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Anthony Chau-Sang Wong
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A former judo champion quits the tournament cirucit and runs a nightclub. However, when a new challenger appears as well as an old rival and a judo master in need of reviving his school, the young man must go back in training and prepare for the ultimate challenge. Written by
Highly entertaining comedy drama - but don't expect and action movie
Throw Down is a real crowd-pleaser despite being more interested in the quirky characters than the judo bouts in the film. Johnnie To's tribute to Kurosawa and filled with references to Sugata Sanshiro (far more than the one that To admits to), it actually feels more like a Hong Kong version of Britcom Black Books, with Luis Koo's drunken former judo prodigy staggering his way from scam to scam with his two employees between mismanaging his nightclub with about as much grasp of conventional reality as Bernard Black.
It's a redemption story, of course, with the cocky young challenger Aaron Kwok and the death of a friend eventually spurring him to clean up his act. Although it's filled with great moments of pure film-making, from the slow-motion bar-room judo brawl that spills out into the street to Cherrie Ying running joyfully through the streets with her hands full of stolen cash while her pursuers sporadically stop to pick up the stray notes that fall from her arms, it's not really an action movie: even the final fight between Koo and Tony Leung Ka-Fei is almost thrown away. It's the disparate characters and the sheer enjoyment To takes in them that makes this work. Even one of the villains of the piece, Siu-Fai Cheung's Brother Savage, who lives to humiliate children and customers by beating them at the games in his arcade, is impossible to really hate, while Leung's character is never turned into a monster who must be destroyed but simply an adversary who must be beaten fair and square. Great fun.
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