Throw Down (2004)
Reviewed by: Gaijin84 on 2006-02-23
Summary: Good judo action but a muddled plot...
Johnnie To's Throw Down could have been an interesting story of challenge and redemption in the world of Judo, but it falls short. Louis Koo plays Szeto To, a former champion who has fallen on hard times and is a competitive shell of his former self. Tony (Aaron Kwok) is an advanced judo student who is itching to challenge himself against the best and, having sought out Szeto To, makes himself a constant presence in his club, doing anything he can to remind Szeto that he wants his best effort. To round out the cast, Cherrie Ying plays Mona, an aspiring singer who has been traveling country to country in the hopes of becoming the next big pop idol. She also makes a home at Szeto's club and performs with his band. Through a series of encounters we learn that Szeto is in debt to a local gangster due to his compulsive gambling but for some reason is intent on stealing the gangster's own money in order to gamble and pay him back. Not the smartest idea, but dire straights bring desperate measures. There are too many sub-plots to delve into, and none but a few seem to have much of a resolution at the end.
For the most part, I found To's work to be nicely shot, but very muddled plot-wise and relatively poorly acted. Louis Koo seems to literally stumble through most of the film, shifting between acting as if he's got a massive hangover to a serious concussion. Aaron Kwok is quite good as the driven judo enthusiast, showing some great martial arts work and some good comedic scenes. Cherrie Ying is decent, but I'm not sure what her character's role in the movie is supposed to bring to the table. She appears out of nowhere and disappears without seeming to have effected either Szeto or Tony. I'm afraid her only purpose was to be a pretty face on the screen. Tony Leung Ka-Fai's role as the top judo master in Hong Kong is interesting, but the mere presence of his character leads to one of the main problems I had with the movie. I'm not sure if it is meant to be tongue-in-cheek, but every main character, save for Mona, is an expert at Judo. No matter what they do for work, when they all come together it is like Judo-fest 2006. It seemed a bit implausible to me, and therefore took away a bit from the fantastic choreography. For the most part, people will watch this movie for the rare presence of judo being used as the main martial art, and in that sense Throw Down does not disappoint. All of the fighting scenes are well executed and the actors do not seem to be going through the paces, but really completing text-book judo applications. It is quite exciting to watch. However, the rest of the movie fails to make much of any kind of impression and therefore can only be marginally recommended.

Reviewer Score: 6