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Better Luck Tomorrow: 10 High-Speed Facts You Never Knew About The Unofficial F&F Prequel

If there's one thing that the "Fast and Furious" franchise has taught us, it's that family is everything. And with the arrival of "Fast X," we've got family on our minds. Care to take a trip down memory lane with us?

Back in 2001, "The Fast and the Furious" told a modest story of street racing and boosting cars — with a splash of petty thievery for good measure. The film stars the late Paul Walker as undercover cop Brian O'Connor, assigned to infiltrate the crew of local street racer Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel). Dom is the ringleader for criminal activity on the level of heisting truckloads of DVD players. Unfortunately for Brian, he begins to like Dom and falls for his sister Mia (Jordana Brewster). He ultimately decides to let Dom go, which results in Brian losing his position as an LAPD officer and turning to a life of street racing himself.

Since then, the stakes have only gotten higher and higher for the "Fast" family. At this point, they've saved the world in more ways than we can count, they've taken international warlords, and they've even gone to space. These are truly "Mission: Impossible" worthy events — in fact, some fans think these two franchises should do a crossover ASAP.

But with all that action and family drama, there's one little-seen chapter that may surprise even the biggest "Fast and Furious" fan. Long before the "Fast" family became the Avengers of car action, Justin Lin debuted his film "Better Luck Tomorrow" at the Sundance Film Festival, introducing the world to future member of Dom's crew — Han.

Better Luck Tomorrow debuted in 2002

In 2002, Justin Lin premiered his film "Better Luck Tomorrow" at the Sundance Film Festival. As the second feature in Lin's career, "Better Luck Tomorrow" received acclaim from critics such as Roger Ebert, who praised it as a "brilliantly made film."

"Better Luck Tomorrow" follows Ben Manibag (Parry Shen) and his friends. At first glance, Ben seems like a typical Asian American high school student, concerned with getting straight-As, playing on the basketball team, and getting into a prestigious Ivy League university. However, Lin masterfully puts a spin on things as Ben is shown to take part in petty crime with his best friend Virgil (Jason Tobin) and his cousin Han (Sung Kang). The friends begin with small-time activities before escalating toward drug dealing and theft. Eventually, things get out of control, and someone ends up dead. Ben and Han decide to keep their actions a secret, as they've seemingly accepted their violent path. Unfortunately, Virgil feels that he can no longer live with what he's done, ultimately deciding to attempt suicide.

"Better Luck Tomorrow" is a violent story about a group of teens who have let the idea of money and power take over their lives. Lin provides audiences with an ambiguous ending that questions if Ben or Han have learned their lesson, or if they'll continue in their life of crime. As "Fast and Furious" fans know, Han's answer is a life of crime.

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by dialing 988 or by calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.

Better Luck Tomorrow featured an all-Asian cast

When "Crazy Rich Asians" hit theaters, it was hailed for having an all-Asian cast, with many citing that is was a momentous moment for Hollywood. But while that 2018 hit was indeed a landmark for blockbuster representation, Justin Lin also deserves credit for doing the same thing on a less-seen scale more than a decade earlier. In fact, with "Better Luck Tomororow" Lin purposefully told a tale about a group of young Asian teens spiraling into a life of crime in order to break down stereotypes that have plagued his community in Hollywood for years.

When his characters are introduced, they're immediately shown to fit the screen stereotypes of young Asian males — good at school, obsessed with homework, and looking to please their parents. However, just as Lin builds these stereotypes up, he immediately knocks them down as audiences learn about each character's "side hustle" of crime. For example, at one point in the film, a girl asks the boys what type of club they're involved with, suggesting that it's likely a math club. Unbeknownst to her, when she's talking to them, they're high on cocaine — which they also sell.

Lin's characters quickly break out of the "nerdy Asian" trope as audiences see that Ben, Virgil, Han, and their friend Daric (Roger Fan) have turned into the "cool guys." They've become drug dealers — violent, demanding, and sexually active — in all the ways that seem cool to young, dumb teenagers.

Roger Ebert was a staunch defender

While critics like Roger Ebert praised the film, "Better Luck Tomorrow" did receive criticism upon its premiere. According to the Washington Post, one critic at the Sundance Film Festival stood up during the Q&A portion of the film's premiere. When speaking directly to director Justin Lin, the critic reportedly suggested that, as an Asian man, shouldn't Lin have "a responsibility to paint a more positive and helpful portrait of [his] community." And while some were quick to agree with this statement, this criticism was quickly shot down by another critic in the audience: Ebert himself.

Ebert is reported to have angrily stood up in defense of Lin, stating, "What I find very offensive and condescending about your statement is nobody would say that to a bunch of white filmmakers." He then continued his argument by reportedly stating that "Asian American characters have the right to be whoever the hell they want to be. They do not have to 'represent' their people."

Following his statement, Ebert went on to give "Better Luck Tomorrow" a glowing four-star review. And after a successful premiere at Sundance, it was picked up for wide release by MTV Films.

Better Luck Tomorrow introduces Han

So, now that we've set the stage, we can finally get to the reason that we're all here –- Han. In "Better Luck Tomorrow," Han is introduced as the complete opposite of his high-energy cousin Virgil, being more of a stoic character. However, Han seems to use violence as a way to express his dominance. He clearly loves his cousin, yet he goes out of his way to beat him whenever the mood strikes.

As a character, he seems unbothered by how society views him and assigns stereotypes about him due to his race. He's not driven by money or even the thrill of violence. Instead, he seems to mainly take part in the group's criminal activities out of sheer boredom. This is a trait that follows him into the "Fast and Furious" franchise, as Han really has no driving force in anything he does aside from his loyalty to Dom and love for Gisele (Gal Gadot).

Han is also first seen as a chronic smoker. In the film, he tends to light a cigarette the moment he's finished one. In fact, it would be hard to find a moment in "Better Luck Tomorrow" when Han is not smoking. This, of course, pays off with a small detail in the "Fast and Furious" franchise. In "Fast Five" Gisele tells Han that he was clearly a heavy pack-a-day smoker, based on the fact that he's always eating snacks as a way to keep his hands busy.

Justin Lin brought Han into Tokyo Drift

When Justin Lin was brought on to direct "The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift," he and writer Chris Morgan were faced with the challenge of creating a sequel that couldn't rely on any returning characters from the previous films. In initial drafts, the character who takes American high school student Sean Boswell (Lucas Black) under his wing was something of a blank slate. Lin told Entertainment Weekly that as he began fleshing out the cast he found himself being drawn back to Han, pulling many characteristics from the character he'd written in "Better Luck Tomorrow." Eventually, he decided that the character he was creating might as well just be Han. Thus, he chose to bring Sung Kang into "Tokyo Drift." Once he did that, Lin said, "It became very natural, and also just coming off this other journey, it became a perfect convergence."

However, this version of Han had to make sense in the world of "The Fast and the Furious." Therefore, Lin made Han older, wiser, and less violent. He's learned from past mistakes and becomes a mentor, growing beyond the brazen teenager from "Better Luck Tomorrow."

When Lin was brought back to helm 2009's follow-up, "Fast & Furious" he knew that he wanted to incorporate Han's connection to Dom in some way. He and Vin Diesel spent time building out the backstory between their two characters. For Lin, this really solidified the mythos of the universe they were building.

Han wasn't the only actor from Better Luck Tomorrow in Tokyo Drift

Actor Sung Kang and the character of Han aren't the only connection between "Better Luck Tomorrow" and "Tokyo Drift," as director Justin Lin brought another actor from his 2002 film with him — albeit as a different character. Jason Tobin portrays Han's cousin Virgil Hu in "Better Luck Tomorrow." Virgil is a troubled teenager who struggles to deal with the emotional repercussions that come with killing someone. And while he does survive his suicide attempt, he's forever changed by what he's done.

In "Tokyo Drift," Tobin portrays Earl Hu, a teenager who befriends Sean and is part of Han's crew. He's shown to be extremely smart, as he's seen modifying car engines as a teenager.

When Lin returned to the franchise once again with "F9," Tobin Earl came along for a brief appearance as well. He's shown to still be good friends with Sean and his best friend Twinkie (Bow Wow). The three of them are working for the government in Germany, where they can be found building rocket engines. It looks as though Earl is the brains of the operation, as he points out that he's a rocket scientist and the only one fully qualified to deal with the complexities of their job.

The 'Justice For Han' trend brought Han back from the dead

In "The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift" Han dies in a racing accident. So, during his appearances in "Fast & Furious," "Fast Five," and "Fast & Furious 6," fans knew that these were technically prequels to "Tokyo Drift" and that Han would eventually go to Tokyo and die. But those same fans had grown fond of the character, with Kang's charming performance fully cementing Han as a beloved member of Dom's extended family. That's why, when it was revealed that Jason Statham's Deckard Shaw was responsible for Han's death, fans immediately knew to hate and fear his character for "Furious 7." You don't mess with the family.

That's why it came as such a slap in the face for fans when the films began turning Shaw into a hero that we're meant to root for. He was the man who killed Han — we weren't going to forget that, and the trending hashtag #JusticeForHan on Twitter made sure that no one else would. In fact, this is something that Statham himself has called out, telling Entertainment Weekly that he hoped to "put out that fire" of hate his character has received for killing Han.

In the run-up to Han's mysterious return in "F9," Lin told Entertainment Weekly that he was very aware of the hashtag. He suggested that fans recognized that Han's death needed to be addressed if Statham's Shaw was truly shifting from villain to hero. And this prospect was exciting for Lin, as he felt like he could "really do justice for Han." Kang shared that sentiment of excitement, staying, "When Justin calls you and tells you that Han is coming back, all the worries tend to disappear."

Justin Lin felt that Sung Kang was always meant to play Han

Prior to casting Sung Kang as Han, the role almost went to a different actor. Unsurprisingly, director Justin Lin feels would have been a mistake. While speaking with Entertainment Weekly, Lin and Kang looked back on their earliest experiences with the character.

Lin recalls that Kang barely made the audition, causing the director to wonder what would have happened had they never met. He details that Kang was able to embody everything he was looking for with Han. Lin wanted a character that was comfortable in his skin and could easily bounce around in life – whether it's good or bad.

Kang chimed in by saying that it's ironic that Lin felt that way about his audition, as he finds Han's relaxed and confident go-with-the-flow behavior as being stuff that he's learned from working with Lin. Upon arriving in L.A., Kang was in awe at seeing such confident Asian men who would walk around with "swagger." He explained that Lin was a mentor to him, saying, "Justin was really able to guide and flip what the common notion would be for an Asian American character in film." He finds that Han is more like Lin than himself, and that Kang was only able to bring that character out thanks to working with "a director that understood the three dimensions of a character, especially being an Asian male character, so well and so deeply."

How Han became a more grounded character

After both sat out the seventh and eighth installments, "F9" sees the return of Justin Lin to the director seat and Han to the screen. However, while audiences were excited to see Han once more (a reveal that was spoiled in the trailer for "F9") Lin still had to find a way to bring the character back from the dead.

In speaking with Entertainment Weekly, Kang shared that he knew this version of Han would be slightly different than the one Lin introduced way back in "Better Luck Tomorrow" and even than the one audiences have seen in past "Fast" films. This version of Han is older and wiser, which luckily works better for the actor. "The timing of Han's return was good for me as an actor because I'm older, I have more life experience," Kang said, explaining that Han in his younger days was all about the "lifestyle," but this older Han now has a higher calling. He's found something worth fighting for with his pseudo-daughter Elle (Anna Sawai). She's his foundation for life, and that relationship really resonates with Kang. "I feel like this Han is just older and he's more grounded, and when he's there, he's there with purpose."

Han never had a last name

Audiences have heard a lot of last names fly around Han. Initially, "Better Luck Tomorrow" seemed to establish that his last name was Lue. But in "Fast Five," eagle eyed fans spotted the last name Seoul-Oh on one of his fake IDs –- the joke being an obvious reference to Han Solo. And while it's a fun little nod to "Star Wars" it's just an alias and not his true last name. As it turns out, though, it isn't Lue either. So the question remains, what exactly is Han's full name?

Lin clarified to EW that he's unsure where audiences got the idea that Han's last name was Lue in "Better Luck Tomorrow," because contrary to popular belief, that's wrong. In fact, while every other character has a last name, Han never had one. "That was always the spirit of Han," Lin recalls, stating that Han is "just Han" and that the character's last name has been intentionally left ambiguous ... for now.

Perhaps one day we will uncover more secrets of Han's backstory, but until then, we'll just have to accept that he remains an intriguing mystery.