Tau Man Ji D [Initial D] (2005)

(On DVD, June 2006) It takes some skill to make a boring racing film, and that’s almost what this is: Initial D feels limp and repetitive, hampered by subplots that go nowhere and a rhythm that seldom gets above first gear. Eschewing the technicolor craziness of movies such as The Fast And The Furious: Tokyo Drift, Initial D is down-to-earth and plausible, which makes the film seem even longer. We’re scarcely given any chance to get excited about the sullen protagonist, let alone find any reason to cheer for him. The accidental way in which he worms himself in a series of racing competition seems to reflect a passive observer more than an active participant. While the races themselves are well directed, the lack of diversity is a serious problem, not to mention the hum-drum nature of the featured cars. But the film at least has a special kick during the racing scenes –which is more than we can say about the non-racing subplots, the worst of which has to be a half-hearted romance with a spectacularly unsatisfying wrap-up. I suppose that a greater familiarity with the source manga might have helped, because the film on its own just doesn’t hold up.

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