Initial D (2005)

Reviewed by: ewaffle
Date: 11/20/2008

“Initial D” takes its place among movies about unsanctioned and illegal use of automobiles in the tradition of “Thunder Road” and “Gone in Sixty Seconds”. It depicts the “drifting” culture of casual motor sports in this case a hair-raising race down a very steep hill on a road that is full of twists and turns with a cliff on one side and a sheer drop on the other. The movie does a good job of showing both the chaos and the excitement of skidding a high powered automobile though a corner, rear wheels fighting for purchase as the back end of the car swings faster than the front all while maintaining some vestige of control.

All the young leads (or one should say “younger” leads) were from the James Dean “Rebel Without a Cause” school of alienation and angst although the taciturn hero Takumi Fujiwara (Jay Chou) was happy to accept help and comradeship from his father, played with scene stealing glee by Anthony Wong. Suzuki An did a good job as an attractively fresh faced girl next door type but Chapman To was miscast as the uncrowned champion drifter.

The plot wasn’t much—Takumi has a job delivering for a restaurant most of whose customers live at the top of a hill that is also the best public (and illegal) drifting course in the area. These customers are both hungry and loyal; ordering meals every evening so that Takumi is able to hurtle downhill on his boss’s time while figuring out the best angles and speed to go into different curves. For what it is worth (very little) he would need a new set of tires every week, if not more often, although Bridgestones lasting the equivalent of forever is no less credible than Chapman To impersonating a teenager.

Motor racing movies have to work on the track—they have to put the viewer in the driver’s seat. “Initial D” does a good job of this, so it works, although there might be a few more trips down the twisting mountain road than are absolutely necessary.

Reviewed by: adamas85
Date: 02/08/2007

The cast is a great, I loved seeing Kenny Bee and Anthony Wong portrayed as fathers. Chapman To's character Istaka was a little off, I don't think he can pull off the teenager look for much longer, he naturally looks like a young man in his late twenties, where as at the time he's was 33. I think Jay Chou made a great lead, he's a fresh face to the movie scene, he's young, talented and handsome he will have had the young ladies slobbering for a piece of Chou. But for the red blooded males there is some top eye candy - Anne Suzuki, who you might remember as 'Milly' in 2002 Sci-Fi Action flick 'The Returner'. Anne's character 'Natsuki' is the sweet love interest of Takumi, although a dark subplot surfaces which reveals she isn't all that sweet & innocent. Shawn Yue & Edison Chen are now being portrayed as characters more around their own age, although Shawn Yue's pencil thin facial hair was a bit silly looking.

I think when I first saw posters for the movie reminds me of "Fast & Furious", obviously they aren't the same, I think that is the main reaction from people when they look at street racing movies. I have to admit I found this movie to be quite refreshing, it's not often in Hong Kong Cinema that you see many racing movies, sure there is some drift/street racing in Legend of Speed. Sure there is racing in Thunderbolt but that's more professional and the Moment Romance trilogy focus more on Motorcycles.

Now for those who have bought this movie on the 'Premier Asia' R2 DVD you'll be treated to a different sound track. What I mean is that all soundtrack for the film was done over with UK Soundtrack of various techo/dance music. For those who hate change, the original is included too, but I must say it isn't bad. I listened to the UK soundtrack by default and found that the music suited the film. The original soundtrack is also rather good, obviously different from the first but it doesn't spoil the tone of the film.

Final thoughts, fast, furious & refreshing. Enjoy!

Reviewer Score: 8

Reviewed by: JohnR
Date: 12/04/2006
Summary: Initial: yes. Subsequent: no

If a racing movie is going to work, it has to do at least two things well: have exciting racing sequences and, without slowing the movie down, give you enough technical racing information so that you understand what's going on. Initial D accomplishes both of these with ease.

Add to that Anthony Wong's good performance as the retired racing god, now tofu maker, and a pace that keeps you moving along and you have all the highlights of the movie.

The lowlights are that none of the other actors does much or, in the case of Chapman To, does too much. And who's the casting director responsible for putting Chapman To and Jordan Chan into these roles? Jordan Chan is 38 years old; To is 34; they play guys in the 19-24 year old range. That didn't work, especially for To, who spends most of his time acting like an 8 year old.

If you want to watch a movie that shows the lives of young guys into street racing, in which the racing scenes are decent, then this is for you. But if you're expecting something more, you'll be disappointed because the nice camera work and cinematography don't make up for a lack of story and dull acting. Personally, I think it's worth a view, but can't picture myself watching it a second time.

Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: j.crawford
Date: 04/25/2006
Summary: HKFA award winner!

Andrew Lau Wai-Keung and Alan Mak Siu-Fai keep their outstanding collaboration going with the new film, Initial D. If you are reading this, you should know that I am a sucker for films about cars and racing competition. Working from a finely crafted screenplay by Felix Chong Man-Keung, producer Lau gets his moneys worth of production value up on the screen.

While the movie was promoted as a vehicle for the cast of young actors, it’s the older, seasoned performers that steal the show. Kenny Bee and Anthony Wong Chau-Sang are a joy to behold. Wong is so good here that not only did he win the Best Supporting Actor award from the HKFA for his performance, but his fine work also got the Best New Performer award for Jay Chou on the strength of their scenes together as father and son.

After receiving a total of 10 HKFA nominations, the movie also won Best Sound Design for Kinson Tsang King-Cheung and Best Visual Effects for the trio of Eddy Wong, Victor Wong and Bryan Chong. Though it is an awesome film that’s compelling through every frame, full appreciation is only likely through a cinema presentation.


Reviewer Score: 9

Reviewed by: Sydneyguy
Date: 11/11/2005
Summary: IS Jay Chou David Chiangs son?

WOW is it me or does Jay Chou look like a young David Chiang?
And also, they both have something in common, there WOODEN acting!!

i am familiar with the MAnga and like the Manga i wasn't impressed when i saw it. I really think you have to like car racing to really enjoy this movie, otherwise you will just think this movie is mindless fluff.

Another reviewer spoke about the love scenes in this movie, unfortunately it doesnt have much effect to the movie, i thought it was a time filler myself

The short ending lives it to a sequel,i would be indifferent watching it if they did

A predictable movie that is good enough for a once viewing

Reviewer Score: 6

Reviewed by: mrblue
Date: 10/04/2005

Initial D tells the story of a teenager named Takumi (played by Jay Chou, the latest Chinese pop star to try his hand at acting) who spends his days working at a gas station pining for Natsuki (Anne Suzuki), a pretty girl in his class, and his nights delivering tofu for his drunken father Bunta (Anthony Wong). Takumi's delivery route includes Mount Akina, which is a haven for drift racers, and one night he stumbles into a race with a top driver, Nakazato (Shawn Yue). Takumi handily beats Nakazato, which leads Nakazato to search for the new "Akina Racing God".

However, Takumi doesn't want to become a street racer, and so he turns down Nakazato's challenge, which prompts Takumi's friend Itsuki (Chapman To) to take up Nakazato's offer. Itsuki is soundly defeated, which prompts Takumi to step behind the wheel, at least for one race. Eventually, after some prodding from his father and boss (Kenny Bee), Takumi accepts his destiny as a racer, which leads up to a climatic race between him and two of Mount Akina's top drivers, Ryosuke and Kyoichi (Edison Chen and Jordan Chan). There's a cool quarter in it for you if you can guess who wins.

It's no secret that the Hong Kong film industry, who has lost out to South Korea as the current "cool" place for westerners to flock to get their Asian movie fix and whose products lose out at the local box office to most any Hollywood dreck hitting the theatres that week, is hurting for some home-grown hits. So the expectations for Initial D -- an all-star picture based off of a popular Japanese manga -- were very high, especially since the production took several years to get off the ground. The end results are a mixed bag; the movie was a success at the box office, becoming the top-grossing film of 2005 so far.

But that might not be saying much, considering the overall quality of Hong Kong's output this year, which has subjected us to stinkers like Himalaya Singh and Where is Mama's Boy, and is depending on derivative copies of their past hits just to stay afloat (i.e., Colour of the Loyalty piggybacking on the success of Colour of the Truth, which itself was heavily "inspired" by the Infernal Affairs trilogy). Initial D certainly has its' good points. It looks nice, has a decent soundtrack (I didn't even mind the cheesy Canto-pop ballads), the racing action is handled well, and the actors create some likeable characters -- yes, even Edison "SUP DOG!" Chen didn't make me want to kick in my TV, but that's probably because he only has about ten lines in the whole movie.

But there's really nothing going on behind the scenes. In every way, this is your typical summer "blockbuster" popcorn movie. At the end of the day, Initial D is nothing that anyone but die-hard fans of the manga or the "tuning" scene are really going to get excited about -- though, to be honest, I have never read the manga, seen the anime or driven a souped-up Honda or Toyota, so I might be totally off-base with that last statement. Anyway, for everyone else, it's an enjoyable enough picture, but ultimately nothing that you're going to remember years (or even months) down the road.

[review from www.hkfilm.net]

Reviewed by: danton
Date: 08/07/2005

Let's see if I can summarize the plot:

Some cars race down a mountain. Jay Chou, Edison Chen and Shawn Yue are all silent brooding types. Jay is the most silent, most brooding, hence the coolest. Some more cars on the same mountain. Interlude 1: Chapman To pukes (comic relief). Interlude 2: Anthony Wong is drunk (social realism). Interlude 3: some girl (romance). More cars, still the same mountain. Bad guys show up. I can tell they're bad, cuz they wear bandanas and leather jackets. Why is Jordan Chan among them? And where's Ekin??? Final interlude: girl does something bad. Jay reacts by first beating up Chapman (I get that), then more silent brooding. Back to the mountain: cars drive down. One of them is faster than the others. Everybody cheers.

The above plot summary pretty much captures it all. Add to that some weird editing (for no apparent reason, Andrew Lau uses split screens, screen freezes, and all that other MTV stuff), as well as a heavy dose of car porn, and you have yourself what passes for a movie these days. Oh, and Jay sings a bit, so the kids should be pleased.

Not recommended.

Reviewed by: evirei
Date: 07/25/2005

The way the movie was being shot is just cool. The scene from the top.. showing the whole road and scenery. I am happy that lots of the cinematography is still like the animated series ones. The opening song was cool enough to get me to carry on watching.

Of all actors in the movie, I was rather impressed with Edison's performance. I think he is rather outstanding in this movie. Well Anthony Wong and Chapman To... no doubt is great. Is heard that Anthony got himself drunk everytime before the shoot to make it more realistic in the movie. Chapman To as funny as ever. Jay Chow acting is saddening... but well.. it's his first time.

But well Initial D is all about fast cars and good driving stunts. This I will have to give credits to the directors and racing stuntmans.

I personally think... without the Jay Chow crying scene... It's one good show.

Rating: 7 out of 10

Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: pjshimmer
Date: 07/18/2005

Great fun, but the ending is too confusing and pessimistic for people not familiar with the manga/anime. Our hero Jay Chou basically rides into the sunset, but CRYING! I didn't expect this type of closure (which is not much of a closure) for a blockbuster.

Despite a rather disappointing ending, Initial D is still a winner. It's the only good HK movie I've seen thus far in 2005.


Reviewed by: driftheory
Date: 07/13/2005

The “D” stands for drifting – race style where you brake suddenly, by pulling the handbrake, into a hairpin or coroner in a road section. For its exciting race sequences, stylish camerawork, and, well, little else really, Initial D is a film that hugely satisfies at the visceral level. It amazingly shows that Taiwanese singing superstar Jay Chou can act well enough in a role which has him portraying a familiar character like himself, more or less.

Based on a best-selling Japanese comic, Initial D centres on Takumi Fujiwara (Jay Chou) the son of Tofu shop owner, Bunta (Anthony Wong). Unknown to his friends, especially his racing addicted friend, Itsuki (Chapman To), and also unaware himself, Takumi has built up amazing driving skills. Takumi is a savant who can, on his day, defeat top street racers, even when driving a car hopelessly unmatched to the opponents.

In filling the role of Takumi – a young man whose father, once a legendary street racer, is now a drunk – the soft-spoken Chou is suitably shy and introverted. Despite this fact, he has a girlfriend, Natsuki (Anne Suzuki) who he’s crazy about. The love angle doesn’t figure much in the story – Suzuki unfortunately comes off as a wide-eyed bimbo – as is her dark secret she keeps from Takumi.

And, to be Honest, the plot isn’t particularly gripping. It largely revolves around the petty squabbles between ego-fuelled drivers – played by Jordan Chan, Edison Chen and Shawn Yue – who all desire to beat Takumi to claim the “king of the mountain”.

However, what this film lacks in substance, it makes up in style and humour. Chapman To, a person sadly with unimpressive skills, is the principal source for the comic relief, though he comes close to wearing out his welcome with silly antics.

Anthony Wong, always a reliable actor, is a sombre, tragic figure as a father, a man with a dark, black sense of humour. Takumi has to thank him for his driving skills: He’s forced by his father to deliver tofu in the dead of the night, since he was in middle school.

And the real appeal of the film: For the most part, Initial D is a stunning display of stunt driving. The technical crew and the professional racing stuntmen deserve the plaudits for making Chou look incredibly cool as he drives, looking naturally bored, head casually raised by his arm on the side of the window.

If directors, Andrew Lau and Alan Mak had have made the movie more of a love story or simply cut the love scenes entirely, Initial D would have been much better, without those slow moments to haul in its adrenaline-pumping pace.