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Better Luck Tomorrow (2002)


Average Rating: 7/10
Reviews Counted: 103
Fresh: 83
Rotten: 20

Critics Consensus: A promising work by Lin, the energetic Better Luck Tomorrow is disturbing and thought-provoking.

Average Rating: 6.7/10
Reviews Counted: 39
Fresh: 29
Rotten: 10

Critics Consensus: A promising work by Lin, the energetic Better Luck Tomorrow is disturbing and thought-provoking.


Average Rating: 3.7/5
User Ratings: 7,986


Movie Info

A group of unlikely high school students take up crime as an extracurricular activity in this independent drama. Ben (Parry Shen) is a 16-year-old high school student who is the living embodiment of the stereotypical Asian overachiever. Ben obsessively studies even though he gets straight A's, takes part in a dizzying variety of school activities and community volunteer work, which he thinks will look good on his resume to colleges, and is even a member of the basketball team, even though he … More

R (adult situations/language, violence)
Drama , Action & Adventure
Directed By:
Written By:
Justin Lin , Ernesto M. Foronda , Fabian Marquez
In Theaters:
Sep 30, 2003
Box Office:
MTV Films - Official Site


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Critic Reviews for Better Luck Tomorrow

All Critics (103) | Top Critics (39) | Fresh (83) | Rotten (20) | DVD (14)

Better Luck Tomorrow, a corrosive, insightful study of the pressure-packed lives of suburban high school students, brings a new variant to gangster movies: gangsters with perfect SAT scores.

Full Review… | April 2, 2013
Associated Press
Top Critic

Better Luck Tomorrow breathes new life into a familiar story: coming of age in high school.

Full Review… | April 2, 2013
Wall Street Journal
Top Critic

A enerally absorbing look at a slice of society normally taken for granted, both in life and onscreen.

Full Review… | July 6, 2010
Top Critic

Spends more time avoiding Asian-American stereotypes than it does making sense of its characters and plot.

Full Review… | June 24, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

MTV (which bought this movie out of Sundance) believes the target audience to be high school and college students. I would argue that it's anyone in search of a well-made, thought-provoking motion picture.

Full Review… | April 26, 2003
Top Critic

If this is what Lin can do for the Hollywood equivalent of pocket change, we can't wait to see what's possible when he has an actual budget at his disposal.

Full Review… | April 25, 2003
Minneapolis Star Tribune
Top Critic

Justin Lin succeeds in shocking audiences with a story that breaks the mold...

Full Review… | April 29, 2009
Cinema Crazed

Intriguing but dramatically thin.

Full Review… | August 7, 2008
Sacramento News & Review

Incisive [and] cautionary.

Full Review… | December 27, 2007
Big Picture Big Sound

Has an optimistic outlook that uses pessimistic results in a manner fitting for a film of such solid morality.

Full Review… | August 22, 2004
Apollo Guide

Um filme do qual Martin Scorsese pode se orgulhar.

August 2, 2004
Cinema em Cena

You could have replaced everyone in this movie with the cast of some lily-white show like Dawson's Creek and nobody would notice the difference.

Full Review… | February 21, 2004

Justin Lin’s biggest accomplishment is providing a stereotype-shattering insiders’ view of the angst and rage of a group of Asian teenagers ...

Full Review… | February 18, 2004
Atlantic City Weekly

[I]f the story has some rough edges, well, it's a first film.

Full Review… | January 4, 2004

Doesn't settle for easy thriller plot twists.

Full Review… | October 6, 2003

At times Lin's story slides into crime cliches, but whatever he lacks in plotting he makes up for in style and brute emotional force.

September 6, 2003
Las Vegas Weekly

. . .its bolder themes and naked ambition heighten the sense of disappointment towards the film's end when it fails to deliver on its initial promise.

Full Review… | May 30, 2003

The picture's relative uniqueness is what intrigues and compels, marking Better Luck Tomorrow as important, if not ultimately entirely successful.

Full Review… | May 14, 2003
Film Freak Central

A powerful and unpredictable film.

Full Review… | May 12, 2003
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

Reviewers seem surprised that a young Asian-American filmmaker has been reading Bret Easton Ellis and watching Quentin Tarantino, when in reality the opposite would be startling...

May 9, 2003
Commercial Appeal (Memphis, TN)

Those looking for the gangster movie seen in the TV spots will be seriously disappointed.

Full Review… | May 9, 2003
Fantastica Daily

a fairly provocative look at teenage life, featuring the kinds of multidimensional characters that aren't typically included in movies aimed at the high school crowd.

Full Review… | May 8, 2003
Kalamazoo Gazette

Audience Reviews for Better Luck Tomorrow


This was Justin Lin's first time directing a feature alone, and I must say, "Better Luck Tomorrow" has some of the most genius camerawork and editing techniques that I have seen in a long time. As we follow Ben and his friends as they are nearing the end of high school, they are succumbed to the evil underground dealing and stealing. With just the right amount of characterization, the cast in this film pull off performances that feel more real than anything. Sung Kang plays the role of Han (one of Ben's friends), and it is obvious that Justin Lin planned to bring his character (with a few tweaks mind you) into the "Fas & Furious" franchise. Hard decisions are made by the characters throughout the film and the tone will make you feel sick to your stomach at times, but it will all be worth it. This is probably one of the best independent films of the 2000's for sure. I loved it!

KJ Proulx
KJ Proulx

Super Reviewer

Now this is how you make an independent movie! Completely original, trippy, and clever satire about Asian kids who can get away with anything as long as it looks like they've conformed to society's general stereotypes of their race.
Director Justin Lin has a master's command of the camera and the story he's telling. He also allows his actors to look like true movie stars, even though most of the audience may have never seem them before (except for John Cho). It just sucks that now, eight years after this movie's initial release, Lin has become a corporate tool making godawful Fast and Furious movies. The soul behind Better Luck Tomorrow is the soul of a true auteur.

Edward Boxler

Super Reviewer


As the first film by director Lin, the title could be used for his next film, as this film shows that he has promise, but is still a bit rough around the edges.

The film takes us inside the Asian community, showing us a group of smart Asian high school kids who know the drill of grades = college = success, but are bored and not challenged by our current sad state of education.

The main charactor is slowly brought into a web of crime, first by getting paid for creating cheat sheets, and then later getting into larcenty and finally, as things escalate and the Asian "gang of four's" reputation grows, into narcotics.

At the center of the film is an Asian cheerleader who is dating Jon Cho (Sulu in the Trek remake). Cho, who disperses drugs and wisdom to the main charactor, for some reason (never fully explained) abhors all the high school melodrama, so coerces the main charactor into taking the cheerleader to a dance. It's obvious that the main charactor and the cheerleader have feelings for each other, and yet, again unexplained, the cheerleader seems somehow bound to Cho.

The plot ramps up and there's an interesting twist (which could have been presented better) and then a final resolution that leaves several plates still spinning (kind of like life).

Throughout the film there are several cinematic camera tricks, which hit the mark about half the time (and are annoying the other half), and overall the performances of the cast are good, though I thought that the cheerleader's portrayal was a bit uneven, perhaps due to the script that had her alternatevely playing hot and cold.

The film also includes a trip to Vegas, which, while I found amusing, I also felt was totally superflous to the plot and felt tacked on (as if "hey, we need another ten minutes of film time"). I also found the Vegas scenes with the four amigos at the gaming tables to be absurd - Only one of the four could possibly pass for 21, so the scene rang very false.

Yet, for the intelligent expose into teen life, and perhaps for a look behind the curtain at those 4.0 GPA Asians, this film was worth watching.

paul sandberg

Super Reviewer

Featuring a big influence from Scorsese, nods to Kids and The Basketball Diaries, and a refreshing take on familiarity, Justin Lin's debut Better Luck Tomorrow is an engaging, biting, satirical social commentary that is unforgettable and truly amazing. The style, which features speed changes, a mix of editing techniques, and 5 acts (instead of 3), perfectly captures both the influence of who is behind the film, and the target audience (which happen to be connected one another). The way the film begins to get dark is great, especially because of the brilliantly employed subtlety. Lin showed so much promise with this film that it is disheartenening to see where his career has gone in the past 6-7 years. He needs to go back to movies like this, and quick.

Chris Weber

Super Reviewer

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