August 31, 2005


Initial D claimed Hong Kong's number one spot for 2005 in a mere four daysI don't like cars, I don't like sports and I don't like jocks, but I do like INITIAL D. Directed by the INFERNAL AFFAIRS team and based on a super-popular manga (but not the spin-off anime), this sleek good-time summer movie roared past the competition, claimed Hong Kong's number one spot for 2005 in a mere four days, and left the competition all over Asia choking on its dust.

Jay Chou (in a coma, but a cool coma) is Takumi, the accidental racing god of Mt. Akina: a tofu delivery boy who uses his supernatural racing skills to make it home as soon as possible so he won't get beaten up by his drunk dad, Anthony Wong. Working in a gas station by day, and delivering tofu by night, he doesn't even notice the various racing legends he leaves slowly spinning in his wake as he breezes by them every night.

Eventually, actors from Shawn Yue to Edison Chen and Jordan Chan show up demanding a race, and Jay does the right thing and beats the stuffing out of them in several displays of drifting that you know are CGI enhanced but are still kewl enough to make your nerves hum, even if they're humming against your better judgement.

Anthony Wong and Kenny Bee are on hand to provide some acting gravitas, and while they're both pretty cartoonish they bring their thing and shake their moneymakers with panache. Any movie that let's Anthony Wong start a story about the birth of a legend with "Four years ago, my hemorrhoids were killing me..." is a movie that's knows how to handle Anthony Wong.

Like the upcoming MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA, INITIAL D is set in Japan with a Chinese cast playing Japanese characters. The one Japanese cast member is Anne Suzuki (KAMIKAZE GIRLS, A TASTE OF TEA) who winds up as cross-cultural road kill. The directors spent a great deal of time finding the most annoying voice artist in Hong Kong to dub Ms. Suzuki's Cantonese and if you plug up your ears you can tell she's bringing her A game to the part (okay, maybe her B game, but still...) but are you willing to plug your ears for the entire movie? Ms. Suzuki's plotline is also treated like a second class citizen in the movie, and the way her entire character arc is dispensed with in the final scene is so perfunctory that it takes your breath away.

While it sounds like I'm dissing INITIAL D, there's no dis here. This is perfect popcorn entertainment. It actually provides thrills and a story, the actors are all minding their P's and Q's and consequently they add a lot to the movie (even Chapman To is an asset, not a liability) (and you won't feel like slapping Edison Chen once. Honest). The directors have a whole lotta love for their source material, and they never commit the crime of blowing the movie's events into earth-shattering proportions, instead they find the drama that's native to their small stage: this is always a movie about amateur car racing on the same strip of rural road. But they squeeze, and they wring, and they manage to fill a bucket with every single drop of entertainment value they can get out of that micro-concept.

Challenging? No, of course not. But summer's for fun flicks, not weighty ones. And INITIAL D is as breezy and light as air.

August 31, 2005 at 10:41 AM in Reviews | Permalink


Grady, you are getting your Ann's confused.

Anne Suzuki was not in KAMIKAZE GIRLS, nor was she in A TASTE OF TEA,
that was the adorable actress/model Anna Tsuchiya.

Anne Suzuki however was featured in another one of your subway cinema film festival offering, Hanna and Alice. As well as in the sci-fi flick The Returner with Takeshi Kaneshiro.

Posted by: Buma | Sep 1, 2005 1:27:21 PM

I love Anthony Wong! The tofu shots were pretty cool. I notice you mentioned the choice of chinese actors for japanese roles in the upcoming Memoirs of a Geisha. My fiance wrote an article regarding that subject if you're interested.


Posted by: dreamlogic.net | Dec 7, 2005 9:46:15 AM

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