Not all films about wrestling manage to capture the grit of the sport, but Japanese drama My Dad Is A Heel Wrestler! has a secret weapon: its leading man is real-life pro-wrestler Hiroshi Tanahashi.
Tanahashi stars as Takashi Omura, a one-time rising star who, after a knee injury, now competes as a heel wrestler – one who uses dirty tricks on their opponents. He has kept this shady secret from his son, Shota, played by child star Kokoro Terada.
When Shota uncovers the truth, Omura is forced to come to terms with his reputation. He vows to make a comeback – but this time, while playing by the rules.
Without a doubt, Tanahashi and his New Japan Pro-Wrestling teammates add a layer of authenticity to the film’s action sequences. However, realism doesn’t always translate well on the big screen. The un-choreographed fight scenes – while as realistic as it gets – could definitely use a lot more editing to add momentum.
Meanwhile, 11-year-old Terada has been hailed by Japanese media as a genius for his ability to cry on the spot – but many of his crying scenes here feel forced. That being said, on a scale of one to 10, his cuteness level would be at 100.
On a brighter note, the chemistry between the father-and-son duo makes this film an almost- tear-jerker – if only the plot were stronger, it could have succeeded.