You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Tomorrow’s Joe

CGI-happy helmer Fumihiko Sori ("Vexille," "Ping Pong") takes a silly and melodramatic shot at a boxing title with "Tomorrow's Joe."

With: Tomohisa Yamashita, Yusuke Iseya, Teruyuki Kagawa, Karina, Katsuya, Naomi Nishida, Tetta Sugimoto, Mitsuko Baisho, Masahiko Tsugawa.

CGI-happy helmer Fumihiko Sori (“Vexille,” “Ping Pong”) takes a silly and melodramatic shot at a boxing title with “Tomorrow’s Joe.” Helmer’s unwillingness to shake off cartoonish sensibilities leads to overuse of ludicrous effects in this adaptation of a popular manga, about a rebellious street fighter challenging a national champ. Fueled by the source material’s fan base, pic scored ¥977 million ($12 million) at the Japanese B.O. in February, but this effort won’t be a contender beyond Asian markets, where J-pop heartthrob Tomohisa Yamashita quickens teenage pulses.

In a fanciful and polished simulacrum of Tokyo’s postwar slums, Joe Yabuki (Yamashita) is a taciturn tough guy whose handsome looks charm everyone from local street kids to alcoholic boxer Danpei (Teruyuki Kagawa). Danpei is up to his patched eyeball in debt, and when bill-collecting yakuza come looking for him, Joe intervenes. The silent young man displays considerable boxing skills battling the thugs, but ends up being arrested for his trouble.

In jail, Joe gets into brawl after brawl with fellow inmates and guards. Only an altercation with imprisoned boxing champ Tetsu Rikiishi (Yusuke Iseya) restrains — temporarily — the amateur scrapper. But humiliation at Rikiishi’s hands only ignites Joe’s determination to beat the pro pugilist in the ring.

Before the pair both emerge from the slammer, Joe and the champ agree to a formal rematch that will be a fight to “the end.” The bout finishes on a freeze-frame of the two opponents, their fists in each other’s faces — a cartoonish, CG-heavy image that signals the pic’s transition from unsophisticated and juvenile to outlandish and ludicrous.

Anime and sci-fi fans appreciative of the helmer’s work in “Vexille” and “To” won’t balk at Sori’s ad nauseam use of f/x to heighten the drama; nor will manga fans worry about the pic’s repetitious and naively dramatized boxing matches. However, other auds may cry uncle well before the yarn reaches its drawn-out finale.

On the plus side, wiry players Yamashita and Iseya are plausible as bantam- and featherweight boxers, respectively. Yamashita’s pop-star sultriness lends his driven, enigmatic street fighter a sense of mystery, and Iseya is believable as a man both threatened and flattered by an up-and-comer who wants to take him on. Mono-monikered thesp Karina, on the other hand, is unable to go beyond cliched Japanese femininity with her role as Rikiishi’s agent.

Keiji Hashimoto’s lensing is as clear and crisp as comicbook frames, and production values are topnotch. Other tech credits are of high quality.

Tomorrow's Joe


Production: A Toho release of an Ashita No Joe production in association with Tokyo Broadcasting System, Kodansha, Dentsu, Mainichi Broadcasting System, TBS Radio & Communications, Chubu-Nippon Broadcasting Co., RKB Mainichi Broadcasting Corp., Hokkaido Broadcasting. (International sales: Tokyo Broadcasting System, Tokyo.) Produced by Hidenori Iyoda. Executive producer, Kazuya Hamana. Directed by Fumihiko Sori. Screenplay, Eriko Shinozaki, based on the manga "Ashita no Jo" by Asao Takamori, Tetsuya Chiba.

Crew: Camera (color, widescreen), Keiji Hashimoto; editor, Chieko Suzaki; music, Tetsuya Takahashi, Reiji Kitazato; art director, Takashi Sasaki; sound (Dolby Digital) Koji Kasamatsu; visual effects, Tadao Matsuno. Reviewed at Shanghai Film Festival (competing), June 12, 2011. Running time: 139 MIN.

With: With: Tomohisa Yamashita, Yusuke Iseya, Teruyuki Kagawa, Karina, Katsuya, Naomi Nishida, Tetta Sugimoto, Mitsuko Baisho, Masahiko Tsugawa.

More Film

  • Henry Ian Cusick

    'Lost' Star Henry Ian Cusick Signs With Buchwald (EXCLUSIVE)

    Henry Ian Cusick, best known for playing Desmond on the hit ABC series “Lost,” is signing with talent agency Buchwald for representation. Cusick also starred in the CW sci-fi/drama “The 100” and was most recently seen in the Fox series “The Passage.” His other notable television credits include “Scandal,” “24,” “Fringe,” “The Mentalist,” “Body of [...]

  • Invisible Life Brazilian Cinema

    Brazil's 'Invisible Life of Eurídice Gusmão' Wins Cannes Un Certain Regard Award

    Brazilian filmmaker Karim Aïnouz emerged triumphant in tonight’s Un Certain Regard awards, as Nadine Labaki’s jury named his period melodrama “The Invisible Life of Eurídice Gusmão” the best film in the program. Full story to come. List of winners: Un Certain Regard Prize: “The Invisible Life of Eurídice Gusmão,” Karim Aïnouz Jury Prize: “Fire Will [...]

  • Dan the Automator

    Heeding the Call of Olivia Wilde, Dan the Automator Scores 'Booksmart'

    Dan The Automator, aka Daniel Nakamura, knows a thing or two about setting a mood. The Bay Area-based producer has worked on projects such as Gorillaz’s debut album, Handsome Boy Modeling School (with Prince Paul) and multiple projects with rapper Kool Keith. Now, Nakamura has set his sights on film scoring, and will make his [...]

  • It Must Be Heaven

    Cannes Film Review: 'It Must Be Heaven'

    Continuing to chart his own path in a Palestinian film landscape generally perceived as monolithic, Elia Suleiman turns his delightfully absurdist, unfailingly generous gaze beyond the physical homeland, where parallels and dissonance abound. By now Suleiman’s distinctive style is not just well-known but eagerly anticipated, his wide-eyed, expressive face forever compared with Buster Keaton as [...]

  • 'Sibyl' Review: Justine Triet's Witty, Slinky

    Cannes Film Review: 'Sibyl'

    How often do we see a movie psychotherapist who’s actually good at their job? Genre film is peppered with on-screen couch doctors whose unorthodox methods or blatant non-professionalism keep the story rolling, whether they’re falling in love with clients or going steadily mad themselves. Played with smart, subtle verve by Virginie Efira, the title character [...]

  • Akira

    Taika Waititi's 'Akira' to Face Off Against 'John Wick 4' in 2021

    Warner Bros. has dated its live-action “Akira” movie, directed by Taika Waititi and produced by Leonardo DiCaprio, for May 21, 2021, when it will face off against “John Wick 4.” The studio announced the date on Friday, two days after pushing the release of “DC Super Pets” back a year, avoiding opening against “John Wick [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content