Better Luck Tomorrow (2002)
Student's High Scores
When ever a movie starts and the MTV logo shows up my expectations are automatically lowered as I associate MTV with over snappy and stylized productions with little substance. But then occasionally a movie will come along adorned with that MTV logo and be a total surprise and "Better Luck Tomorrow" is one of those movies. Directed by Justin Lin who more recently has become known for the "Fast & Furious" movies, here "Better Luck Tomorrow" initially appears to be a typical high school movie with a USP of it focussing on Asian-Americans. But whilst we have plenty of typical high school elements we have depth as well and an exciting storyline as we watch a group of friends lives spiral out of control due partly to suburban boredom.
Ben Manibag (Parry Shen) is an over achiever, everything he does he goes the extra mile for in order to be the best, be it practicing free throws to get on the basketball team or being the best server at the fast food joint he works in. All of which is because Ben wants to go to the best college and does what ever it takes to build up the best looking application form he can. Ben is not the only bright kid in school as his friends Virgil (Jason Tobin), Daric (Roger Fan) and Han (Sung Kang) are all cleverer than most but for these guys being clever isn't enough and what starts as a bit of entrepreneurial spirit as they sell cheat sheets turns into more as they become involved in robberies and drug dealing. But the deeper they go the less Ben recognizes himself especially as he is sweet on Stephanie (Karin Anna Cheung) who is not interested in the gangster Ben.
I am going to have to say that "Better Luck Tomorrow" is a movie which probably doesn't sound much when you read about it but when you watch it becomes captivating. Director Justin Lin has crafted this wonderful blend of high school drama with a crime story but one which also has a lot of depth. So you could say that on a simple level "Better Luck Tomorrow" is about a group of Asian-American high school kids, all of which are over achievers getting involved in crime and being blinded by the life style where they are rich beyond their dreams and are popular.
But "Better Luck Tomorrow" is so much more than that and just take the fact we are talking Asian-American teenagers, people who generally are supporting characters in most teen movies yet here they are the focus. Why? Well one of the things about "Better Luck Tomorrow" is that it is saying that Asian-American teenagers are no different than anyone else. We may see stereotypes of them working hard to be the best but we also get to see them here as teenagers who want to be popular, who want it all now and have sex on their minds just like any other teenager.
The things is that whilst we have depth, and there are more angles to "Better Luck Tomorrow" than just the focus on Asian-American teenagers it is a genuinely entertaining movie. The whole drama of Ben and his friend's lives spiralling out of control as they become more and more gangster is entertaining but it is also full of impact such as a scene where Ben, having succumb to drugs to maintain his hectic life, wakes up with his pillows covered in blood from a nose bleed. It is simple but powerful and that happens through out the movie but we also get some moments of humour be it from Virgil being bright but also a bit daft to the noise of a mobile phone ringing from beneath the soil. Trust me you will have to watch to understand how not only is that quite funny but also quite dark.
What this all boils down to is that "Better Luck Tomorrow" ended up a pleasant surprise because whilst it has the styling of a typical high school movie it is a movie with a great storyline and layers of depth. It makes it surprisingly captivating and the sort of movie which leaves you so entertained that you would happily watch it again.
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