Better Luck Tomorrow (2002)

(On Cable TV, October 2014) My motives were a bit superficial in wanting to watch Better Luck Tomorrow: writer/director Justin Lin went on to direct several installments in the Fast & Furious series, which featured a charismatic character named Han as played by Sung Kang.  I’d heard that Lin’s first film featured the same actor playing a similar (perhaps identical) character and wanted from where both the director and the character came from.  But Better Luck Tomorrow ends up being a somewhat likable high-school crime drama, featuring well-off Asian-American teenagers turning to criminal activities in order to spice up their overachieving lifestyle.  It’s funny and sympathetic up to the point where things turn dark and ugly, but this depiction of characters often glimpsed as stereotypes in other teenager movies feels fresh and interesting.  There are a few laughs, a few cringes and a few moments of condemnation for the characters turning bad.  The slide into serious crime is as shocking as the characters are engaging when they’re merely being bad boys.  Lin’s direction is stylish and engaging (especially considering the limited budget of the film) and the young actors all do good work.  Sung Kang does play a younger “Han” with understated cool, while Parry Shen anchors the film as the protagonist and Karin Anna Cheung plays a love interest with quite a bit more depth than you’d expect.  All in all, Better Luck Tomorrow ends up being a much better experience than simply answering a trivia question about Justin Lin and Sung Kang

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