2010, colour, 1.85:1, 126 mins
Directed by Lee Toshio (李闘士男)
By Derek Elley
Fri, 20 August 2010, 17:58 PM (HKT)
Strong screen chemistry gives some punch to this feel-good high school boxing drama. Film weeks.
Osaka, the present day. While taking the metro home with his English teacher Takatsu Yoko (Kashii Yu), geeky high-school student Kitaru Yuki (Kora Kengo), who's only recently returned from living in Tokyo, fails to rescue her from some thugs. The two are saved by beefy Kaburaya Yoshihei, aka Kabu (Ichihara Hayato), who recognises Yuki as his childhood friend, now at the same school, Ebisu High. Yuki is a brilliant student but a physical weakling and prone to being bullied all his life; Kabu is a boxing natural but lazy and prone to delinquency. Kabu invites Yuki to join his boxing club and toughen himself up, and the two eventually become rivals in the ring, supported by fellow student Maruno Tomoko, who has a crush on Kabu, and by Yoko. But the champion they both have to face eventually is unbeaten boxing machine Inamura Kazuaki (Suwa Masashi).
Box! ボックス！ (2010) is much more conventional than director LEE Toshio 李闘士男's rock-music film Detroit Metal City デトロイト・メタル・シティ (2008) but it has much the same theme of someone being plunged into a world he instinctively dislikes but finding a talent for it nonetheless. Adapted from a recent novel, the movie comes wrapped in comfy visuals and a fairly predictable feel-good structure; its main weakness, apart from being over-stretched at two hours, is that KORA Kengo 高良健吾 is hardly believable as Yuki, the studious teenager who rapidly transforms himself into a tough boxer.
What is believable, however, is ICHIHARA Hayato 市原隼人's dead-on playing of Kabu, Yuki's childhood friend who's as thick as two planks and can't even be bothered half the time to capitalise on his natural gift for the sport. Ichihara trained hard for the role, and it shows in the ring scenes — none of which use doubles, to the movie's huge benefit. But the 23-year-old actor (from MIIKE Takashi 三池崇史's God's Puzzle 神様のパズル (2008), plus comedy-horror Negative Happy Chain Saw Edge ネガティブハッピー・チェーンソーエッヂ (2007)) has a focus and charisma that basically carry the picture. When Kabu finally faces his boxing nemesis Inamura, played with toe-curling intensity by professional boxer SUWA Masashi 諏訪雅士, it's the highlight of the movie.
Despite its title, the film is tailored in a way that won't alienate audiences who traditionally dislike boxing movies. Lee keeps the tone light throughout, with quite a bit of humour, and several female roles prevent the movie from becoming a testosterone orgy. TANIMURA Mitsuki 谷村美月 quietly does her best with the tearjerker part of a student with a crush on Kabu, but it's KASHII Yu 香椎由宇 (Light's girlfriend in Death Note デスノート (2006)) who adds some real sex-appeal and flecks of irony as Yuki's cool, bespectacled English teacher.
ContactSales: Tokyo Broadcasting System, Tokyo (email@example.com)
Theatrical release: Japan, 22 May 2010.
Presented by Box! Production Committee (TBS Pictures, Toho, Denstu, IMJ Entertainment, SDP, Apure, CBC, Wowow, Happinet Pictures, RKB, Yahoo! Japan) (JP). Produced by IMJ (JP). Executive producer: Hamana Kazuya. Producers: Takeda Yoshitaka, Kubota Osamu.
Script: Suzuki Kenichi. Novel: Hyakuta Naoki (2008). Photography: Sako Akira. Editing: Miyajima Ryuji. Music: Sawano Hiroyuki. Art direction: Hanatani Hidefumi, Satosu Yukihisa. Sound: Yokomizo Masatoshi.
Cast: Ichihara Hayato ("Kabu", Kaburaya Yoshihei), Kora Kengo (Kitaru Yuki), Tanimura Mitsuki (Maruno Satoko), Kashii Yu (Takatsu Yoko, the English teacher), Kakei Toshio (Sawaki, the boxing trainer), Shimizu Misa (Satoko's mother), Suwa Masashi (Inamura Kazuaki), Hosho Mai (Kotomi, Kabu's mother), Yamazaki Naomi (Mami, Kabu's elder sister).