Throw Down

It’s a tough call for Johnnie To to come out of the obscurity of PTU (2003), which seems to celebrate funeral rites, the expression of which is implosion. Perhaps the only road to tread is affliction, in a scenario of ambitions which are destined to fail.

Watched within the context of To’s path of auteurship (a journey which is coherent and credible, even in the more commercial and seemingly inexplicable episodes), Throw Down, which will be brought back to the FEFF in a restored version [...], has the form and feeling of a funereal lament. Because the romanticism is a painful onslaught, awareness of a life that has been lived without the ability to either stop it or understand it. If a hero never dies, now is not the time for heroes anyway. There are ex judo champions whose destiny lies in a condition of misadventure (Louis Koo), beautiful, penniless singers who have no future, and who get overlooked by fame (Cherrie Ying) and young sportsmen who choose challenges as a form of survival, going into battle, in the natural course of events, with the end of hope itself (Aaron Kwok): Throw Down literally throws down certainties and promises, but does not trample them, because in this openly declared revisitation of Kurosawa Akira’s debut, Sanshiro Sugata (1943), which, thanks to Kurosawa, preserves its strength and soul, To chooses melancholy as a vessel and faith as a personality. The characters in Throw Down are all losers, but they are entrusted with the most profound meaning of a harmony, which is perhaps impossible, yet alive and kicking.

So Throw Down is a determining piece. It is the last true film that Johnnie To worked on at the alter of style, at least that is, until Three (2016): if in Election (2005), Election 2 (2006), Life Without Principle (2011) and Drug War (2013) the director widens his gaze, searching for and finding a new epic (more political, more ‘social’); and if in Exiled (2006), Sparrow (2008) and Office (2015) To reflects on his own ciphers with a postmodern flair, it is here, in this elegiac masterpiece – but an elegy without exhibitionist sufferance – that Johnnie To accompanies his cinema to a door that is as much a recapitulation as a relaunch, that is, a perfect synthesis of an idea and its simultaneous re-elaboration, through a personal ‘voice’ which is now well known, but still capable of provoking surprise, unexpected details, stupefying miracles. It is here, in this quiet ode to men subdued by life and confined to its margins, that we find one of the most stunning, moving and stylistically breath-taking scenes that To has ever shot, the escape from the gambling den, an action scene that is stopped and started many times, with the rhythm, abstraction, the humanity and the set of a 1950s Hollywood musical.

Johnnie To

Johnnie To Kei-fung joined broadcaster TVB in 1972 and became a writer-director and producer. To directed his first movie, The Enigmatic Case, in 1980 and his filmography since then has included many critical and box-office successes. In 1996, To co-founded production company Milkyway Image, working closely with writer-director Wai Ka-fai. The company drew attention for its thrillers such as A Hero Never Dies (1998) and The Mission (1999). To has since gone on to find wider international recognition for movies including PTU (2003), Election (2005), Vengeance (2009).


1998 – A Hero Never Dies
1999 – The Mission 
2003 – PTU 
2004 – Breaking News 
2004 – Throw Down 
2004 – Yesterday Once More
2005 – Election 
2006 – Exiled 
2008 – Sparrow 
2009 – Vengeance 
2016 – Three 
Pier Maria Bocchi
Film director: Johnnie TO
Year: 2004
Running time: 95'
Country: Hong Kong
28/04 - 10.10 PM
28-04-2018 22:10 28-04-2018 23:45Europe/Rome Throw Down Far East Film Festival Teatro Nuovo Giovanni da UdineCEC Udine