Starring: Seol Kyung-gu, Miki Nakatani, Tatsuya Fuji, Masato Hagiwara, Masakatsu Funaki, Keiji Mutoh
Director: Song Hae-sung
Studio: CJ Entertainment
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About This DVD
A chronicle of the life of Korean-born wrestler Rikidozan, who, after being barred from Japanese wrestling because of his ethnic origins, became a sensation in the United States in the 1950s.
At its best moments, the new film "Yokdosan (Rikidozan)" blurs that seemingly clear line between entertainment and reality. The dramatization of the life of Kim Shin-rak, a Korean immigrant who became a wrestling hero in 1950s and '60s Japan, the film often uses the "sport" as a way to portray the inner turmoil of its main character, bringing a surprising ambiguity to his leg locks and karate chops.
The film begins in the years before Kim (played by local actor Seol Kyung-gu) became the celebrity wrestler Rikidozan, or Yokdosan in Korean. Immigrating from what is now North Korea, Kim joins a sumo stable with hopes of becoming a champion in the traditional Japanese sport. But despite his passion, Kim is treated cruelly by his peers for being of "Choson" or Korean descent, and is later barred from competing for the champion title of "yokozuna" because of his ethnicity.
Just when it seemed that he's hit rock bottom, Kim gets his eyes opened to the newly emerging style of wrestling in the United States, the predecessor to the WWE we're all familiar with today. With the financial help from his patron and crime boss Kanno Takeo (Fuji Tatsuya), Kim goes to the U.S. to learn the moves and returns as a star, one of the first to bring the sport to Japanese soil.
Through fixed matches where Kim takes on and bests various "American foes," the wrestler becomes the pride of post-war Japan. The irony that Rikidozan is actually Korean - a fact that wasn't widely known in Japan at that time - isn't lost on director Song Hae-sung, who plays out the contradiction through the spectacle of a wrestling match.
For much of the movie, Kim's outsider status becomes the driving theme, and his frustration is expressed through his tendency to go to extremes. The cartoon violence of professional wrestling slowly becomes intertwined with Kim's belligerence and his constant need to prove himself, to best opponents in and out of the ring.
There's a hint of Martin Scorsese's "Raging Bull" here, but unlike that classic film about boxing, "Rikidozan" pulls back on the reins before things get overly gut wrenching.
In fact, there's a feeling of punches being pulled throughout the film, as it doesn't seem to know whether it wants to make Kim out to be a hero or show him for who he truly is. Instead, the film carefully tries to do a little of both.
If nothing else, "Rikidozan" will hold historical interest for describing the life of a famous Korean immigrant. Also, the lengths to which Seol went to play the character from putting on some 16 kilograms to portray the larger and heavier wrestler to intensively studying Japanese is admirable.
|Audio Format:||DD 5.1 Surround|
|Video Format:||Widescreen 2.35:1 (Anamorphic)|
|Special Features:||DISC 1:
- Audio Commentary by Director, Cast and Staffs
- Production Notes
- CG & Visual Effects
- Location in Japan
- Production Design
- Epilogue of Production
- Deleted Scenes
- Promotional Materials
- Teaser Trailer
|Availability:||Usually ships in 5-10 days|