Vid Clips: Ashita no Joe; Crying Fist; One-Pound Gospel
by Ender’s Girl
Where I’m from, boxing is the unofficial state religion — and we’re a nation that’s 93% Christian, haha. Boxing is bigger than the Pope, karaoke, and malling combined. In fact it’s almost as big as… basketball, lol. On any given Manny Pacquiao fight morning (or fight night in Vegas, where his bouts are usually held), the entire country grinds to a complete standstill just to witness Pacman pummel the living daylights out of whoever is with him in the ring that day — de la Hoya, Clottey, Hatton, Marquez, Morales.
Televised boxing matches were an inevitable fixture in my home life growing up — although I must admit to always feeling repulsed by the raw physicality and Parkinson’s-inducing brutality that characterized the sport, and that always caused the combatants — whether loser or victor — to emerge from a fight looking like something on display at your friendly neighborhood meat house. But boxing movies — the Rockies, Cinderella Man, etc. — hold a strange appeal for me because they’re usually premised on underdog stories, boxing after all being a true working-class sport birthed in the slums and back alleys of the given hero’s city of origin. And because boxing is such a personal, face-to-face, mano-a-mano engagement where the world is reduced to two people trying to pound each other into a pulp within a tiny enclosure, while the crowds roar their names and scream for their blood.
So here are three short clips of boxing-themed productions (two films and a drama) starring… let’s see… two of Korea’s most admired actors, and… two Johnnies from Japan, hahaha.
Ashita no Joe / Tomorrow’s Joe (TBS, 2011)
This is a first look at the live-action movie adaptation of the shounen manga classic by Takamori Asao and Chiba Tetsuya. Slated for an early 2011 release, the film stars YamaPi in the titular role of Yabuki Joe, an orphaned juvenile delinquent who discovers his potential — and passion — for boxing while inside the slammer. The story traces Joe’s struggles as a pugilist as he steadily earns a name for himself in the boxing world, taking on one opponent after another until he finally squares off with the reigning world champ.
YamaPi reportedly shed a whopping 8.5 kg (or 18.7 pounds) to look the part of a lean ‘n’ mean (and topless, heh) fighting machine. *whistles in amazement* His training consisted of a punishing exercise regimen and a low-carb diet (seriously no carbs??? I can’t possibly imagine! oh the horror! lol), which all in all brought PiPi’s body fat percentage down to 5%. I do hope more movie stills get leaked in the coming weeks so we can see… um, evidence of that new fighting physique, yesss? 8.5 kg may seem a shockingly large amount of body mass to be jettisoned by one person alone (and I guess that’s why Pi’s fellow NEWS members were reportedly alarmed by his rapid weight loss, lol), but if you REALLY think about it, each of his giant manboobs probably weighs upwards of 9 kg, so losing 4.25 kg per bazoom doesn’t seem like such a big deal, mwahahaha. Unless of course… the meat in those moobs is actually an illusion because the pecs are… inflatable, which in this case they’d weigh close to nothing, lol (News source and movie stills from TokyoHive)
It’s kind of weird how I’ve managed to remain *mostly* impervious to YamaPi’s sex appeal despite having seen close to all his dramas and films (and despite having seen every scene where he… takes his shirt awwwfff, baby). It’s Kame that I want. There I’ve said it. Dammit. But it’s actually the story’s premise that I’m more interested in, i.e. working-class hero + regulated violence/structured aggression = classic sports underdog formula, immortalized in such films as On the Waterfront (which spawned the unforgettable line, “I coulda been uh contenduh… I coulda had class…”). But no matter how foolproof the formula or how thematically rich the manga source material, I’m not holding my breath for anything spectacular as far as the Ashita no Joe adaptation is concerned. Oh I’m not expecting a cinematic masterpiece (it is YamaPi after all, lol), just something that’s watchable at the very least. Please please, let this movie be entertaining! I mean, God help us if this turns out to be another Kurosagi, blerg. But what gives me a faint glimmer of hope is the trailer’s gritty, intense vibe… And the fact that Pi’s face in the final shot, as he delivers a ferocious left hook right into the camera, actually packs more emotion than his characters from his last three dramas ever did, heh heh heh.
Anyway, let’s see how long this video clip lasts this time around before the evil network grunts deal the trailer a most vicious TKO…
[Random: Aishita no Joe…? Tomorrow’s Joe? Now I’m getting flashes of YamaPi as Akira in that really short scene in Nobuta wo Produce where he blurts out, “Today! Tomorrow! Today!” to no one in particular (“no one” being… Shuji lol). Ohhh Akira. *loves on Akira*]
Crying Fist (Sio Film/Bravo Entertainment 2005)
The “Ashita no Joe” manga synopsis reminded me of the 2005 Korean film Crying Fist / Jumeogi Unda directed by maverick filmmaker Ryu Seung-wan (Arahan, Dachimawa Lee) and starring A-listers Choi Min-sik and Ryu’s brothah dearest Ryu Seung-bum as two very different down-on-their-luck blokes who find in boxing a renewed life purpose and — maybe, personal redemption as well. Chungmuro big kahuna Choi Min-sik plays a washed-up boxer and former Asian Games silver medalist who has been reduced to eking out a living on the streets, offering his body as a human punching bag to anyone who will care to pay a few measly bucks. His life is in shambles, his marriage headed for divorce, and he can barely support himself, much less provide for his soon-to-be-ex-wife and resentful young son. Ryu Seung-bum holds his own (and more!) as a dreadlocked petty criminal who gets thrown in the clink, where he comes under the tutelage of an aging coach who teaches him to box. The training gives him focus, a way to channel his rage and frustration against society. (Ahhh, so that’s why Ashita no Joe reminded me of Crying Fist. lol)
This movie is memorable not least of all for its narrative style, which ping-pongs between Choi Min-sik and Ryu Seung-bum’s trajectories. Crying Fist doesn’t tell you who to root for, as both men — the… Old Boy and the Street Punk — have equally heartbreaking backstories, equally valid motivations to get cleaned up, get in shape, and just box. Neither one is the hero of the story — or both men are, depending on how you see it. But either way you’ll cheer desperately for both of them, although in the end you know there can be only one victor. This film hits all the right emotional notes because it delves into the very heart of a prizefighter, both asking and answering the question: Why do we fight? (Or more importantly, what or who do we fight for?)
Both men find themselves on the ropes — literally and figuratively — when desperate circumstances compel them to enter the same boxing tournament. Most of the film focuses on their individual training, and the only time their paths get to cross is when they square off in the ring at the very end. And it breaks your heart that the match isn’t even a particularly prestigious one, or the winner’s purse particularly hefty. But you’ve seen both lives unravel and straighten out throughout the course of the film, you’ve seen the tragedies and disappointments that have befallen them, and you know how badly each man wants to win — not just for himself, but for those whom he lives for — and so you know, as do they, that this bout will be the fight of their lives.
Another striking thing about Crying Fist is the stark, visceral realism of the fight scenes. The punches are graphic and unidealized, each blow leaving you with a sickening thud in the gut and a faint taste of blood in the mouth. There’s one round in the final match that was filmed in one continuous take and delivered in the same uncompromising spirit as the rest of the movie. This sequence is a marvel to watch, a seamless dovetailing of direction, editing, fight choreography and acting that will suck you right into the ring, right into the eye of the storm while the jabs and uppercuts, grunts and pants, blood and spit — surge and swirl around you. Mind-blowingly awesome.
One-Pound Gospel (TBS, 2008)
Lastly, I’m including a fan-made video montage of Kamenashi Kazuya’s scenes from the manga-based boxing drama 1 Pound Fukuin. Why? Just… because, lol. And because… shots of Kame training and fighting never fail to… uh, knock me out cold, heh heh. (Read the capsule review in my Kame Dorama Roundup)
Video credits: chibisake, Ostkreutz, and paulaleta @ YouTube.com