Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Throwdown (2005)

Throw downs! That's exactly what this film delivers, throw downs! Lots of 'em! Fortunately, it delivers a bit more than that as well. Like the similarly prolific Takashi Miike, Johnnie To is forever an uneven director, but this one holds together better than most of his projects. Plotting isn't To's strong suit, so in response this film doesn't really have a plot. Instead, it's a series of character vignettes alternating with a series of action scenes. In less assured hands, this could be a recipe for boredom, but To keeps it moving by making sure the action scenes are amusing and the character scenes are well-played. There's some fairly interesting and offbeat characterization going on here -- the characters are essentially stock, but there's a few details that impress. (I especially liked the scene where Tony first explains why he likes to fight and the later payoff/negation.) The action scenes are impressive, as expected for a To film, but they're also dryly funny. Nowhere is this more apparent than the big nightclub-brawl centerpiece, which stays interesting and amusing even though, if you take it apart, it amounts to no more than a bunch of guys throwing each other down while a mentally-challenged dude sings off-key. Then there's things, contemplative things, like the balloon scene, which is lovely no matter what else surrounds it. There is the traditional third-act lag, but then that's to be expected. As far as To goes, this counts as the best film I've seen from him since A Hero Never Dies; no idea what it has to do with Akira Kurosawa, though...

Grade: B


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