review by Neo
Support the Site by Buying from YesAsia
One thing I must comment about Johnnie To's movies, is his stylistic art direction that has already become his trademark, but what I really want to say is that To like many other HK filmmakers uses a simplistic script, but what makes To stands out from the pack is his ability to churn out a thinking and through-provoking movie from a simple script where in the hands of many other directors, would have been a cheesy movie. However, that's not to say all To's movies are good, but at least they are memorable and leaves the audience leaving the cinema - thinking about the movie afterward. In To's latest effort - Throw Down has very simple plot, but once again, To makes the move complicated at least seemingly complicated. While I will put movies like Running Out of Time as one of my favourite To's movie, the same can not be say of Throw Down. Yes, it leaves me thinking, yes it is stylish, yes it is directed by Johnnie To, but this movie is far too uneven and infact it leaves me with mixed emotions. In a way, a feeling that is hard to describe in words, not disappointed but not please about it either, in others somewhere in between. Then again, maybe I am totally wrong, as some movies require a second viewing before it becomes a classic, and I do have a feeling like the movie Hero, that it may well be a better movie on a second viewing. Perhaps the best way to describe this movie is that while it is stylish it is very confusing and honestly I must admit that sometimes, I don't even understand. Sure, To is trying to convey his message of never give up, when you are down and all out, stand up and fight again. Sure, that spirit is mindful and thoughtful, but is the movie any good? Well the answer is that I am not even sure.
While Breaking News was a higher budget movie, it is seemingly straight forward, however, Throw Down attempts to surprise the audience too much and in turning creating a confusion effect and leaving the viewers with mixed emotions. The plot is simple and it goes like this Pub manager/band-leader Sze-To was once the greatest Judo fighter around until he unexpectedly gave up the sport for no apparent reason. Cocky Judo champion 'Leather Jacket' Tony shows up at the door and challenge Sze-To into a duel. All of a sudden, Sze-To's pub has become an arena where the greatest Judo fighters show off their skills. Sze-To will take on his opponents with everything he's got...
I personally am not sure, whether or not To as a director is influenced by postmodernism - as say like Wong Kar Wai, but Throw Down is without any doubt a movie that raises more questions than it answers. As with most To's movies, he leaves the audience questioning, and guessing of what will happen next, as in Running on Karma, what was initially a action/romance becomes a philosophy lesson, which took nearly everyone by surprise. To is an inspirational director and the music is pitch perfect as always a central element of To's film-making. There plenty of memorable scenes like Cherrie Ying's inspirational spirit of never giving up of the hope of becoming a movie/singer star, that scene was done in a stylish way that leaves the audience feeling for Ying. The memorable final fight between Tony Leung Ka Fai (who seriously looks like my Grandpa when he was his age) and Louis Koo, which reminds me of the blind fold fight scene of Jet Li's Fist of Legend.
However the aspect of the movie worth commenting about is the casting and the acting. Louis Koo, in my personal opinion, performs one of his best in his career, he acting is more than adequate and shows great signs of potential of a mysterious character and character of depth though his facial expressions of a lost person. A performance that really shows his human side, rathe than his usual romantic comedy self. Aaron Kwok's performance is adequate and probably one of his better ones, however, his acting is still a long way from award winning status. Maybe it is Kwok's character, but he needs to natural himself, if he wants to be in Andy Lau's status in the near future. Cherrie Ying is once again, a pretty sight and presence, her acting is improving as each movie goes on, her smile is cute and has a lot of potential. Her character is likable and inspirational, I bet that she will one day receive the best actress award, though not yet. Tony Leung Ka Fai once again shows his presence and in fact in every scenes he is in, he steals the show. If he won, Best Supporting Actor for his character in that satirical comedy, I am sure he is up there, if not better than last year. The poker guy, who I do not know the name of, reminds me of a combination of Francis Ng and Anthony Wong's lay back acting style.
Overall, Throw Down is a thinking man/woman movie, but when it comes down to whether or not it is a good movie, I would say in my honest opinion, I am pretty uncertain. Sure, it is stylish, but is it over stylish, well that's kind off hard to say. However, I can say one thing, Throw Down is movie that will improve on second or even third viewing, so as a first time viewer, I guess my opinion is pretty shaky. Sure, it is uneven, but it may well be deliberate. Well, Johnnie To has once again surprise the viewers, by turning a simple judo movie into a thinking and thought provoking one. One thing I must add, I did leave the movie with a mixed emotions, but even a few hours after viewing, questions of the movie starts to pop on my head, perhaps, this movie is a classic, but then again perhaps, it is a To's failure to reach the potential of the movie that it has created.
I rate it 7.5/10
on this movie on HK Neo Reviews Forum
Product Title : Throw Down
Artist Name(s) : Louis Koo| Aaron Kwok| Cherrie Ying| Tony Leung Ka Fai
Language : Mandarin|Cantonese
Duration : 94 minutes
Reviewed by Neo (Andrew) - July 2004