The Ringside Story film review: 100 Yen Love director’s misguided MMA-themed drama
What begins as a tale based in the entertaining world of professional wrestling soon takes an unnecessary turn to the high stakes international stage of K1 martial arts, abandoning a roster of great supporting characters on the way
In his previous film 100 Yen Love , Masaharu Take charted the unlikely transformation of a reclusive female slob (played by Sakura Ando) into a bona fide boxing contender with humour and heart. Now the director is taking to the canvas once again in The Ringside Story, exploring the theatrical world of professional wrestling, as well as the bone-crunching carnage of the K1 mixed martial arts circuit.
As in the earlier film, Take follows a female protagonist into this sweat-soaked arena of unbridled testosterone. Cash-strapped Kanako (Eriko Sato) takes an admin role with a wrestling promoter, after losing her job at a bento factory. Before long she is enjoying her new-found family of oddball office staff and fringe athletes. But her boyfriend, Hideo (Eita), doesn’t share her enthusiasm.
Hideo is a struggling actor who refuses any role his agent finds for him, while dreaming of walking the red carpet at Cannes. In reality, he mopes around the house, broke and growing increasingly jealous of Kanako’s new life. When he begins to suspect she is having an affair with a wrestler, Hideo intervenes – with disastrous consequences.
While Kanako’s story is a fascinating and sympathetic tale of taking responsibility for your situation and opening your life to new experiences, Take seems more interested in championing Hideo, the insecure deadbeat.
The second half of the film also transitions, unnecessarily, from the entertaining world of professional wrestling to the high stakes international stage of K1 martial arts, abandoning an affectionate roster of supporting characters in the process.
The result is – in stark contrast to 100 Yen Love – a film that fails to recognise or champion the qualities of its heroine. Instead it shackles Kanako with an inadequate love interest, who is determined to leech off her success while simultaneously sabotaging her career every chance he gets.
Hideo’s climactic final gesture is not an expression of love and understanding, but just another desperate attempt to grab the spotlight for himself, and overshadow Kanako’s accomplishments. Apparently, we’re supposed to cheer about that, too.
The Ringside Story opens on April 26
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