INITIAL D (2005-HK)
review by Neo


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Initial D passes the TEST!
After Infernal Affairs, Andrew Lau and Alan Mak has become hallmark of HK film-making and unexpectingly, Initial D – a manga/anime adaptation is probably what most HK cinema goers are longing for. With taking of over 20 million HK in less than a week, D is not only this year highest grossing film, but also probably the most accomplished and best since Kung Fu Hustle. While I am assuring this is no Infernal Affairs, having seen the anime version last year, I can surely say that this is a faithful adaptation that is not mind-blowing but absolutely one word – competent. While fans will be cheering regardless, the movie itself is surprisingly fun and easy to take in entertainment that relies more on the drift and the brilliant to competent acting from the entire cast, rather than a complex storyline or twists. With all the weight of expectations being so damn high, Lau cleverly realize its target audience – anyone 15 up to 30, and hits nearly all the marks along its way, while providing excellent comic relief from the exhilarating car drifts.

The movie goes like this: For five years, 18-year-old Takumi has been delivering tofu in his father's obsolescent Toyota AE86 every morning. Not only has he become a good racer, but he has also unwillingly perfected the art of drifting. He was never an aficionado of hill racing until he is asked by his father to drive this AE86 in a David and Goliath race against Night Kid's EVO IV. A glorious but unexpected victory awakens the competitive genes in his blood, while his overnight fame inevitably leads to hell raising races one after another, each one more perilous and exciting than the previous one.

For probably only the second time out of so many reviews, that Neo actually reckons Edison did a good job. While he is not fan of him, or even has described him as totally talentless, he once again like Jiang Hu, does well in role that doesn’t require much. So he was not great, but very competent. While Shawn Yue does well with great on screen presence is extremely underdeveloped, and a character that Neo would like to see more. On the other hand, Chapman To perhaps, stand out from the pack of youngster and play the best role of his life, as he is not only not annoying but actually provided the much needed comic relief and is actually damn funny. One memorable quote from Chapman is: “Do you know what separates between God and humans are? Well, God can do things that human can’t do, and human can do what God can’t do.” Sure, it is damn contradicting, but it was shit ass funny. Another good joke is that “period” joke.

As for Jay Chou, Neo actually reckon that he makes an excellent debut in a role that absolutely fitted him – silence, and quite and unexpected hero. What surprise me even more is that he does adequately in the final crying and emotional scene, and his shyness reminds us of a young Jet Li towards romantic situations. While he unfortunately didn’t stand out of the pack, and frequently overshadowed by Chapman, but his romantic moments between him and the Japanese girl are sweet and chemical to watch. However, the highlight must be Anthony Wong, and I must mention already that he not only does more than the script, but his portrayal of Jay’s dad is just absolutely hilarious and damn cool to watch. It is once again nice to see Anthony taking a light-hearted role and playing it with such ease. Surely another Best Supporting Actor award is just around the corner. As for Kenny Bee, he does exactly as he is required, without truly standing out like Wong. While Jordan Chan played his role quite well, it was too limited to make another judgment whatsoever. As for the Japanese girl, the kissing in the car is damn sweet, but while she is cute, her acting ability is questionable, and there is this sort of mystery around her character that doesn’t allow the audience to care for her like in the anime. However, while not exactly pretty, she is a perfect match for Jay.

As for the effects and editing, is what one would call top-class, as not only are the drifts cool, the style of editing made the races extremely easy to follow. While people who have seen the anime, would be saying that the drifts aren’t as stunning as the anime, it is probably one of the better car racing scenes in the history of HK movies. Surely it is greatly enhanced by the cool and stylish camera angles, along with the excellent scenery as the backdrop, this movie is extremely easy to look at and fascinating to enjoy.

After reading this review, myself, as Neo uploaded it, I realize that this hasn't been a good review by me as I didn't criticise this movie at all - so as a result I have decided to compensate or add some more bullshit, to make it look - shitass cooler. The lighting effects juxtaposes between the dark surrounding with the always cool head lights of the cars is menacing to watch. While, the sound of drifting is so damn cool, the drifting department is probably the only part that is worth criticizing. Sure, the drifts are cool, in a lot of the part, it really seemed very repetitive and so routine that it seemed to be seemingly cheating the audience with tricky camera shots of the same stunts, shot at different angles. So for all those alert people out there, look out for the car stunt scenes and tell me in the forum if that's just my stupid eye problem! Okay then, back to my "normal" review, before I go totally off-track about my eye.

All in all, Initial D is not absolutely ground breaking, as say Infernal Affairs or Kung Fu Hustle and its subject matter probably will not reach beyond people with the age of 40+ (as the cinema I went to, I did not even see anyone over 25), which will be a definite impact on its box office taking in the long run. However, Andrew Lau and Alan Mak, once again showed us what the hell they are made of, and the hype surrounding it all might not be totally satisfy, but with the state of HK cinema as it is now, this is probably by far the best they can do. More importantly, it nearly hits all the right buttons and with a strong cast and a good director/editor, making Initial D a movie that one can not miss, but also at the same time a movie that won’t making you think about the world and shit. However, that can not stop anyone from having a great time, and what Lau proves to us is that once again reminds us that when in doubt one must cast Shawn Yue and Edison Chen and it will somehow work out with fans screaming and yelling. With this review entering its last few phrases, before I have decided to sign off, I must say that in my honest opinion, I liked the movie and is probably and most likely be this year best HK movie experience. While that’s not saying damn much, but that’s enough for you to go and watch this drifter right away…

I rate it 9.5/10

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Genre: Comic/Cars/Drama
Director: Andrew Lau and Alan Mak
Cast: Jay Chou (Chow Kit-Lun), Edison Chen Kwoon-Hei, Shawn Yue Man-Lok, Anne Suzuki, Anthony Wong Chau-Sang, Chapman To Man-Chat, Jordan Chan Siu-Chun, Kenny Bee (Chung Jun-To)
Reviewed by Andrew (Neo), July 2005