The second feature by Justin Lin (he co-directed Shopping for Fangs), Better Luck Tomorrow is the story of four Asian friends in a Southern California high school who come from privileged backgrounds but gravitate towards crime and all of its accoutrements.
On a superficial level, everything works. The acting, the cinematography, it’s all there. But on a narrative level it feels deficient. By the time the last act rolls into place, I thought of Woody Allen’s Crimes and Misdemeanors. Allen puts a murder up-front in the story and then proceeds to spend most of his film flushing out the anguish and psychological torment that follow in its wake and, ultimately, comes to an apocryphal conclusion. Better Luck Tomorrow also shares a murder as its crux, but skips all the moral ambiguities and reflections on guilt that made Crimes and Misdemeanors great and cribs a similar amoral end-note. The result simply feels glib, leaving the body of work that precedes it gratuitous.