Better Luck Tomorrow (2002)

TOMATOMETER

AUDIENCE SCORE

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

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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 spends most of the season riding the pine. Ben also hopes being part of the team will help him win the heart of Stephanie Vandergosh (Karin Anna Cheung), a cute but equally obsessive girl who is on the cheerleading squad. When the big man on campus, Daric (Roger Fan), publishes an article in the school newspaper that points out Ben's true role on the team is to add a touch of ethnic diversity to satisfy Board of Education requirements, Ben is so embarrassed he quits the team and imagines his academic future going up in smoke. Daric seizes the opportunity to propose that he and Ben go into business, creating and selling detailed cheat sheets for school tests and placement exams. The cheat sheets are an immediate hit, and soon Ben and Daric advance to other forms of low-level crime, including drug dealing and fencing stolen goods. Before long, Ben and Daric are joined by a handful of friends -- Ben's close friend and part-time kleptomaniac Virgil (Jason Tobin), Hong Kong gangster wannabe Han (Sung Kang), and Steve (John Cho), a kid from a wealthy family who happens to be dating Stephanie -- but they soon find themselves moving deeper into the criminal underworld than they ever anticipated, and things get ugly when they try to move on. Better Luck Tomorrow was enthusiastically received in its screenings at the 2002 Sundance Film Festival.
Rating:
R (adult situations/language, violence)
Genre:
Action & Adventure , Drama
Directed By:
Written By:
In Theaters:
 wide
On DVD:
Runtime:
Studio:

Cast

Jason Tobin
as Virgil
Roger Fan
as Daric
Karin Anna Cheung
as Stephanie
John Cho
as Steve
Jerry Mathers
as Biology Teacher
Ina Burke
as Tracy
Laura Esposito
as Camille
Shirley Anderson
as Hot Dog Planet Customer
Nanette Matoba
as Housewife
Kenji Matoba
as Toddler
Ashley Arai
as Cheerleader
Danielle Conner
as Cheerleader
Karen DiTota
as Cheerleader
Smita Satiani
as Cheerleader
Kristen Stinson
as Cheerleader
Jimmy Lin
as Jock
Ryan Cadiz
as Jesus Navarro
Jessie S. Marion
as Gina Nabham
A.J. Green
as Mr. Farmer
Esther 'Tita' Mercado
as Hospital Patient
Octavia Osby
as Doctor
Beverly Sotelo
as Cashier
Scott McShane
as Cashier
Brandon Bain
as Basketball Player
Jesse Bustos
as Basketball Player
Troy Cartwright
as Basketball Player
Brandon Dennis
as Basketball Player
Ronald Dross
as Basketball Player
Christopher R. Edmonds
as Basketball Player
Jon Paul Lourenco
as Basketball Player
Anthony Moore
as Basketball Player
Jason Christopher Reyes
as Basketball Player
Dominique Ricks
as Basketball Player
Khalil Semaan
as Basketball Player
Jonathan Uyloan
as Basketball Player
Terry White
as Basketball Player
Chad Young
as Basketball Player
Kenwood Jung
as Basketball Coach
Jeff Russell
as Assistant Basketball Coach
Darian Weiss
as Kenny Vandergosh
Emmie Hsu
as Miriam
Lily Hu
as Tina
Justin Murphy
as Adam/New Year's Party Band
James Isaac Barry
as Porn Jock
Wayne Ford
as Student Buying Cheat Stamp
Kevin Alfoldy
as Steve's Decathlon Team
Daniel R. Bonneau
as Steve's Decathlon Team
Lisa Grant
as Steve's Decathlon Team
David Laurence
as Steve's Decathlon Team
Nate Petre
as Steve's Decathlon Team
Ramona T. Ramirez
as Steve's Decathlon Team
Stephanie Noel Little
as Steve's Barbie
Tom Chalmers
as Liquor Store Clerk
Bryan Baluyot
as Gangster
Mark Baluyot
as Gangster
Joseph Jaldon
as Gangster
Marc Montecillo
as Gangster
Joe Hernandez-Kolski
as Scared Student
Jay Scott Green
as Assistant Vice Principal
Denise Barnard
as Assistant Vice Principal
Bruno Oliver
as History Teacher
Fabian Marquez
as Security Guard
Christopher Monjoy
as Student Buying Drugs
Jennifer Avelyn Wu
as Ben's Admirer
Lela Lee
as Slapper
Evan Leong
as Slapper's Boyfriend
Suzanne Keilly
as Salesgirl
Shane Kualapai
as Casino Security Guard
Sean Alexander
as New Year's Party Band
Joey Barro
as New Year's Party Band
Ben Donaldson
as New Year's Party Band
Walker Edmondson
as New Year's Party Band
Chris Good
as New Year's Party Band
Diana Bonilla
as New Year's Party Flirt
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Critic Reviews for Better Luck Tomorrow

All Critics (103) | Top Critics (39)

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
Variety
Top Critic

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

Full Review… | June 23, 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
ReelViews
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

Audience Reviews for Better Luck Tomorrow

½

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
Edward Boxler

Super Reviewer

½

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
paul sandberg

Super Reviewer

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