Initial D (2005) Review

"Initial D" Japanese DVD Cover

"Initial D" Japanese DVD Cover

Director: Andrew Lau Wai Keung
Writer: Alan Mak Siu Fai, Felix Chong Man Keung
Cast: Jay Chou, Jordan Chan Siu Chun, Edison Chen Koon Hei, Anne Suzuki, Shawn Yue Man Lok, Anthony Wong Chau Sang, Chapman To Man Chat, Kenny Bee, Will Liu Keng Hung
Running Time: 107 min.

By Ningen

Based on the anime and manga of the same name, Initial D is about an ace drifter named Takumi (played by Jay Chou) who delivers food for his dad Bunta (Anthony Wong) in the same car he uses to race rival street-racers. Takumi prefers to be anonymous, but when he gets challenged by some cheap competitors, he’s forced to ask his dad to pimp his ride. In the mean-time, he has to deal with an awkward relationship with a more out-going(a little too out-going, actually) girlfriend named Natsuki (played by Anne Suzuki).

Chou comes off like Keanu without a pulse, but he does have a strong presence which suggests he could do serious roles one day. His hip-hop skills, however, are lacking; and playing his music in the background, during races, serves to undermine the tension. By the time the film’s done, you definitely will wish they had gone for Eurobeat. Anne Suzuki’s character is charming, but essentially serves as the window dressing for the film. Anthony Wong steals the show as the easy-going dad with all the answers.

The races themselves have some nice cars and believable stunts, but nothing gripping. That might have to do with the emphasis being placed more on the drivers than their tricks. Overall, though, Initial D is a decent leave-your-brain type of film you can appreciate, so long as you don’t expect to be left breathless as well.

Ningen’s Rating: 5.5/10

By Owlman

For those of you who haven’t heard about it before, Initial D is a very successful Japanese series of manga, anime, and video games throughout most of East Asia. Set in the world of drift racing, the story follows Takumi Fujiwara (Jay Chou), son of Bunta Fujiwara (Anthony Wong) who was a former legend on the street racing scene. Bunta doesn’t race much anymore and, in this movie, he’s running a tofu delivery service during the day and drinking away his sorrows at night. He’s got Takumi delivering the goods nowadays since he’s usually too drunk to do it himself. Since Takumi usually has to take the winding route through Mount Akina, he’s learned to be very adept at racing through the twists and turns at high speed.

This catches the attention of Ryusuke (Edison Chen) and Takeshi (Shawn Yue) who enjoy racing through the same stretch of road at night. Takumi inadvertently beats Takeshi during a tofu delivery run and while initially reluctant to join in the street racing circuit, he gradually falls into it.

Andrew Lau is the director here and his marquee name is usually synoymous with the same kind of output that Michael Bay puts out – very flashy and, more often that not, shallow to the bone. And, not so surprisingly, Initial D isn’t any different but, to its credit, any movie about street racing isn’t bound to have a lot of depth in characterization or storyline.

My sons enjoyed the movie but they love anything that has car chases whether they’re bad or good – and they’re okay in this movie, albeit few and far between. And save for a stupid love story with a “twist” and a couple of curse words, the movie is actually a pretty fair movie to show to kids.

On a technical side, the DTS soundtrack on the DVD is well done with the clear hum of engines and the screeching noise of tight corner turns coming out from the proper speakers.

However, there are two things that I really didn’t like…

* Jay Chou can’t act his way out of a wet cardboard box. Not only does his Cantonese make Michael Wong’s delivery look amazing, his “acting” abilities make Aaron Kwok look like Laurence Olivier in comparison. Even Edison Chen put in a better acting effort! As I was watching the movie with my sons, one of them asked me why Takumi (Chou) always stuttered. Since I didn’t want to explain to him my opinion of the concept of acting, I just told him that Takumi was retarded.

* I still don’t understand the thrill behind drift racing. To be honest, I have never read the manga nor have I seen the anime prior to watching this film. Maybe they can explain the thrill behind fishtailing a car normally used for pizza delivery – this movie doesn’t do it.

Bottom line: stick to playing Gran Turismo.

Owlman’s Rating: 4/10

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