by Susan Starr and Kevin Kocur
“Better Luck Tomorrow” is a movie about Asian-American high school students who lead a parentless existence of straight A’s, extracurricular activities and organized crime. The main character, Ben (Parry Shen), may look Asian but he is so American that he speaks fluent Spanish. At first it appears he has organized his whole life around creating impressive entries for his college application. But we soon find out that Ben along with his best friend the annoying, loud-mouth Virgil(Jason J. Tobin) and Virgil’s cool, bad boy cousin Han(Sung Kang) are running scams to rip off local stores.
Eventually they are joined by Daric (Roger Fan), the cynical tennis champ and editor of the school paper. They start getting more and more involved in a world of crime. While all this is going on Ben is trying to romance the pretty cheerleader Stephanie (Karin Anna Cheung), in spite of her arrogant, wealthy boyfriend Steve (Steve Cho). He is also trying to keep up his grades, extra-curricular activities and deal with a budding drug problem. Eventually, involvement in this world of crime leads Ben and his friends to disaster.
The movie is mostly a standard high school flick about troubled teens made more interesting by the fact that the teens appear to the outside world as model students and citizens. It also goes up against the stereotype of Asians as nerdy brainiacs. The movie is slow at the start, but as the story gets going I got involved with the life of the main character, Ben and the double life he is trying to lead. The story is loosely based on a real life murder of an Asian-American teen and I think the movie has a very realistic feel to it. I think Kevin found it dull because he began looking at pictures of motorcycles on the internet in the middle of the movie. I think his problem was that nothing blew up through the whole movie, there were only a few quick shots of a porn movie, and the blood and gore only appeared at the end.
OK, I do NOT require the obligatory blood and gore scenes in order to make a movie more interesting. But if I’m going to watch, and subsequently write about, a motorcycle movie, there should be more bikes in it. In this case we are limited to one scene: the first time we see Steve, he rides up on a very cool Dover White BMW /2. Much to Ben’s chagrin, Steve and Stephanie ride off together in their oh-so-retro Davida pudding bowl helmets, leaving Ben standing at the curb looking like a dweeb. I dunno, maybe if he had a righteous scoot he could be the one riding off with the cheerleader hottie.
I give credit to MTV Films for picking up this low budget indie production. And for a cameo by Jerry Mathers aka “The Beaver” as a boring science teacher.