Reviewed by Anabela Voi You
Throwdown is simply silly but in a good way.
Johnnie To again introduces some eccentric characters and perspectives.
Here, the story is told slowly, ever so slowly, about Louis Koo who was
a Judo champ but has switched profession to a drunken guitar playing club
manager (for some inexplicable reason). Louis spends most of his
time slumped unconscious in surroundings he’s barely aware of. It has a
comic book, Kill Bill feel but virtually lacks blood. Jordan Chan has a
classic moment of his typical “bulldog” pouts. That was about all Jordan
contributed but I enjoyed this moment of masterful brooding immensely.
When I don’t get what I want next time I will surely pull this face off.
Aaron Kwok is also a Judo champ and can’t wait
to test his skills. Hence, Aaron is constantly chasing Louis Koo’s tail
for a fight, as Aaron is running out of time: he’s got glaucoma and about
to go blind. For some inexplicable reason Louis Koo decides to quit being
a drunk and get back into Judo in earnest. His master’s death may have
inspired him to do so, but with a film with this level of reckless logical
abandon, you never know. For some inexplicable reason Louis Koo’s Master
played by Low Hoi Pang has a mentally handicapped son who hums heroic Japanese
For some inexplicable reason Cherrie Ying is the
“chick” of the film and wants to be a starlet singer and has failed in
Taipei and Hong Kong. Now she wants to make it big in Japan. It is revealed
that she is a rich girl and her father comes to pick her up in his very
expensive chauffeured mobile. For some inexplicable reason Cherrie has
nothing to do with this Judo mumbo jumbo story except to provide a feminine
relief to the male-charged story, or rather, loosely written narrative.
For some inexplicable reason the dialogue is nonsensical too. Aaron Kwok,
after persistently persuading Louis Koo to return to the world of Judo,
finally asked Louis Koo why he decided to get back into Judo to which Louis
Koo replied, “Well, ha ha, I got glaucoma and I’m going to be blind, that’s
why I’m getting back to it.” Both Aaron Kwok, the self-proclaimed glaucoma
bearer, and Louis Koo giggle like schoolgirls while practicing some bona
fide Judo moves.
Towards the end it is subtly hinted that Louis
is the real glaucoma bearer and becomes blind, which may answer why he’s
so downtrodden and why he’s putting on a last fight. Aaron, on the other
hand, is just an itchy martial artist, “You people wanted an excuse on
why I always want to fight, so I made up an excuse that I was going blind.
I don’t have any excuse on why I like to fight. I just do.” Tony Leung
Ka Fai carries a ponytail and wants to have a fight with the self-effacing
Judo champ Louis Koo. They finally fight but for some inexplicable reason
Louis Koo is declared winner. Actually, I’ll stop being facetious here
and say that Louis probably won because Tony Leung decided that Louis won
in spirit by persisting to fight despite his impending blindness.
Word has it that the actors did the stunts themselves.
However, I really wonder whether Aaron did those one-arm pushups himself.
The Judo moves were wonderfully executed but sore on the eyes after the
trillionth time you see a Throw Down. It echoes Kill Bill here and there
but much more light-hearted and doesn’t take itself seriously… at all.
If you just want to see it for the martial arts there isn’t much of a Judo
galore or much of a Judo battle among Tony Leung, Aaron, and Louis. The
movie unfolds ever so slowly and hypnotically, and by the time 50 people
are doing a throw down, you don’t feel a thing and just feel compelled
to turn the TV off.
I just got the feeling that Johnnie To and crew
thought it would be cool to make a movie about Judo without any clear idea
of who these characters are or what stories they have to tell. It wouldn’t
make Johnnie To and crew less than artists if they were driven to add a
few lights here and there. I could barely see any details, so no wonder
glaucoma was a theme. When I was capable of seeing I found the cinematography
to be composed of gorgeous, Edward Hopper-styled Hong Kong nights of neon,
arcades, and clubs, lovely urban texture - like staring into an elusive
amber stone. After ceaseless squinting and doing investigative work on
figuring out what’s going on, I just decided to sit back and enjoy the
thrill of the total lack of logic. After a while the film did become cute,
sweet, and wholesome a la Love on a Diet, a feeling you didn’t expect at
all from the dark opening of the flick. Towards the end the camaraderie
among Aaron, Louis, and Cherrie can be felt, and no one, including the
grumpiest gangster, is sad or angry. Everyone is just having a good old
time throwing each other down. My personal favorite sweet and funny scene
is when Cherrie is carried by Louis who is in turn carried by Aaron, so
Cherrie can reach high enough for the balloon that she liberates into the
air. For what it's worth the credits say Throwdown is a tribute to Kurosawa.
You should see it if you miss the Johnnie To family gathering, but I warn
you, do not think too hard while watching it or you’ll ruin the irrational
Rating: a bemused 6.0