You know I’m a man and I like cars. There’s nothing to be ashamed of there. I also liked The Fast and the Furious, it had some fun in there but it also had big, fast, shiny cars, and one like mine too. So when I heard that there was this movie (Initial D) about drift racing popular with Japanese teenagers and it had been adapted from the Manga story, I was interested, and courtesy of Moviesville, I got to see it.
The movie itself is good, it’s quite comic in places which could be traced back to its Manga origins, and unfortunately this takes away from the story because it does present itself as having a serious underside.
For five years, 18-year old Takumi has been delivering tofu in his fathers obsolescent Toyota AE86 every morning. Not only has he become an outstanding racer, but he has also unwittingly perfected the art of drifting. He was never partial to hill racing until he is nudged by his father to drive his AE86 in a David and Goliath race against RX-7 FD.
Obviously he wins, and then he starts to want to race more, and along comes a girl…and the story goes on. I’m not here to recite it for you, you can read up about it!
Something that surprised me about this movie is there isn’t that much racing. For a film that is supposed to be about drift racing, there’s not that much that goes on. However, the four or so races that do occur are superbly filmed and driven. Mixing unusual camera angles, some CGI, and smooth stunt driving, you end up with every race scene being exciting and visually rich.
The pace of the movie is quite back and forth. It’s this feeling that there should be more racing, and yet we’re taken through scenes that range from comic to romance. It’s understandable considering the group that the movie is aiming towards, but you can’t help but feel a little bit of growing up could have been applied to the story.
The romance thread is interesting, and brings a dimension to the character of Takumi. Not only does he awaken his racing spirit, but also other feelings as a teenager. However some of the scenes are a little long and can feel like they jar you out of the story. It’s a shame because again, this movie is about racing. Ultimately though it’s a good plot device and comes to a satisfying ending, comparable with his Fathers life and choices.
Some characters are not full explained, and although that can sometimes be a good thing, here it makes them feel as though they are only brought in as a distraction. The character of Takumi’s friend is straight out of a comic, and nothing much appears to have been done to bring him into the world of the movie. Perhaps this was a deliberate move in order to retain the connection with the story’s roots, but he just seems to get in the way of events.
Jay Chou playing the lead of Takumi, don’t have that much to say, and although this reflects a troubled teenager, it does quickly get grating and you can understand why his Father wants to kick him into action!
The picture is very sharp and clear, this is particularly noticeable during the racing scenes which mainly occur at night. The CGI is seamed in very well and the picture remains strong even when the camera is locked to a crane sticking out from a speeding car! It looks like a lot of work has gone into making this DVD look good.
Presented: DD5.1:EX \ DTS:ES
During the racing the sounds are really good, you can hear the engines changing gears and over revving, and when the camera is near the car the LFE kicks in well. Good use is made of the DTS track during these races, and you feel immersed in the action.
Outside of the racing little is made of the DTS, but then the story doesn’t really dictate it at these points. Use of the DTS would have felt forced and unnatural.
Presented: Behind the Scenes, Character Bios, Making of Featurette, Deleted Scenes, Outtakes, TV Spot, Promotion in Shanghai, Promotion in Japan, Photo Gallery, Cast and Credits
Unfortunately there were no English subtitle options with any of these extras, but I still watched them all! Mainly to see some behind the scenes of the racing moments, and to see more of the cars in action. They are there, you just have to watch rather than listen…unless of course you can speak Chinese.
It’s an okay movie, but where it excels are in the racing scenes, superb drift racing which has been filmed really well using some interesting techniques, camera angles and a little CGI. This makes for very impressive viewing and when combined with the powerful audio track it pulls you right into the race seat.
Yet the rest of the story seems a little bit weak and could have done with more character development and less reference to its Manga roots. If you like cars and you like street racing, you’ll enjoy this movie.
Moviesville has the DVD with the above specs, just be aware that the extras do not have English subtitles or audio. They have a wealth of import DVDs and VCDs with some of the most exciting box sets I’ve seen. It’s worth having a look at their catalogue.