who, in Ben’s words, is “everything Virgil is not”. He’s very silent and taciturn, but he seems to be always a step ahead of everyone, never losing his calm and coolness. It seems as if Lin knew he would later reuse Han, because in the movie he never spoils him: Han is the only guy of the group who doesn’t get into cocaine, who doesn’t have sex with the prostitute, who wasn’t okay with the plan of giving a lesson to Steve, and in the end who actually didn’t directly participate in the murder of the boy, but just stood there in silence and shocked as his friends did what they did.
The movie tells us about his relationship with his cousin, a troubled one but in the end Han actually really cared about him, since he took the blame for the cheat sheets for him and was devastated after he tried to commit suicide. Even if he tried to keep his coolness, he was a good guy who in the end was the only one of the four to really understand what was important, and that was not the money. Han is also a great smoker, being almost always depicted with a cigarette in his hands.
In the end, he cuts off his hair and Ben states, as the closing credits roll in, that he doesn’t know what the others are gonna do, but surely there’s no coming back.
This is a short movie set before Fast and Furious 4, it takes place in Dominican Republic and explains how Toretto met Han, Leo (Tego Calderon) and Santos (Don Omar), and how Letty came back after the first movie. The movie is a really nice touch by Vin and the cast, since no one was paid and it was freely released. Vin also personally paid all of the production costs. This shows how attached everyone was to the continuity, because that’s the role of this short film, tying up loose ends.
In the movie, Toretto is shown being in Dominican Republic after his escape in the first F&F, and calling on his friend Han for help. When Han arrives in the island, we can see he has short hair, a nice nod to BLT (where he shaved himself), signifying that some time has passed. In fact, during this time, Han was with Toretto in Mexico and South America, doing adventures and jobs that unfortunately we can’t see. This is confirmed by Han himself in his dialogue with Cara Mirtha, where he says that he knew Dom in Mexico, thus linking Los Bandoleros with F&F 1 post credits scene (where Dom is in Mexico) and with Better Luck Tomorrow (it’s implied Han escaped in Mexico after the events of the movie); he also states Dom calls him for interesting jobs and that they have been together for a while in South America, a period where he presumably lost his habit of smoking and started eating chips and other foods to always keep his hands occupied (actually, Lin had to make the change after learning of Universal’s policy of not having main characters smoking).
In the movie, Han maintains his cool, silent and sometimes cold attitude, while displaying a sense of humor and sarcasm and a carefree and laid-back personality. He is also bold and reckless, never showing any form of hesitation and taking everything that’s thrown at him with nonchalance, but still shows some traits of youthfulness and freshness.
Fast And Furious 4
The movie begins right where Los Bandoleros ends, showing Han with his then girlfriend Cara helping Dom and the others to steal the fuel tanks. Even if they are stealing, this segment depicts Han’s sense of judgment and goodness because, as explained in the short movie, they were stealing the fuel to help the poor people of the Dominican Republic (prices were rising), showing he wasn’t doing it only for the money. While in the beginning Han is happy and carefree, the last time we see him at the party he announces to Dom that the police are after them and already raided their garage in Baracoa, stating that it’s time for them to leave and appears to be saddened by this. Dom says it’s better to split, and Han states he wants to go to Tokyo, where he heard they’re doing “some crazy shit”.
Fast and Furious 5
In this movie Dom and Brian call all their friends from previous installments to do one last heist, the biggest of their life and the one that will change them forever. This is the movie that launched the franchise into space with its revenues and where we can really see the jump in quality in Lin’s work.
Han arrives in Rio, Brazil, as calm and relaxed as ever, eating his chips, with longer hair and meeting the others in their base. There he shows a more mature side to himself, showing he is no longer the young boy from previous films and he starts developing a relationship with Gisele. She is different from the girls he met so far: she doesn’t get impressed by stories and fast cars, she likes facts and strong willed men, and even if Han is just an ex high school student who was crafted by his life in the street and his many adventures while she is an ex Mossad agent, she founds in him the man she is searching for.
In the movie there’s a nice nod to Better Luck Tomorrow: while Han notices Gisele worked in Mossad (showing us again his all-around culture, maybe forged with experience and with the use of internet as in BLT he was shown to be efficient with computers), she immediately gets that he is an ex smoker by his habit of always eating.
In the end, they manage to steal all of Reyes’ money and this marks another important phase in Han’s journey of redemption; he saved a city from its corrupt tyrant and police, while finding a strong willed girl which can help him with his troubled life. It’s nice to note that, even when opening the vault and seeing 100 million dollars popping out, Han is the only one who remains calm, as if nothing special was going on.
The last time we see them is in Berlin riding in the Autobahn, and from dialogue in the video game “Fast and Furious: Showdown”, we actually discover that it was Gisele’s wish to have a date there, and Han simply made her happy.
Fast and Furious 6
Through the movie, Han is seen deeply caring for Gisele and asking her to stay in one city to live their relationship in peace. While in their mission in London we can see life has turned Han into a man, always calm and always relaxed, someone you can trust and that would go as far as risking his life in an impossible mission just to answer a friend’s request. Gisele initially doesn’t want to settle down with him, but through the movie Han saves her life many times, forging their relationship and in the end she finally accepts his request and decide to settle down in Tokyo, given that Han really wanted to go there. Unfortunately, Gisele sacrifices herself to save his life in their last attempt to save Letty and Mia, and, even if the mission is successful, this leaves Han devastated and immensely sad. The woman who helped him to become a better man and to finally settle down with his past had died, for him, and he was alone again.
By defeating Shaw’s gang it can be said that Dom and his friend saved the world, because a Nightshade device, if sold to the wrong people, could destroy a whole country and starting a third world war; this marks the last phase of Han’s journey of redemption.
In the end he still goes to Tokyo, to honor his promises to her.
Even if this is the third movie in the saga, it actually takes place after Fast 6. If you watch it again after watching the entire saga, Han’s speeches will gain deeper meaning, actually exploring his inner demons and his state. In the movie his life is shown to be full of people around him but he is actually really lonely, missing his old friends and seeing in Sean Boswell a true friend and a good person to trust, unlike the other people orbiting around him in Tokyo. He helps him to learn drifting and ultimately, in a car chase after a ruckus with local boss nephew Takashi, even if he was in the lead and could escape, slows down to save Sean’s life and in the end gets killed in a car crash. In the post credits scene of Fast 6 we actually discover that it was Shaw’s brother who killed him, seeking revenge after the events of the sixth movie.
Dominic Toretto goes to Tokyo to pay his homage to Han and to know Sean just before the credits roll.
Fast and Furious 7
This movie finally explains why Dom went to Tokyo, to bring Han back home, in America, where he truly belongs. It is revealed that he kept a photo of Gisele in his car, showing he still mourned her, the girl who saved him and changed his lonely life forever.
Han’s relationship with women
Han’s relationship with women is very complicated and evolves through the movies he is in. In Better Luck Tomorrow we can see his simplistic relationships with them, having affairs with more than one woman at once and always being seen with different girls all the time. He’s still a high school student who had his experiences and knew more about the other sex than the other guys, but he still prefers various pleasures given by different girls.
In Los Bandoleros and Fast and Furious 4, we can see he is more mature, setting down for a bit with Cara Mirtha. While in the beginning, when she is waiting for him at the airport, she makes jokes about his habit of eating and appears annoyed, the moment she actually saw him for the first time she immediately understands he’s a different man than the one she thought this mysterious friend of Dom would be. Han just looks at her silently, using his calm and silent attitude, and later at the party when her friend tries to make fun of him (by asking if he was Chinese, Japanese or whatever), he simply doesn’t mind him and continues speaking with her about his many adventures, staring directly in her eyes and catching her attention, thus starting their affair. In Fast 4 Han leaves the Dominican Republic, ending his relationship with her.
Fast 5 marks the turning point of his life and his relationship with the other sex, after knowing Gisele. She’s not like the other girls, she can’t be impressed by words alone and has herself seen so many things in life so as not to be as easily fascinated. Nevertheless, he manages to conquer her by showing his skills, unlike the other guys who immediately jump at her, he calmly acts in the background, always having the right words at the right time, and impresses her with facts. In her, he finds someone with similar inner demons as himself, someone who could understand him and help him through everything. They start their relationship and begin travelling the world.
In Fast 6, we see he deeply loves her. He has left behind his womanizer attitude of the past and now wants a serious relationship with her, having found the perfect woman for him. Everything he does is just for her and she is his only thought. When Shaw steals the tank, we can see Han and Gisele together on their motorcycles, almost not caring about the dangerous situation and almost appearing annoyed (and not scared at all) by the tank. He saves her life many times in the movie, strengthening their bond and in the end, after she finally accepts his request to settle down in Tokyo, Gisele sacrifices herself to save his life. This is the first and only time we actually see Han crying, and he is left devastated, alone again, the only woman who ever really loved him gone forever, and decides to still go to Tokyo.
Finally, in Tokyo Drift, we see Han trying to go through his new life, almost returning to his old habit of having casual relationships, but showing that he didn’t care much about them, merely flirting just to feel himself alive. During Sean’s first race in the multi-story car park, unlike Twinkie who rapidly enters the elevator full of girls, Han waits behind and use the elevator alone, calmly, preferring comfort and his loneliness over those people’s empty company. In the end he was still mourning Gisele and thus lived a really sad life.
As I stated many times, throughout the movies Han appears as a taciturn and introverted guy, crafted by many adventure and journeys. He doesn’t speak very often, but when he does, he always has the right words for every situation, and never appears scared even in the most unthinkable situations, but calm and relaxed. Even if his words are often cryptic, knowing his whole journey helps to understand what they mean. In Tokyo Drift he has a dialogue with Sean in a rooftop, which really explains his personality and what he’s been through:
Sean, “So, how did you end up over here, anyway?”
Han, “Well, you know those old Westerns where the cowboys make a run for the border? This is my Mexico.”
These lines, even if short, contain a deep meaning, something Justin Lin really thought was an important theme in his movies. In many movies we see cowboys trying to reach the border to be free, it’s their dream, but when they finally make it, the films end. Going to Tokyo was Han’s long time wish but, in the end, was he really happy? Unlike those movies where we don’t see the cowboys’ lives in Mexico, we can see Han’s life in Tokyo, and is it really a happy life? He had seen everything in life: he had many friends and found a way to have money in high school, he travelled through South America and knew many people, he had all the girls he wanted, he accomplished many tasks, he had 10 million dollars and he also saved the world (in Fast 6). When you have everything you want and you’ve seen everything, what’s left? What can you do to fill your time and also feel again some adrenaline? This theme is the same as the one Steve from Better Luck Tomorrow talks with Ben, when you have everything you want, what’s left? Can we really ever reach happiness?
Sean, “Why’d you let me race your car? You knew I was gonna wreck it.”
Han, “Why not?”
Sean, “’Cause that’s a lot of money.”
Han, “I have money, its trust and character I need around me. You know, who you choose to be around you lets you know who you are. One car in exchange for knowing what a man’s made of? That’s a price I can live with.”
In this passage, another important trait of Han is shown. He never really cared about money, it wasn’t important, he really wanted just a good friend to be with, going as far as having one car he cared destroyed just to know Sean better.
Han, “Look at all those people down there. They follow the rules for what? They’re letting fear lead them.”
Sean, “What happens if they don’t?”
Han, “Life is simple, you make choices and you don’t look back.”
This passage is the most important. Han looked down (both literally and metaphorically) at the people who strive to find success and money in life, especially the one who submitted to the system in order to do so, living boring lives and not doing what they really liked. For Han, they were led by fear, the fear of not having success in life, that bind them to live the same routine every day, following the same rules, hoping to obtain success. Han had seen many things in his life and always managed to do what he really wanted, never bragging about his achievements. He managed to get rich, and not by being enslaved by the system, but actually by robbing a really bad man of his money, saving an entire city from its corruption in the process. As Tego Calderon states in his monologue at the beginning of Los Bandoleros, a bandolero is made, and not born as one, and he is a free person who doesn’t obey the system. The only thing important in life are the other people and the relationships with them, not the money. Even if Han had all the things he wanted, had the money to buy anything and had finally reached Tokyo, he still missed what he wanted most, good people to be with; he still mourned Gisele’s loss and couldn’t really find a way to finally be at peace with himself, also missing his old friends. Han finally knew the answer to the never-ending question that continues appearing in Justin Lin’s movies, the only way to achieve happiness is by having someone you care about near you, and all the material things can’t ever buy this. It’s for this reason that he decides to teach Sean, someone different from the empty people orbiting around him in Tokyo, the meaning of family and in the end, Han is finally a wise person. As Sung stated in an interview, the events of Fast 6 help to clarify why Han becomes a mentor figure in Tokyo Drift: “After Gisele’s death, Han is finally wise. I recently learned the definition of wisdom is education that one is able to teach others. He’s able to teach the meaning of family to the Shawn Boswell character [in Tokyo Drift].”
He doesn’t care if his decisions in his life were right or wrong, he just knew that the important thing was having no regrets.
In the end, when he dies, we can hope he finally found peace with himself, rejoining Gisele in death.
Through the movies Han is credited as Han Tehm, Han Lue and Han Seoul-Oh. Justin Lin states in a Twitter Q&A that they will never tell Han and Gisele’s real surnames, and this is hinted in the movies, like in Fast 6 when Shaw reads Toretto’s friends complete names on some files and he stops just before stating Han and Gisele’s. Also, in Fast 5, Hobbs watches Dom and Han’s photos on a monitor and states that they can change their names but not their faces. Han has changed his identity many times presumably to escape being found, and when Hobbs watches the monitor, we can see his made-up surname being Seoul-Oh, a reference to Star Wars character Han Solo, also making a pun with the city of Seoul. Han is still a normal guy that life had turned into an expert man, but he was still a normal high school student in the past, who liked Star Wars and comics (as shown in Tokyo Drift). The way he saves Dom from being shot during the ending chase in Fast 5 is also a reference to how Han Solo saves Luke Skywalker from behind at the end of Star Wars 4.
Also, the word Han has a deep meaning in Korean culture, something a bit hard to grasp but very inherent to the character. Sung himself made a post on Facebook about the concept of “Han”, which can be summarized as follows:
“Han is a difficult concept which requires an understanding of the context in which it is used.
Han is frequently translated as sorrow, spite, rancor, regret, resentment or grief, among many other attempts to explain a concept that has no English equivalent. Han is an inherent characteristic of the Korean character and as such finds expression, implied or explicit, in nearly every aspect of Korean life and culture.
Han is sorrow caused by heavy suffering, injustice or persecution, a dull lingering ache in the soul. It is a blend of lifelong sorrow and resentment, neither more powerful than the other. Han is imbued with resignation, bitter acceptance and a grim determination to wait until vengeance can at last be achieved.
Han is passive. It yearns for vengeance, but does not seek it. Han is held close to the heart, hoping and patient but never aggressive. It becomes part of the blood and breath of a person. There is a sense of lamentation and even of reproach toward the destiny that led to such misery.”
Through the movies he’s in, we can see he has got many friends and many ties to other people, even if these things aren’t shown on screen. For example, in Better Luck Tomorrow, Virgil says to Ben that he knew about his involvement in the cheat sheets operations thanks to Han, and later when having to sell the stolen computer parts from the school, Han says “I can always sell this shit”, highlighting his background connection with other people. Also in Fast 5, it’s thanks to him that the gang obtains the copy of the vault, and he simply states “we had a life before you met us”; after Vince is killed, Han had already called some friends and organized their escape from Rio, even if in the end they decide to continue with the heist. All these things show his vast experience and the many relationships he had crafted during his many adventures, a thing that helped him being always a step ahead of everyone.
After he shaved his head in Better Luck Tomorrow, Han had his hair slowly growing longer through the Fast movies. This is a nice continuity nod, considering the movies weren’t made in order.
One last curiosity, in Fast Five and Fast and Furious 6 we have a total of three scenes related to Han which didn’t make it in the final cuts of the movies but are important for the character:
In Fast Five, in the “gag reel” at about minute 2:10, we can see Gisele asking Han “What about you?” and he responding “The people I’m around… Defines who I am”. This short dialogue included in the gag reel (even if it isn’t a “gag” at all) is strictly linked to Han’s quote with Sean in Tokyo Drift.
In Fast and Furious 6, we have a deleted scene with Han and Gisele that shows how she is starting to accept the idea of settling down, and in the blue-ray’s extended edition of the movie we can see Dom showing Han an orange Camaro and Han saying “nice color”, foreshadowing his interest in orange cars that would led him to buy his Mazda RX-7 in Tokyo Drift. Too bad all this scenes didn’t make it into the final version of the movies.
Han is dead and his fate is finally confirmed in Furious 7. Sung Kang himself said its better that Han stays dead and that “it’s time to close the book”. On a side note, it would really be cool to actually have a movie about Han and Dom’s adventures in Mexico and South America, set after Fast and Furious 1 and Better Luck Tomorrow but just before Los Bandoleros and Fast and Furious 4, showing how Han lost his smoking habit and how Dom won the car he had in Tokyo Drift from him. When we see Han and Dom together for the first time in Los Bandoleros, they already share a deep bond of trust and loyalty; it’d be nice to actually see how this bond was created in the first place.
It would also be cool to have a movie about Han and Gisele’s adventures around the world before Fast 6, or about Han’s time in Tokyo before Tokyo Drift. After all, the studio listened to fans demanding for Letty’s return.
In the end, I’d like to make my thanks to Sung Kang for portraying such a good character and to everyone involved in the movies for making them come real. A special thanks is mandatory to Fiona Swarbrick (or just “Fi”), Sung’s friend, a special person that helps him with his Facebook page and that is always nice and helpful.
Article by Michele Costanzo – Visit the fan page: Tokyo Drift 2 – Bring Han Back
Visit the Official Fast and Furious website.
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