Better Luck Tomorrow

Overachieving California teens start to cheat, steal, sell drugs and worse. Director Justin Lin's striking debut film has a twist: This time the kids are Asian-Americans. But Lin isn't a gimmick baby. He flips stereotypes and finds cultural conflicts festering. Parry Shen shines as Ben, the high school nerd who's into SATs, sports and lusting for Stephanie (Karin Anna Cheung), who itches only for rich-kid Steve (John Cho). It's his friend Daric (Roger Fan) who gets Ben into selling cheat sheets. Then their crimes escalate. Soon Ben, Daric and their pal Virgil (Jason Tobin) — the school's Chinese mafia — are in too deep. Lin is a talent to watch. There's a sting to this film that gets to you.

From The Archives Issue 921: May 1, 2003