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Just to set the expectations from this review, I have not read the
Initial D manga, nor watched any of the anime. Therefore this review's
point of view will be from the cinematic experience, and there will be
no comparison on how true it stays to the manga/anime.
Despite all the star power in the film, from teeny boppers Edison Chen and Shawn Yue, to veterans Kenny Bee and Anthony Wong, this still remains a Jay Chou vehicle (pardon the pun). Jay stars as a petrol pump attendant who by day works at a petrol kiosk, and in the wee hours of the night, helps his tofu selling dad deliver tofu in an old Toyota AE86 Sprinter Trueno using a route that traverses along a winding Mount Akina.
Naturally, with his 5 years experience, he intimately knows the terrain, and gets faster each time, until a group of street racers set their sights to conquer the route.
There will definitely be comparisons with Hollywood's The Fast and The Furious series, starring Vin Diesel/Paul Walker. The similarities are there - the fast cars, the beautiful racer babes, the rivalry between arrogant drivers. You even get the same cinematography technique used that starts from the driver's POV, pulling back to the dashboard, the rear seat, the boot, and the car from a "helicopter" view.
But what sets this film apart is the way it is delivered. Being based on a comic book offers some depth to the storyline, and it helped by staying true to the setting, being based in Japan and not HK. The races in itself might seem repetitive, as the highlight seemed to be focused on its title - the "drift" technique, being used ad-nausem, but having different drivers challenge each other on the one and only route breaks the monotony as you root for your favourite to come out tops.
Given this is Jay Chou's debut movie role, it is difficult to critique if his acting skills are up to mark, as his lead character Takumi Fujiwara is a nonchalant man of few words. Which is very much like his persona. His co-stars Edison Chen and Shawn Yue could very well be their own persons as well. Chapman To, as usual, brings across the rather light hearted moments, and Anthony Wong as Chou's dad, a veteran race ace who finds solace in the bottle and having a penchant for dozing off.
Perhaps the only flaw about the movie was the sappy romance between Jay and his Japanese co-star. Not that she isn't gorgeous (which is a saving grace), but their scenes together doesn't further the plot much, and slows down the pace somewhat of this movie about the need for speed.
This is an enjoyable flick, one in which I waited for the theme song / tune to be featured (only at the end credits!). But no, I don't think I will be converted to a Jay Chou fan boy anytime soon.
I suspect that in the upcoming weeks, we probably might see parallel imports / makes of the Trueno on our shores to satisfy the racer boy wannabes (heard Singapore only has 2?), although it probably can't run as fast as in the movies (movie magic lah). And yeah, the driving with one hand on the wheel and the other on the face, with the contemplating look.
I haven't read any Initial D manga, and frankly, hadn't heard of it
until a friend asked to watch this movie, thus cannot comment on the
accuracy of the story.
But after watching the movie for the 10th time, I can freely say the movie is a must-see for car lovers, and goes beyond Hollywood fake races, which makes speed and fancy cars seem more important than the driver's ability. The actors did a great job, too, specially Bunta Fujiwara (Takumi's father), who plays hilarious scenes.
Not to mention the Soundtrack, which is great add to the competition scenes.
This movie is a live-action adaptation of a manga/anime series of the
same name. The story is abridged synthesis of the first two seasons of
the anime, with details from the fourth(third?) mixed in. Compared to
the original work, much of the characters' personalities, relationships
and motives have been altered, some in the ways that are hard to agree
with, too. Many of the characters have been dropped or diminished.
Judging the movie as independent entity, it's not a great deal, but
some of the modifications make the story a bit confusing. Casting
itself is rather good. Characters have strong resemblance to their
drawn counterparts, apart from the main character and her girlfriend.
To even things a bit, their characters are best preserved in the
What I like in the movie best is it's honesty. The movie does not try to justify the illegal street racing theme with some far-fetched undercover cop/family honor/extortion -subplot, it's only about young men driving fast on downhill. Though the most spectacular stunts are CGI, the races are pleasant to watch, by no means small reason being the relatively calm pace of editing. Drivers' actions while cornering, the toe-heel braking, down shifting and steering, are usually shown in single shot, instead of several split-second extreme closeups. What I also liked was the fact the races are about who was the best driver, not about who has the most outrageous sticker or flashiest accessories on the car.
The movie has been criticized for lack of plot. I don't think it is so. The plot is subdued, not overly dramatized story of a regular kid who learns about downhill racing scene in his home town. The biggest problem with the script is the inclusion of 2nd and 3rd Stage. The plot makes all too abrupt change of direction halfway through the movie because of this. The movie finale is a synthesis of 1st season and rewritten 2nd season finales, it's awkward and not very successful. I can't help thinking the movie could have been better if the writers had made the scope a little less wide and only included the 1st season.
Even so, the movie is rather enjoyable. You don't need to vegetate through the movie to enjoy it, or have a die-hard passion for the subject.
Takumi is a high schooler who often delivers his fathers tofu late at
night. His late night trips have made him adept at the winding down
hill run of Mt. Akina, which is a course used by the street racers of
the area as the ultimate test of skill. When an unintentional race
brings him to the notice of the racers, his life changes as he has to
field numerous offers to actually see who is the best driver.
Based on a Japanese comic and cartoon, Initial D is a live action Chinese film thats broken box office records across Asia. Despite being a huge animation fan I've never seen the animation nor have a I read the comic. I'm not sure if thats a good thing or a bad thing, but seeing how many fans of the source material are unhappy with the film I would say its a good thing.
Flat out I liked this movie. It did take a while to warm up to, but once I began to take it for what it is I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Is it a great film? In someways yes and in others no. As I said this takes a bit to get going. The lead is a bit too closed mouth for my taste, barely uttering a word for the entire two hours. Its a bit too teen angsty. Still you have great characters and great performances by pretty much everyone in the cast (even if everyone was speaking three or four different languages when this was filmed.
The racing is excellent. Its mostly seems to have been done with out CGI enhancement. I like that there are no horrific crashes, police chases or other clichéd events that are so rampant in American movies. And while I was initially apprehensive by the fact the racing is always on the same stretch of road, I warmed to the idea since by doing that we really got to see who was best. (If you want American style racing in many different environments stay away)
Definitely worth a look see, especially if you want to see a race film that is not like all of the rest. 7.5 out of 10 rounded up to 8 out of 10 for IMDb purposes.
Of course I had to watch this movie since I was a big Initial D fan. I
had high hopes when watching the opening scene where Jay Chou's
character is effortlessly gliding down the mountain pass in his Trueno.
That was the best part of the movie unfortunately.
Let's talk about the good first. The car scenes are pretty fun to watch sometimes. In many of the scenes they'll hug a turn on the inside and let the rear slide out and overtake the opponent. It's pretty fun to watch and you just have to wonder who the stunt men are or if they brought in Japanese drift legend, Tsuchiya on to the set for some of these shots.
Unfortunately that's the only thing that is good about this movie. Let's talk about the bad now. The characters are two dimensional. If you are a fan of the anime you will not find your beloved characters here. Jay Chou does a pretty bad job as the protagonist. I feel like he's always mumbling out his lines or is just wondering why he isn't doing the music video yet. Also, let's talk about his friends. They're morons. His best friend Itsuki is more of a raving idiot than his anime counterpart would ever hope to be. In the anime, this character talks about trying to get better and having Takumi as his inspiration. In the movie, this character talks about how he's a racing god and when he loses and wrecks he asks his poor father to buy him an even faster car (GTR) so that he can rematch and wreck that one too. Takumi's father is also a drunk and a bum. Also he is abusive. He beats his son and Jay Chou has scars on his back from all the beatings. I don't know what they were thinking by making him an abusive drunkard since obviously from the original material he was never one. Obviously, you can tell from what I'm writing here that the director probably never watched an episode of Initial D in his life.
I find the camera work to be also crappy and low budget. There are lots of scenes where they freeze the frame and you are left thinking "did something happen to my DVD player?" Nope. That's their creative take on racing. To freeze the scene even when it's a person's face talking. Then there's the music. Nothing in the movie was good except for Jay Chou's song. The racing scenes have music that sounds like a background track for a rap battle without the rapping. If you're a fan of the anime don't expect to hear your favorite eurobeat tracks or Move songs.
Overall I was bored, only paid attention during the races and got utterly perplexed by the ridiculous ending sequence where the people are celebrating. The other team and even his abusive father who has his arms around two young girls start cheering. Also I'd like to point out that not only is a 3 car race unfair, I've never seen a race with 3 cars in Initial D or any mountain race scene in any movie!
Next time try not to squeeze so much crap in.
Based on a long running comic series by Shuuichi Shigeno, this all star
cast Hong Kong movie puts on screen what's on the comic's volume 1-15 (
Part until Takumi joins Project D ).
Takumi Fujiwara (Jay Chou) is a high school student who lives with his single father running a tofu shop. Inbetween his tofu deliveries, he frequents Mt. Akina that has winding roads to improve his driving skills. He gets involved with the street racers that frequents the area, and a battle ensues to prove who's the fastest one on the road. Takumi with his outstanding driving skills, bests other racers with better performing cars. Amongst the people who shows up was Ryosuke Takahashi (Edison Chen). Ryosuke takes notice of Takumi's talent, and takes interest in him. Takumi's girlfriend Natsuki (Ann Suzuki) is chummy with Takumi, but she also has other things going on with older men. Takumi goes head to head with Keiichi Sudo (Jordan Chan) to prove who's the fastest man on the road.
The same staff from Medea Asia that's created the "Infernal Affair" series made this movie. The movie was shot on location in Japan around Yahikoiwamuro highway in Niigata Prefecture, and Shibukawa city in Gunma prefecture. The production quality is high despite the difficulty of bringing the location to Japan. Mt. Akina is a fictitious mountain that's modeled after Mt. Haruna in Gunma prefecture.
One of the center piece of the action is the Sprinter Trueno AE86 that Takumi drives. Despite its diminutive size, it succeeds in out performing cars that are designed for racing performances. Trueno is is a sister model of Corolla Levin, and shares the same frame, and the engine. It's a performance version of the standard Sprinter model with a twin cam 4A-GEU engine. In the '80s Japan, 4A-GEU souped up to 450 horse power was sold by custom shops. Used on AE86 that weighs less than a ton, the combination made the car into a deadly rocket that can go head to head with lesser powered cars like the GT-R. So a car to car battle like the one seen in this movie was entirely "Possible". The original comic states that the story is occurring sometime in the '90s time frame, and the cars appearing in this movie also reflects this fact.
I wonder if China these days are following the Hollywood style casting that casts compatible astrological sun sign actors in the leading role. This method seems to ensure good chemistry between male and the female lead. In this movie, three earth sign actors plays the lead (Ann Suzuki - Taurus, Anthony Wong - Virgo, and Jay Chou - Capricorn).
The movie has a world of its own that's completely different from the TV anime series, and in some ways more exciting due to the interaction between the stars, and the actual driving that takes place on the road. It's an excellently made movie that combines best of what Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Japan has to offer. I only wish that Edison Chen would return to Hong Kong cinema. He was very good in this movie.
A very enjoyable movie that takes you into the world of street racing culture of Japan.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I realize adapting and compressing a long-running comic and anime
series into about 2 hours requires some cuts and changes, but this
result of a film is vomit-inducing.
My biggest issue in this movie comes with the writing--characters have been completely changed in terms of abilities, personality, and relationships (This is where the possible spoilers come in, I NEED to list some of these things to warn you). The filmmakers expect fans to believe the following changes:
1. Keisuke apparently doesn't exist, Takeshi Nakazato takes his place in collaborating with Ryosuke on street races.
2. Itsuki is the leader of the speed stars team, and he drives a Silvia S13 (Iketani's car!). At least Itsuki still can't drive worth anything.
3. In the film version, Itsuki is Yuichi's son, acting like a whiny rich kid.
4. Bunta abuses and threatens his son on multiple occasions when Takumi bangs up the car.
5. Bunta also explains to Yuichi that the reason Takumi began doing deliveries is because his hemorrhoids were killing him. Flat-out dumb.
6. Takumi blows the engine on the AE86 while racing team emperor's leader ON AN AKINA DOWNHILL RUN. In the comic and anime, he never lost on Akina! And he grenades the engine before he learns of Natsuki's profession, so he's not even angry when it happens.
The direction and editing of this movie is all over the place, as well. When the cars are racing, there are some sweet camera choices and your pulse gets moving a bit. But when the drivers are shown, there's too much use of splitting the screen to show two or three close-ups at once. The movie also apparently didn't have the budget to actually show any of the cars crashing--each time, the car slides through a flimsy barrier or sign and the view cuts to black. When the action stops, it gets worse. Slow motion at all the wrong times, sloppy cuts, and a slow pace all slap the audience in the face. The only high point is the drifting work was pretty good at times for running through hairpins on the mountain passes. Aside from that, I wish I never knew this movie existed. I love the series even more because it doesn't make these horrible story choices.
That's about it. The race scenes were shot pretty decently. They grip
the viewers at the edge of their seat. The songs by Jay Chow are pretty
good. The movie is funny. It was set and filmed in Japan, yet all the
dialogue were in Cantonese. What else is there to say?
Jay Chow was pretty good for his first starring role. He gave a believable performance. Anthony Wong is his same reliable self and Chapman To again provides comic relieve (seems like he is typecast now).
The movie did not follow its inspiration, the manga. Even though Jay Chow's character is low-key and mild-mannered already, in the manga the character is even more mild-mannered and even less intense. In the manga, the dad seemed to be more responsible and nicer. That does not matter though, because the races are entertaining enough. That is one of two reason why people pack the theaters to see it. The other reason? Jay Chow. Do not underestimate his draw power. This guy is an idol in Asia. Whatever he do is gold.
This film is made for entertainment purposes. No depth. No plot. Just watch it and have a good time.
7/10, because it is entertaining. Take that out, a 4.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Starting with the title, note that long before the first user comment
was posted, someone had started in the message board below, on the
subject of "drifting", a thread that has now grown to considerable
length. Any reader interested in the subject should find it very
"Initial D" brings back memories of an all-time classic in car racing, "Grand Prix" (1966), which boasted an impressive international cast including James Gardner, Ives Montand and Mifune Toshiro. Although both are about car racing, the two movies may very well be in two entirely different genres. "Grand Prix" is drama in epic proportion, "Initial D" a comic-adapted action comedy. I'm just saying that they are different and therefore difficult to compare, not one is better than the other.
I haven't enjoyed a local movie as much as I did "Initial D" since "The Storm Riders" and "The Mission" in the late 90s. (Never cared much for Stephen Chow, while the Infernal Affair trilogy has been marred by one too many, the last one that ran out of steam and tantamount to a rip off). The beauty of "Initial D" is that it is entirely devoid of pretentiousness. Well paced and giving you the feeling of reading the comics, the movie is also sprinkled with funny gags that are, mercifully, not insults to the audience's intelligence like some that you find in local productions. Some may find the turn of the romantic subplot unsatisfactory but that only goes to show that the movie makers have not gone all out to make a crowd-pleaser. The emphasis is rightly put back on the theme, car racing.
Casting is more than just a good job. The chemistry between the pair of veterans Anthony Wong and Kenny Bee is just fantastic. The "Infernal" pair, Edison Chen and Shawn Yue, continue their maturing process that was very evident in "Gong Wu". Yue gives a winning portray of a gentlemanly competitor, while Chen never looks better with his poise as a leader. Chapman To's comic relief is pleasing. Jordan Chan, even with his brief appearance, shows great screen presence. (This guy is good on stage, if you've seen him in live theatre). Anne Suzuki has come a long way from the tom boy in "Returner", shed some of the chubbiness in "Hana and Alice", and takes on a new persona of youthful voluptuousness.
As to Jay Chow, the directors intimated in various radio interviews that the main character was initially intended for Edison Chen. Then, in a checking-out meeting with Chow, they were convinced that they have got the right man who can project the shy, introvert appearance and the intensely fierce competitiveness inside. The result, upon seeing the movie, convincingly vindicates that decision. In these interviews, they also talked about the actual filming. It's interesting to hear that at the initial planning stage, 120 shots on the race (those with drifting in particular) were planned to be made with CG assistance. But as the filming on-site progressed, they found that the stunt people hired to drive the cars were so good that most of these shots did not need any CG (114 to be exact). So we have a film that is NOT a repeat of the animation when it comes to the racing scenes. When ask who among the cast actually is the best driver, the answers is: Shawn Yue.
What I also like about this movie is that despite fierce competition, there is no villain. In flicks on boxing, you would often find use of dirty tricks or hitting below the belt. In "Initial D", even when some opponents are obnoxious, the competition is entirely clean and fair. This is good. Did I mention the racing scenes? Terrific fun, with music to match.
There's a very odd background to this car racing movie, clearly aimed
at the teenage crowd in Asia. It's based on a Japanese anime of the
same name of the 1990s, and filmed in Japan with Japanese characters.
And yet it's a Chinese film, in Cantonese language, with mainly Chinese
actors playing the Japanese roles. Despite (or maybe because of) all
this, INITIAL D: DRIFT RACER turns out to be a very middling type of
film, although it is a damn sight better than the most execrable the
genre has to offer (SPEED RACER).
Still, INITIAL D does deserve credit for making repeated scenes of cars racing on the same stretch of road throughout interesting, but the car chases are merely perfunctory and hardly the best thing about this. For a film based around racing, the film has much better characterisation than you'd expect, even if the central casting left me cold (I've never been able to warm to Jay Chou and that doesn't change here). The characters are far more realistic and their motivations more believable than in an average FAST AND FURIOUS film, for example.
There are welcome supporting roles for Edison Chen and Shawn Yue, who at least have the movie star charisma that Chou lacks, and Anthony Wong is a welcome presence as ever in a comedic supporting role playing Chou's dad. Chapman To bags the 'idiotic friend' role but his character does grow on you throughout, although the female characters in the cast are particularly ill served by the script. INITIAL D: DRIFT RACER is hardly a good film but it passes the time well enough for fans of Asian cinema, even if it is a film I'd never want to watch again.
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