ReviewWriter: Nurliana Kamaruddin
Writer Ratings:Overall: Cast:
NAWatch this if you liked:
I'm pretty sure every Tom, Dick and Harry out there knows that this movie is adapted from the spectacularly successful Japanese anime and manga
of the same title, and are all asking the same thing - why is a Japanese anime, shot in the slopes of the Mt Akina in Japan, brought to the celluloid by Hong Kong Directors and a Taiwanese singer as the lead actor?
I can't answer that question, but I can answer this one. Was it good? Yes, it was. It was VERY good.
For a movie that banked its promotion almost totally on the star power of Taiwan's Music King, it was immensely gratifying that "Initial D" did not take focus away from its true spirit - that of the cars, and the downhill races. Yes Jay Chou was there, yes he's delicious to look at, but he is not the centre of attraction - his Toyota AE86 is. Andrew Lau and Alan Mak have outdone themselves in this high-speed-rubber burning movie and for all it's worth, this movie was done with fans of the anime in mind rather than pre-pubescent fan girls of poster boy Chou.
Nothing was spared in bringing to life the teeth-gritting street races and this movie will have you at the edge of your seat as the cars roar past the cameras, leaving behind a trail of dust and the sound of screeching tyres against the tarmac. Andrew Lau and Alan Mak played with many different camera angles, a tactic that would have backfired in the hands of less talented, less experienced directors, but this duo knew exactly what they wanted in each frame.
"Initial D" is a visual treat. The movie featured expert usage of still shots to capture moments of interest, multi-layer camera works as focus zooms from driver to car to opponent, and various instances of split screens for you to receive the full effect of each and every situation. Top this off with spectacular aerial view of the winding road carving the mountain slopes, and you won't want to tear your gaze away from the screen.
The cast, who have all been carefully selected to match their anime personas, delivered a justifiably good performance. Chou in his first-ever starring role shows a flair for the camera. Seeing him in that rather nonchalant daydreamer character will most certainly only add to his already humongous fan base. You can argue that his character requires him to do nothing except be himself, but still, he handled the emotional scenes wonderfully. I'm sure the crying scene will get many of his fans tearing up as well. Chemistry between his character (Takumi) and Anne Suzuki (Natsuki) was good and they make a very cute onscreen couple.
Edison Chen may also be another one of those poster boys who are the object of adoration for young girls, but that does not mean he is not a good actor. He was the epitome of 'cool' as Ryosuke and his knowledge on cars coupled with his sense of sportsmanship throughout the movie makes his character extremely likable. You will love the final showdown between Ryosuke and Takumi.
The rest of the cast added balance and no one stole the spotlight over the other, save perhaps, for Anthony Wong. His drunk-but-silently-caring father character was hilariously well done and you'll be wishing for more scenes of him and Jay Chou together. They work very well as a team, complementing one another's attitude and rubbing off one another's sharp edges. A superb combination.
At the end of the day, the story did not lack in drama either. The love story between Takumi and Natsuki was not overdrawn and provided the needed breaks that without, would have turned this movie into a street-racing documentary. Humour and emotions were all successfully incorporated into an open-ended plotline. Some might not like that, but there are others who will prefer the story to end the way it did. (Speaks of possibility for a sequel doesn't it?)
So if you take a look into the melting pot again, you have to agree this is one impressive recipe. There are enough good-looking stars to make the night sky pale in comparison. There are the high-speed races done and captured to the very minute of details. There's a fabulously wrought background score and soundtrack (featuring songs by Jay Chou, of course). Finally, there are enough comedic moments to tickle your funny bone and a solid story that stayed true to the essence of the anime (even if it did not follow the storyline 100%).
Given all that, there is no reason why this movie won't do well at the box office. As for me, once the VCD/DVD is out, I know I'll be wearing down my replay button in order to watch those spectacular racing scenes again.Cinema Online, 23 September 2008