South Korea | 125 MINUTES | Japanese, Korean |
RIKIDOZAN - A HERO EXTRAORDINAIRE
American, WWE-Smack Down-style wrestling is not usually the first thing that comes to mind when the words "Japan" and "wrestling" are mentioned. But American-style wrestling is extremely popular in the homeland of Sumo wrestling, due in large part to one man, Rikidozan, one of the world's greatest wrestlers and a hero in his adopted country. Hae-sung Song's sweeping epic brings to the screen the fascinating life of this former sumo-wrestler, who was born Kim Sin-rak in what today is North Korea. The man, now known as Rikidozan, obscured his Korean heritage and changed his name to Mitsuhiro Momota because of the extreme prejudice against Koreans in Japan. After retiring from sumo in the early 50s, he trained in American-style wrestling and later returned to Japan as the wrestler Rikidozan with his signature karate chop. Post-World War II Japan so embraced the symbolism of the "Japanese" Rikidozan defeating American wrestlers in the ring that the he rose to the status of a national hero, almost on par with royalty. Song masterfully bleeds Rikidozan's personal demons into the lavish story. Rikidozan lived a secret life, hiding his Korean heritage, which the Japanese media never brought to light for fear of tarnishing their newfound hero. But his ambition to overcome his national handicap led him to be violent in the ring and out of it, including a tumultuous relationship with a Japanese woman. Sul Gyung-gu powerfully portrays Rikidozan, amazingly capturing the man's dichotomy and fervent.