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Initial D
Humble tofu delivery boy and part time gas station attendant Takumi has driven the same stretch of Japanese mountain highway almost every day for the past four years of his life. When his best friend tries to enter an amateur race competition down the same mountain, he realizes that he may have what it takes to be a professional. After ambiguously defeating one of the heads of a local race team after a delivery, he is thrust into amateur racing stardom, and finds his internal competitor.

Initial D
After reading the plot synopsis I had assumed Initial D would be nothing but a Chinese version of The Fast and The Furious. It turned out I was about half right, as like The Fast and The Furious and its sequel, Initial D is really only about the speed of sound car chases, though the plots take different paths. Unfortunately, Initial D’s plot path is not teeming with any of the curves of its central racetrack.

Takumi, in spite of his shyness, overcomes his fears of losing, falls in love with a girl, and reinvigorates his relationship with his semi-abusive, ex-racer father. Along the way his girlfriend’s extra relational activities are brought to light by his best friend, he breaks his car, and has to overcome his apprehensive nature to win the all-important movie ending race (sorry, spoiler warning, though if you hadn’t guessed he’d win in the film’s first ten minutes, I’d worry about you).

Initial D is based on a long running Japanese comic and anime, which I haven’t ever seen, so I’m unable to remark on its faithfulness to the original source material. In the end, I’m pretty sure it doesn’t matter. Co-directors Andrew Lau (no, not that Andrew Lau) and Alan Mak do their best to make the comic book origins obvious through the constant use of mid-shot still frames. One might say that Initial D actually suffers from a case of terminal hipness, as the style over substance quotient begins to overstay its welcome. Basically the film plays like a long car, soda, and clothing commercial. It scores big points despite its flaws by casting Anthony Wong as Takumi’s drunken, half narcoleptic father.

Initial D
I admit the racing sequences are invigorating, though lacking the sense of danger that makes the car chases in films like Bullitt and The French Connection so unforgettable. Like power pop as opposed to old school punk rock, everything is a little too clean cut for this viewer. The crew does find a virtual legion of camera angles to film from, insuring that, at least during the race sequences, the audience does not get bored.

Made this year, Initial D is so fresh that the anamorphic, 2.35:1 transfer is mostly perfect. If I were forced to find issue with it, I’d say that the colour and brightness both have a few consistency issues, though this may be caused by the use of the use of camera filters and different film stocks. Pretty much picture perfect all around.

Initial D
Presented in DTS ES and Dolby Digital EX, the revving of engines and squealing of tires are loud and expansive. Rear and stereo effects are plenty and effective. The soundtrack, made up mostly of English language techno-pop and hip-hop, is also clean, if not completely obnoxious at some points. There is a small problem with dialogue levels throughout, most of which seems to be caused by poor post-production dubbing of Mandarin speaking actors. Curiously, when shifting between audio tracks on the fly the DTS track defaulted to stereo a few times, but this may have been an issue with my admittedly aging sound system rather than the disc itself.

On the first disc you will find the feature, its various audio incarnations, and a theatrical trailer. Disc 2 is semi-packed with semi-interesting semi-documentaries. The problem here being that it is all in Chinese, with Chinese subtitles. All in all, it amounts to a bunch of ads gathered together in the guise of informative features.

The behind the scenes and character featurettes are quite skipable, as they are entirely reiterated in the following making of featurette. Every sub-featurette is accompanied by the same song and opening credit, which is bland and repetitive in any language. These are followed by a series of deleted scenes, most of which are actually longer versions of existing scenes, some NG outtakes, three TV spots, and Shanghai and Japanese promotional footage. In a fun bit of comparative cultural promoting, the Shanghai footage is simply the film’s four main cars doing donuts, and the Japanese footage is a very proper, dudes in suits affair.

I was not overly impressed with the car porn that is Initial D; everything was a bit too clean cut and unoriginal for my taste. In the film's favour are some decent race sequences, ace cinematography, and, of course, Anthony Wong. In case you missed that last bit, Anthony Wong is in this film, and he acts very cool. The second disc of special features isn’t worth your time, but seriously, Anthony Wong is all you need to know.

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