Posted in: Disc Reviews by Archive Authors on October 1st, 2003
MTV film’s Better Luck Tomorrow is a chilling look in the high schools of today. It starts out like an 80’s teen comedy but by the middle of the film quickly turns into a Guy Ritchie style movie with quick cuts and even faster action.
The movie follows the story of 4 Asian high school students in Orange County California who are preparing to enter college. They all excel in academics and during the first half of the movie try to “pad” their college applications by engaging in many extra curricular a…tivities. Initially this is the primary motivating factors for Ben, Han, Virgil and Daric. However, the pursuit for academic accomplishment soon made way for the pursuit for money.
The slippery slope of the anti-social behaviors begins somewhat innocently enough with the use of their superior intellects to create cheat sheets allow other students to pass their exams. Ben and the others get paid $50 per cheat sheet – this quickly accumulates, as does the desire to make money faster. The gang then gets involved in thefts, fights and drug dealing. As the illegal behavior escalates, the gang’s downward spiral continues. Ben’s use and abuse of cocaine is made disturbingly obvious with messy post use nosebleeds. Ben tries to leave this lifestyle after this but is pulled back in by his buddies for one last job that eventually has the worst possible outcome with disastrous outcomes for all.
The visual style is striking and keeps the viewer’s eye glued to the screen. Quick cuts, altered speeds and 360 degree shots remind one of Guy Ritchie’s style which is in keeping with the rapid pace of changes that occur in the characters.
Justin Lin, the director, is a name that should become much more well-known in years to come.
Clean, sharp transfer in a great 16:9 presentation. There was no noticeable artifacting and the colors were vivid. A fair number of scenes occurred at night without loss of image quality or color.
The soundtrack varied from alternative, to techno and adult contemporary without any difficulty. The 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround mix is well used for music and bass effects but there is little separation of sound other than left and right stereo sound.
The only extra on the disc is a commentary track by Director/Co-writer Justin Lin and Co-Writers Ernesto M. Foronda and Fabian Marquez. They do well to describe the difficulties of making the movie on a low budget, while commenting on various technical aspects of their filmmaking; all in all, a pretty good track.
I don’t know if this film was meant to be a “wake-up call” for society to not judge a book by it’s cover – i.e. the academically gifted are nerds and that the academically challenged are the trouble makers – but it does make that point quite clear in a particularly chilling way. It’s actually painful to watch the descent of these formerly upstanding young men into a torrent of lies, crime and violence. The fact that it is painful to watch is indicative that Justin Lin has done a remarkable job in creating characters that are a little too realistic in which the desire for power and money supersede the important aspects of life.
Special Features List
- Audio Commentary