Official Selection, 2002 Toronto International Film Festival
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The kids aren’t alright; they’re breaking bad, and people are going to get hurt. Movies about dissatisfied youngsters who turn to crime were a genre unto themselves long before Justin Lin decided to make one, but the devil is in Lin’s details. The reckless youth of Better Luck Tomorrow are bright Asian American kids, honour-roll Orange County students rebelling against the expectations of their parents (and, it’s not too delicately implied, their culture) by applying their intelligence and work ethic to stealing tests, dealing drugs, and home invasions. It goes about as well as you’d expect, because these movies are nothing if not morality plays, but the specificity of the world Lin builds and the textured performances of Parry Shen, Jason Tobin, Roger Fan, Karin Anna Cheung, John Cho, and Sung Kang — whom Lin would bring along with him when he reinvented the Fast & Furious franchise with Tokyo Drift — give Better Luck Tomorrow a novelty and urgency it might not otherwise have had. Two decades after its TIFF debut, we’re happy to give it another showcase.
Content advisory: violence, drug use, sexually suggestive scenes