Better Luck Tomorrow [2002]

Genre: Crime, Drama
Justin Lin's well-received 2002 independent feature, Better Luck Tomorrow, is a strangely appealing story of the mysterious, somehow inexorable drift of an ultra-conscientious, Southern California high school senior, Ben (Parry Shen), toward a fateful interlude with crime. Though highly focused on impressing colleges with his thoughtful balance of excellent grades, energized volunteer work (as a translator), and varsity sports (warming the bench during basketball games), something about Ben appears to be unraveling. Perhaps it is an attraction to his out-of-reach lab partner (Karin Anna Cheung), or his growing attachment to hard cash, or simply the malaise that coats his every act of self-denial. In any case, he and a brood of fellow Asian American overachievers metamorphose into the local go-to gang of black-market thievery--all while keeping up their classes. Lin brings a fresh angle to the exhausted youth-crime genre, and clarifies, with no small wisdom, the distinction between building a future and living one's destiny. --Tom Keogh

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