jؤ@\ (2004)
Osaka Wrestling Restaurant

Reviewed by: cal42
Date: 12/16/2007

Failed chef Ricky (Timmy Hung) is reunited with his brother Mike (Wayne Lai) upon the death of their father. Mike has “escaped” to Japan, and when Ricky caches up with him, he insists upon using their father’s inheritance to open a new style of restaurant – one when the diners can watch authentic Japanese wrestling while they eat! Helping them to make the restaurant a success is a Japanese reporter stranded in Hong Kong (Ueno Miku) and an unlikely bunch of would-be wrestlers with more enthusiasm than talent.

OSAKA WRESTLING RESTAURANT starts off in a pretty unspectacular way with some truly awful acting with Timmy Hung looking like he can’t keep a straight face despite the comedy being aimed at no higher than infant school level. This is zero-budget Hong Kong fare at its worst, I feared. Not even the inclusion of frequent Stephen Chow collaborator Law Kar-Ying as Ricky’s insane and comically evil ex-boss raises the level appreciably.

However, things definitely take a turn for the better when Wayne Lai enters the film. I’ve written about this guy before, so I won’t repeat myself, but he definitely seems to raise everybody’s game in this film - which seems like a wild claim but I urge anyone doubting it to see for yourself. He also has the film’s only dramatic moments when he tries to reconcile with the wife and son he left when he moved to Japan, claiming to be a changed man.

The first smiles are raised, inevitably, when the “Wrestling Restaurant” starts auditioning for performers and we get the usual gathering of oddballs, nutters and misfits. You’d be right to think that from here on in, the comedy pretty much writes itself, but this is not necessarily a bad thing considering the lameness of the early scenes. I’m guessing that the Japanese wrestlers shown or spoofed here (or at least the guy called “Super Delfin”) are “real” Japanese wrestlers, but I have to plead ignorance on the subject. The production does seem to be a Japanese/Hong Kong collaboration and the term “Osaka Wrestling” is used so often that I suspect it’s got to have some basis in fact (and is used to plug the sport I expect). The wrestling action is primarily played for laughs, but if you’re more aware of the subject than me, there may well be some in-jokes in there that went over my head.

We get some romantic comedy thrown in as well for no extra cost, and the inclusion of Japanese Ueno Miku as Kyoko provides some eye-candy for the male viewers. While the story is strictly by the numbers (boy meets girl, boy drops girl in a river for no readily apparent reason, boy courts girl while wearing wrestling mask to avoid girl finding out he was the one who dropped her in a river, girl finds out boy’s identity and dumps him, boy and girl get together again) this kind of thing is never too taxing and everyone can at least relate to it.

Sticking with OSAKA WRESTLING RESTAURANT does yield rewards, and by the end I was well into it. There are a few really good laughs (such as Tats Lau’s costume after he comes back from an unexpected trip) and the occasional moment of (light) drama. I suspect it is the kind of film that one can enjoy best with zero expectations and a hankering for some of the less demanding fare coming from Hong Kong. Although initially I was extremely sceptical of the merits of the film, I was eventually won over by two faults and a submission.

Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: MrBooth
Date: 01/08/2006

Very enjoyable goofy film, though let down by some really dreadful acting at times. It's along very similar lines to the enjoyable MOU MEN TAI (NO PROBLEM) films, though not as good as the hard-to-find first one.

Reviewed by: barrst
Date: 12/26/2004
Summary: Mildly amusing

This movie starts off poorly, but does get better. It doesn't get good enough for me to recommend it, but if you have a low threshold for comedy some enjoyment can be found.

Reviewed by: mrblue
Date: 10/19/2004

Being a fan of both wrestling and food, the prospect of a movie that combined both of those elements was pretty appealing. Unfortunately, Osaka Wrestling Restaurant is just a dull movie from beginning to end. The comedy falls flat, the wrestling "action" is anything but exciting, and the attempts at drama are downright hammy. Even if this movie had Hulk Hogan and all of the Iron Chefs taking on each other in a steel cage battle royale, I still don't think matters would be all that much more interesting.

The film's slim plot has Timmy Hung and Wayne Lai playing brothers who inherit a chest of gold after their father's death. Timmy wants to use the money for a serious venture, but Wayne wants to use it to open a restaurant with a wrestling ring inside of it. Despite not having any real wrestlers, the restaurant becomes a success, but Timmy's old boss (Law Kar-Ying) is out for revenge and becomes a threat to the business.

Osaka Wrestling Restaurant is hampered almost right off the bat by some horribly excuted attempts at comedy. It's the type of over-cranked Warner Bros.-esque stuff that makes most western fans of Hong Kong films cringe. Most of the jokes don't make any sense, and the ones that do just aren't funny. This hurts matters later in the movie when some attempts are made at creating drama (most notably through a subplot where Wayne tries to get back with his ex-wife) come off as flat and hollow.

I did like Timmy Hung in the movie -- he's really the film's saving grace. Like his father (Sammo Hung, who also has a small part in the picture), he has natural charm which comes through on the movie screen. I just hope he can pick some better quality projects to work on though. If he does too many more films like Osaka Wrestling Restaurant, his career will be over before it even gets a chance to get started.

[review from www.hkfilm.net]