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Better Luck Tomorrow /

Rated: R
Starring: Parry Shen, Jason J. Tobin, Sung Kang, Roger Fan, John Cho
Directed by: Justin Lin
Produced by: Julie Asato, Ernesto M. Foronda, Justin Lin
Written by: Ernesto M. Foronda, Justin Lin, Fabian Marquez

Distributor: Paramount Pictures


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Movie Image

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     I have a friend named Andrew, of Asian ethnicity, who claims he’s the smartest, hottest, and most well rounded person in the universe. While his grades do not reflect on this because of the “ignorant teachers” that he has, I surely thought about and compared him to the Asian teenagers in Better Luck Tomorrow at least a dozen times while watching it. Andrew jokingly claims that Asians are the superior race, and shamelessly attempts impossible kung-fu stunts, trying to publicly display their utter greatness. While the Asian teens in Better Luck Tomorrow are over-achievers, the exact opposite of Andrew, they certainly do have their similarities. It’s strangely shocking, watching a film of such grave importance, in which you can relate to.

     For some, their junior and senior years in high school are solely about getting into a good college. This is very true for Ben Manibag (Parry Shen), a Chinese-American high school student. Ben has straight A’s. He’s sixty points off a perfect score on the S.A.T., for which the verbal area is to blame. To improve, he studies a new word every day. As for extra curricular activities, Ben is on the basketball team. This isn’t to say that he plays, though. To be honest, Ben doesn’t really care. As long as it shows up on his college application, he’s happy. Several kids would die for his life; Ben has the perfect ticket through higher education—intelligence and activeness. But is this enough to satisfy? Not really. Along with almost flawless high school records, comes boredom. Ben wants a lot more, in his eyes—he has sexual, social, and economic needs to fit.

     Only bad things are to come because of these needs. Desperately trying to meet them, Ben joins a group of friends in becoming one of the most rule-breaking and, possibly dangerous, kids on the campus. Together they steal computer parts, produce answer sheets for exams that they sell, and participate in almost any scam that is proposed to them, as a way to make money. This is a surefire way to destroy their tremendous academic reputations. That’s not all they’re going to destroy however. The group of four, all of which are Asian like Ben, begin to destroy themselves. They O.D. on drugs, commit violent acts, and find themselves watching porn videos that are said to be starring students at their school. But, they do make money. And money, my friends, can buy you anything.

     Director Justin Lin knows exactly what he’s doing, and obviously, isn’t unfamiliar with the seemingly new material. He’s powerful behind the camera, and has a beautiful sense of what is going on in front of it. In the last few scenes, Lin’s work was so noticeably grand to me, that I wanted to stare at it for an eternity. The beautiful way he has of tying the score into changes in angles and shots is both fascinating and outstanding. There are a few films, which behold direction that simply works under the given circumstances, and Better Luck Tomorrow is one of these films. It’s a fine achievement from a budding director. This is Lin’s second feature, and he is sure to make many more quality films in the future. Maybe he’s the new “Asian Spielberg.”

     Stylish, unique, and fresh, Better Luck Tomorrow is one of the few good films that have come out, in this dreary drab of a year for film. If there is one predominant feature that it is most appreciable for, it is its creativeness. Walking into the theatre, I didn’t expect much, considering it’s an MTV production, but I came out very surprised. This is an excellent model for students of filmmaking. Better Luck Tomorrow is, truly, ingeniously made. It could’ve accomplished more, but at this time, it’s one of the best films playing at your local theatre. Justin Lin has assembled a vehicle that will extravagantly lead a coming line up for a new order of this type of flick.

-Danny, Bucket Reviews