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Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Initial D (2005)

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Hey! Who's the REAL star here?

Jay Chou as Takumi Fujiwara
Edison Chen as Ryousuke Takahashi
Anthony Wong as Bunta Fujiwara
Shawn Yue as Takeshi Nakazato
Chapman To as Itsuki Tachibana
Jordan Chan as Kyouichi Sudou
Kenny Bee as Yuuichi Tachibana
Anne Suzuki as Natsuki Mogi

Initial D is a live-action feature adapted from one of the most popular manga and anime series in Japan with the same title. In Cantonese it will be called as "Tou Man Chi D".

Official Site:

I remembered this anime series was very popular a few years back, during my early college years. Most of my friends were fans of Initial D, though I couldn't really understand what is so interesting about 2 dimensional character speeding downhill in their cars. So, I entered the cinema last Sunday without any expectation - some diehard fans will be disappointed. It would be better if "'the making of" clip weren't kissing up to some artists' arse about how 'similar' they look with the real character, how much their acting has improved blah blah blah. Honestly, I would agree with how similar the cast is with the original characters - cardboard characters with no expression (call that acting?!).

Okay, back to the storyline.

You're Japanese and you're 18 years old. You don't speak much, you are kind and generally polite to everyone else. Your best friend Itsuki (Chapman) is a blabbering, good for nothing rich kid and your crush Natsuki (Anne) happen to be the hottest babe in school. Apart from the fact that your mother ran away and your father is a violent drunkard, your life appear to be just okay - and mundane.

That is our protagonist, Takumi (Jay) who spent his summer holiday working at his best friend father's (Kenny) petrol station as a pump attendant at day and delivers tofu in his dad Toyota AE86 at night. Since 13 years old, Takumi have been maneuvering the dark, windy roads of Mount Akina, and thus perfecting the art of 'drifting'. I don't really get the technical aspect of drifting, but this technique allows the car to move faster at sharp curves.

Enters Takeshi (Shawn) who challenges Ryousuke (Edison), a famous street racer to become the ultimate "King of Mount Akina". Ryousuke refuses to race with him unless Takeshi manages to defeat all the racers in Mount Akina. Takumi unwittingly defeated Takeshi and this attracted the attentions of more street racers and even professional racers Kyouichi (Jordan). Thus begin the never ending battles of speed and arrogant rivalries. On a side note, Itsuki saw Natsuki with a rich 'uncle' and suspected that she was a teen prostitute...

I hate to say this, but I have to admit that acting wise, Anthony and Kenny were the saving grace of this movie. The rest, erm... let's just say that they are living up to their wooden characters. And whoever praises Jay's acting as spectacular should get a medical examination. No offense, I'm a Jay fans (music wise) myself but his debut acting is just so-so. It might be better if they dubbed his voice as Jay's cantonese pronunciation is barely audible. I have to rely on the subtitles most of the time to get what he is talking about.

Edison and Shawn provide the eye candy factor in the movie, though I'd really hate Shawn's beard. Chapman and Kenny provide the most comical relief - their father and son chemistry is definitely better than Jay-Anthony's. Anne was more like a diversion of the storyline which we could do without. In fact, the pace of the movie would be more consistent without her character. And if I'd really have to choose someone to give the best performance award to, it would be the AE86. That car is the real star of the show.

Action wise, fans of Initial D would not be disappointed. The racing scenes done were 100% real stunt and no special effects was used (or so claimed). The various racing scenes is very exciting and kept us audiences at the edge of our seats. The soundtrack was good, but we only get to hear Jay's songs near the end of the movie. If I'm not mistaken, Jay sang two songs for this movie: Drifting (piao yi) and One Way Heading North (xi xian).

Recommended for it's high entertainment value. If you are looking for more serious content, War of the Worlds might be a better choice.

3.5 out of 5 stars.

p.s. There are rumors of a sequel being filmed soon at the Alps to give it an 'international' appeal. My guess is apart from Jay, Edison will be making an appearance since (spoilers!) Takumi agreed to join Ryousuke racing team in the end of the movie. Shawn and Jordan will not likely to come back, unless as different characters.

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