GACHI BOY: WRESTLING WITH A MEMORY

4 Stars
Year Released: 2008
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 120 minutes
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Mexican/WWE-type Wrestling is a faker than fake pseudo-sport, but it does require a fair amount of physical prowess and talent to pull it off convincingly. Lawrence Olivier may have been the greatest actor who ever walked the Earth, but let’s see him try to recite Hamlet’s soliloquies while someone smashes a chair in the back of his head or piledrives him into the mat.

When you think of all the stuff wrestlers have to memorize (massive chunks of dialogue, twisting plotlines and complex physical moves), it gives you a newfound respect for guys like The Rock.

“Gachi Boy” is a Japanese dramedy about a college kid called Ryoichi who is afflicted with a lazy sort of Leonard Shelby syndrome, where he forgets everything he learned at the end of each day. His last solid memory is of when he had a really good time watching the local pro wrestling team do an exhibition fight, so he decides that maybe if he joins the team he can recapture some of that fun before he graduates and becomes a burden to his family.

Of course, since being a wrestler means you have to learn whole volumes of information before a match, if only to keep yourself from being genuinely hurt by not being able to counter a potentially dangerous pre-arranged move, it means its hard going. Mostly Ryoichi improvises and wins over fans because he makes it look so real, but of course for him it is.

Will he succeed at becoming a pro wrestler? Will he finally find true love with the cute girl? Will he win his father’s respect? Will he become happy? Will the bad guys in the wrestling federation really hurt him just to please the blood thirsty crowd? Will he even be able to remember any of this the next day?

Asians love this sort of thing, they lap up all that sappy “You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll learn a lesson or two!” stuff. Westerners, like me, have a more ambivalent reaction. Like Bollywood musicals, it’s a completely different style of filmmaking and if you don’t put yourself in the correct mindset before watching the movie, you’re not going to enjoy yourself. We like to pride ourselves on being open minded (Or at least, more open minded than most) but trust me when I say that some foreign movies can make you yearn for a couple of explosions and a fistfight on top of a crashing zeppelin.

When done well, as in movies like “Ping Pong,” this sort of syrupy sweetness feels genuinely touching and brings a tearful smile to your face. When done badly, it just annoys the shit out of you and turns you into Mike from Mystery Science Theatre 3000.

“Gachi Boy” is much better than its premise may have you believe. It has to be since it’s been making the festival circuit and there’s no way it’d have been picked if it was bottom of the barrel dreck, right? Still, this isn’t an irony-filled Western film by any stretch and you might want to brace yourself for that. As for myself, I kind of liked this movie. It was fun and had a goofy charm.

I think the reason that movies like “Gachi Boy” don’t bug the holy hell out of me, even though equally maudlin stuff from someone like Spielberg would make me want to commit seppuku using Amy Winehouse’s rusty dildo, is that the Japanese are able to be sappy without being manipulative. They don’t try to force themselves on you like some sort of emotional rapist.

It’d be nice if Hollywood could watch something like this and learn how evoke honest emotion from their audience. With my luck though, they’ll probably just rework this as “Memento 2.”



Posted on November 8, 2008 in Reviews by
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