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    Tuesday, April 14, 2020

    #CafePuro (4/14/20): Reviewing My Dad is a Heel Wrestler

    My Dad is a Heel Wrestler premiered in Japan back in 2018, but foreign fans are just getting the opportunity to view the film this year via NJPW World. If you were following NJPW then, you probably noticed that there was a period when Hiroshi Tanahashi got a haircut seemingly from out of nowhere. As it turns out, it was for the lead role of Takashi Omura in this family-friendly film.

    Sadly, viewing of the film was limited to Japan for a few years. The #NJPWTogether project gave us a wonderful gift last April 4 when the company announced that My Dad is a Heel Wrestler would finally be streaming on their website. Even then, the film is only available in select countries outside Japan, such as the US and select European countries. Thank goodness for VPNs—not that we're encouraging piracy here, but you'll have to get a little creative (heh) if you want to catch this movie.

    Cockroach Ace?

    My Dad is a Heel Wrestler is about Takashi Omura (Tanahashi), the former "Ace" of Lion Pro-Wrestling, obviously a fictionalized version of NJPW. Ten years before the events of the film, a devastating knee injury derailed his career as the company's top guy, so he was forced to transition to the role of a heel jobber upon his return. 

    We're introduced to the current Omura as the villainous Cockroach Mask, who performs dastardly moves such as using "Cockroach Spray" on his opponents to claim easy wins. In the time since, he has also built his own family outside of the ring with his wife Shiori (Yoshino Kimura) and son Shota (Kokoro Terada).

    Hiding The Truth

    The first part of the film features Shota regularly asking his father what his job is, but Takashi always avoids answering the question. His son's curiosity stems from a presentation in school where each child was asked what they wanted to be when they grow up. All Shota mentioned was how his father would give him protein in the morning, leading his mom and teacher to abruptly end his speech.

    The little snippet about protein generated curiosity among Shota's friends and classmates as to what Shota's dad's job was. Could he be in the Mafia or doing something shady?

    Following the urging of his friends, Shota hitches a ride in the backseat of his unknowing dad's car to a live event of Lion Pro-Wrestling. He sneaks in through the backstage area and witnesses a match between Hirooki Goto and Tomohiro Ishii. Shota is enamored with the wrestling match and is seen by the girl that he likes and joins her and her father to watch the show.

    Later on in the event, Shota realizes that his father is one of the wrestlers, Cockroach Mask. He's hurt by the fact that his dad was wrestling as a bad guy this whole time. Lying becomes a very common theme in the film and Shota's subsequent bad decisions—because y'know, he is a child, after all—lead to some very interesting cameos in the film.

    Takashi attempts to patch things up with Shota to no avail, and we see the bond of father and son evolve from a father trying to keep a secret from his son to a father who just wants to continue wrestling and making his son proud.

    Lying is Bad

    Okay. Let's face it. My Dad is a Heel Wrestler is no fancy movie that makes you think too much. This is a family movie and there's nothing wrong with it. I do appreciate the moral of the story, which is to tell the truth so you don't hurt those closest to you.

    I won't spoil the rest of the movie, but there's a heartfelt scene that captures the same spirit of a New Japan match. However, the scene was lacking a certain feature of most NJPW matches. The camera angles were a little awkward. I'm so used to seeing Hiroshi Tanahashi's High Fly Flow from a bottom-up point of view, but the movie showcases the move from the top rope going down. 

    Somehow, the move did not have the same impact as it did if it was shot from the ground up. Story-wise, there really isn't much to expect. The title already gives away most of the plot so you're here to enjoy the film about trust and building bonds with your dad.

    You won't get too many lines from the NJPW wrestlers who made short cameos within the film. Some wrestlers, such as Trent Baretta, didn't even get any speaking lines. Besides Tanahashi, only Ryusuke Taguchi and Kazuchika Okada get a significant amount of lines among the NJPW cameos. Keep an eye open for a few tranquilo wrestlers though.

    A So-So Match

    I'll be honest: as a fan, this was an enjoyable two hours for a family movie. Casual wrestling fans may fail to recognize the cameos and small details that appear in the film. I would show this film to casual fans as long as they go and see what Tanahashi does in an NJPW ring afterwards.

    My Dad is a Heel Wrestler is a movie for wrestling fans, but with enough wholesome content for it to be a family movie. At the end of the day, this is a love letter to the NJPW fan who wants to spot the cameos and enjoy a few wrestling scenes, mixed with a heartfelt story about a father and son.

    Final Score: 3.5/5

    Steven Tan is a data encoder by day and blogger by night. He helps manage The Geeky Juans, a geek culture website and podcast. When he's not watching the latest NJPW Videos, he's ranting and raving about comic books and video games on Twitter and Instagram (@steviesaidyup)
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    Item Reviewed: #CafePuro (4/14/20): Reviewing My Dad is a Heel Wrestler Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Steven Maxwell Tan
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