Year of release: 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 Yu). 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.