Genres: Action | Comedy | Drama
Director: Toshio Lee
Writers: Naoki Hyakuta
Stars: Mitsuki Tanimura, Misa Shimizu, Hayato Ichihara
Set in a high school boxing club in Osaka, Kabu is a likeable delinquent who cuts up during classes, but works masterfully in the boxing ring. Then one day on the subway, Kabu takes out three thugs who are harassing a young couple. When Kabu gets off the train, he realizes that the man being harassed is his childhood friend Yuki, who moved away several years back. To Kabu’s delight he learns that Yuki has now moved back to town and is now attending the same high school as Kabu. A few days later, Kabu insists to the timid Yuki to join the boxing club. After much badgering upon Kabu’s part, Yuki finally decides to take up the boxing gloves. Although Yuki is completely new to the sport, he does train with earnest determination. Written by anonymous
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Release Date: 22 May 2010 (Japan)
BOX! is the fourth feature film by director Toshio Lee. Clearly, his work has matured over the years though he has maintained his style of humour. BOX! does not have the truly laugh-out-loud moments unlike his previous movie Detroit Metal City but he has once again played with the strong contrast between the characters, Kabu and Yuki, and put them in socially awkward situations when you cannot help but chuckle as you watch. These au naturel comedic elements may not be the best selling point of the movie yet praise-worthy as it goes rather seamlessly with the story. It makes the movie light-hearted and entertaining as well.
Though the cast may not be eye-catching and familiar, these two lads are in fact two promising young stars from the land of the rising sun. Hayato Ichihara who plays Kabu, has already made his name quite well known for his roles in outstanding movies like Rainbow Song and an earlier work All About Lily Chou Chou, as well as popular drama series ROOKIES (with its finale made into a movie). Although he is a little type cast into the role of being a delinquent, his acting has slowly matured and did not fail to emote. This affective style of delivery happens to be effective as the audience gets a peek to Kabu's inner thoughts and feelings. Kengo Kora, who plays Yuki, is currently a frequently sought after actor in Japan. His capability probably lies in his flexibility in portraying varied roles. In BOX!, he put together Yuki, who is seemingly different from all his previous acting roles. The role of Yuki may not be particularly challenging, but the fact that Kengo Kora together with Hayato Ichihara, brought about such chemistry onto the big screen is truly incredible. This is probably what made the movie as endearing as it is.
Cinematography wise, it was a joy ride to watch the fighting scenes. The split screen was well used to give detail to different parts and provide different angles of viewing. When put together, it gives an all-rounded visual experience that gives the audience a pretty nice idea of the tension and determination the boxers had in the boxing ring. However, if you are a true fan of boxing, you may be appalled and find the scenes rather unsatisfying. Much emphasis was placed on the dramatization and moreover, they did away with stuntmen for the movie. This could only suggest that the techniques are good enough, but simple. It does not have the sophisticated moves one would anticipate in an adrenaline- driven sport. In this aspect, it could get a little boring.
As suggested by the synopsis, there are two great showdowns to look forward to. One is the match between Kabu and Yuki, while the other is Kabu or Yuki (find out for yourself!) versus monster boxer Inamura. The latter is probably the best executed scene in the movie. There is a golden balance between the characters' emotional entanglement, as well as the execution of the fight. As the fight got serious, the ambient noise and voices from the crowd were filtered out and all that you can hear is the protagonist's breathing sounds. The focus seems to signify that he is finally facing his own fear and failure, and is going to conquer it on his own. To the audience, we cannot help but give such undivided attention to it and we see the boxer shine. Not in the literal sense, but like how the boxing club manager described, when he's in the boxing ring it's as though he's shining. At that moment, you will finally know what she meant by that.
Overall, the movie has maintained a very positive tone and propagated a message as such: that which does not kill us makes us stronger. The approach was subtle, but the result is clear; it was with tenacity and belief that brought them to where they are. Even average Joes like Kabu and Yuki has made their youth worth it. You just have to play your own game and conquer your own giants!