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November 09, 2005

Initial D

Tau Man Chi D
Andrew Lau & Alan Mak - 2005
Media Asia Region 3 DVD

Maybe my expectations were unfounded. Initial D is the newest film from the team of Lau and Mak following their Infernal Affairs trilogy. This new film was also one of the big hits of the past summer in Asia, besting such fare as Mr. and Mrs. Smith to the surprise of those following the business of entertainment. I suppose that based on its success, that Lau and Mak achieved the goal of creating another franchise. As films on race car drivers go, this one could be titled, "Fast, but not Furious".

The title refers to a racing style called "drifting" which essentially means driving around tight corners at about 100 miles per hour, or roughly the same speed as most motorists here in Miami Beach in my neighborhood. The film is based on a very popular Japanese manga, and the film is a Japanese-Hong Kong co-production. The manga has already been the source of an anime series, and at one point Initial D was to have been directed by Tsui Hark. The film is centered on a young man, Takumi, who drives through a mountain highway, very fast, in a 1986 Toyota AE86, a car that is somewhat like a Corolla hatchback. No matter how fast he drives, Takumi usually has his head in his hand, resembling a bored high school student sitting through yet another soon to be forgotten lecture.

More effort was put into special effects including computer animation and multiple screen shots, than in creating an interesting story. Going through the credits, it became apparent that the film was also set up to be a, pardon me, vehicle for Taiwanese star Jay Chou, who not only plays the sullen hero, but also sings much of the rap inspired soundtrack. The actress playing the would-be girlfriend, Anne Suzuki, is blandly attractive. Even the usually reliable Anthony Wong is wasted as Takumi's perpetully drunken father.

Unlike Rob Cohen's Fast and the Furious and similar American films, Initial D seems addressed for a younger audience. The level of broad humor is at best adolescent. The young actors look like they could still be in high school. Even the racing sequences fail to impress although again one can see the influence of Cohen's popular film. Even the studio fabricated car chase of Don Siegel's The Line-Up was more suspenseful. It was pretty much a given that Jay Chou would win his races, making me almost as bored as Chou looks thoughout the film. Even Renny Harlin's supremely silly Driven had more visceral pleasure. Jay Chou may be a very popular young star in Asia, but when it comes to racing films, I'd rather it be fueled by Vin Diesel.

Posted by peter at November 9, 2005 04:27 PM


Sounds pretty fun, I guess I will have to troll to find a pic of it.
I guess the real question is are the guys cute?

Posted by: lulo at November 10, 2005 02:16 PM

Jay Chou and Edson Chan fit the bill for teen idols.

Posted by: Peter Nellhaus at November 10, 2005 06:51 PM