Initial D (2005)
Reviewed by: ewaffle on 2008-11-20
“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.