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Better Luck Tomorrow (2002)

 -  Crime | Drama  -  12 January 2002 (USA)
7.2
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Ratings: 7.2/10 from 7,552 users   Metascore: 67/100
Reviews: 139 user | 51 critic | 32 from Metacritic.com

A group of over-achieving Asian-American high school seniors enjoy a power trip when they dip into extra-curricular criminal activities.

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
Jason Tobin ...
Shirley Anderson ...
Hot Dog Planet Customer
Nanette Matoba ...
Housewife
Kenji Matoba ...
Toddler
...
Han
Ashley Arai ...
Cheerleader
Danielle Conner ...
Cheerleader
Karen DiTota ...
Cheerleader
Smita Satiani ...
Cheerleader
Kristen Stinson ...
Cheerleader
Jeff DeJohn ...
Ryan
Robert Zepeda ...
Jock
...
Jock
Christopher J. Francis ...
Jock
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Storyline

Ben is a perfectionist and overachiever whose tunnel vision leads to nothing less than graduating at the top of his class. As he struggles to achieve social success, he discovers his darker side. He and his friends: Virgil, Daric and Han lead a double life of mischief and petty crimes to alleviate the pressures of perfection. As their adopted identity grows, the gang tumbles into a downward spiral of excitement, excess and fun. Written by Anonymous

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Who do you want to be? See more »

Genres:

Crime | Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for violence, drug use, language and sexuality | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

12 January 2002 (USA)  »

Filming Locations:

 »

Box Office

Budget:

$250,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$360,772 (USA) (11 April 2003)

Gross:

$3,799,339 (USA) (20 June 2003)
 »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (2003)

Sound Mix:

Color:

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Although some people thought that the film was inspired by the 1992 murder of Stuart Tay, an Asian-American youth who was killed by four of his peers on New Year's Eve in Orange County, California, filmmaker Justin Lin has stated that "at the very beginning of the writing process, [he] made a conscious decision not to base it on that, or any other, real event." See more »

Goofs

While Ben and Stephanie are studying for biology, Stephanie recaps Mitosis and states the following phases in order: Metaphase, Anaphase, and then Prophase. It should actually be Metaphase, Anaphase, and then Telophase. See more »

Quotes

Ben Manibag: Do you ever wonder about your real parents?
Stephanie Vandergosh: The parents I have now are my real parents.
See more »

Connections

Featured in The 2004 IFP/West Independent Spirit Awards (2004) See more »

Soundtracks

Sips of Whiskey
Written and Performed by Ruby Falls (BMI)
Courtesy of the Artist
See more »

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User Reviews

 
A Disturbing View of the Slide Into Anomie
20 February 2004 | by (New York, N.Y.) – See all my reviews

"Better Luck Tomorrow" has attracted much IMDb comment despite being shown in few theaters and then over a short period. Now available in DVD it will clearly garner a slowly widening audience by word of mouth. And it should.

This idie film operates on several levels. The story of a loose cohort of high school high achievers, mostly Asian-American, they are simultaneously self-challenged to make it to the Ivies while at the same time drifting in an affluent bubble of moral emptiness. They volunteer for public service project for points to strengthen their "apps" without any real commitment to the values of service.

Ben is the central character, a youth of untapped ability and boundless promise who seems unable to find any real meaning in his academic goals. The others are a cross-section of teenagers running from the daring to the reckless to the pathological.

He slowly falls hard for Stephanie, a beautiful classmate (actually almost thirty when the film was made but you'd never know it). She has a manipulative, rich boyfriend, "Stevo," and her relationship with him is both resistant and dependent. Girls in this film are ancillary arm candy for the males. Stephanie, who has issues of her own, she refers to her obligatory therapist, knows she's dominated by Steve but resisting submissiveness is very hard. Asian-American or not, Stephanie is a very recognizable teenager. Not too different a story from many high school buddy films, that part.

What is different and distinctive about this story are two factors. The first is that Ben and his friends start running scams at stores to get money for stolen merchandise returned for refunds and then graduate to both selling and using drugs. Their criminal activities become both more sinister and essentially aimless as challenge predominates over possible gain. To describe more would be to give away a genuinely original story line.

The second factor that separates "Better Luck Tomorrow" from the usual run-of-the-mill teen angst flick is the total absence of adult authority figures- parents, teachers (one biology teacher has a brief, colorless classroom presence), police (a sole cop is shown in a couple of seconds in a hallway, almost an opaque shadow). These kids have wheels and money but there's no evidence of their being accountable to anybody. Their ambitions and schemes are their sole interior reality.

Many IMDb comments are from Asian-Americans who view the characters as reflecting their own background. There is a brutal fight scene between the Asian boys and white kids at an unsupervised (of course) booze bash but much of the behavior that escalates into disaster isn't limited to any racial or ethnic group. I'm not even sure I feel comfortable dismissing the behavior as just another example of SoCal teen life.

The acting here, by a cast unknown (check IMDb for their names) is outstanding as is the direction and cinematography that pictures a slightly bleached suburb mirroring the superficiality of the central male characters. Anomie rather than evil is the malevolent controlling force for most of the boys.

A very disturbing film-one that does and should arouse discussion.

8/10.


22 of 28 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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