April 2003
Better Luck Tomorrow

Reviewed by Wilson Morales

Better Luck Tomorrow
Release Date: April 11, 2003 (NY, LA, Chicago, San Francisco; wider release: April 18)
Distributor: Paramount Classics & MTV Films
Director: Justin Lin
Screenwriter: Ernesto Foronda, Justin Lin, Fabian Marquez
Starring: Karin Anna Cheung, Parry Shen, Jason J. Tobin, Sung Kang, Roger Fan, John Cho, Jerry Mathers, Aaron Takahashi, James Isaac Barry, Rick Cortes, Laura Esposito, Suzanne Keilly, Crystal Keith, Ariadne Shaffer, Beverly Sotelo
MPAA Rating: R (for violence, drug use, language and sexuality)
Official Website: BetterLuckTomorrow.com

    

What happens when you see a film about kids in high school struggling to fit in? If you went to public school where there were a mixture of different cultures, then you had to have seen the different cliques gathered around you whether in the school yard or in the gym or in the lunch cafeteria. There were the jocks, the nerds, the pretty girls, and the ďwannabesĒ, the ones that wanted to fit in any group. Itís not easy to do so. Sacrifices have to be made, and personalities change. For Asian-Americans, the perception of their culture takes a new turn in Better Luck Tomorrow, Director Justin Linís wonderful bold new film that is well acted by an amazing ensemble.

Ben (Parry Shen) is an Asian American high school teen eager to get in the best, if not all, Ivy league school. Heís personable, athletic, and very intelligent. Everyday, he reads the toughest words out of a dictionary and memorizes its definition. Living in the cool suburbs of Orange County, California has given Ben many advantages some kids donít have. Thatís not enough for him as he craves more success and recognition. Like any kid in high school, he wants to be known. Along with his best friend Virgil (Tobin), equally smart yet unstabled, the boys hook up with Daric (Fan), the coolest Asian American in school and president of the Debate team. With the addition of Virgilís cousin, Han (Kang), the four lads start to cheat their way to the top and make a profit by aiding others. When the money gets better and better, drugs and alcohol come into play. Meanwhile, with his newfound fame, Ben reluctantly tries to approach the girl of his dreams, Stephanie (Cheung), his study partner. Too bad, she only sees him as a good friend and calls upon him when her boyfriend Steve (John Cho) isnít around to take her out. Steve happens to come from a wealthy family and from a rival school. As the foursome gets richer through their petty crimes, Benís goals have suddenly changed as his life is spinning out of control.

Better Luck Tomorrow is a film I found to be dark, intriguing, suspenseful, and in some ways romantic. The whole cast is appealing and makes the film colorful. As the lead, Parry Shen carries his weight as the kid gone wrong with a conscience. Tobin, who, at first seemed to be overacting but then calmly settled into his role, turned out to be credible with his performance once we saw what his character was really like. John Cho, who most folks will remember as one of the kids in the both American Pie films, is charismatic and resigned in his role. He plays his ďcoolnessĒ like James Dean, and thatís a good compliment! As the only female in the film, Karin Anna Cheung is very attractive as the girl most guys would want to be with. Finally, a lot of the credit goes to Director and co-writer Justin Lin. He has crafted a film where nothing is predictable. The pace of the film is very kinetic. Just when you think scenes would go a certain way based on what we have seen in other films, Lin flips the script and lets the chip falls as they go. The script is smartly written and provocative. Itís bold, very interesting, and very good. Congrats goes to the cast for excellent acting.