Osaka Wrestling Restaurant (2004)

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One of many films we’ve reviewed here at the ISCFC that seems almost critic-proof – if you see that title, chances are you’ve made your mind up to watch it long before you’ve bothered finding out if it’s any good or not. But for those of you who take a more careful approach to your Japanese / Hong Kong cooking-based wrestling movies, here goes.

Timmy is a harried kitchen worker in a restaurant in Hong Kong, whose Dad dies and leaves him a ton of money. On one condition – he go to Japan, find his ne’er-do-well brother MIke and bring him back into the family fold. Mike is one of those happy chancers who’s hiding some deep dark pain, finding one of his few genuinely happy moments at the local Osaka Pro Wrestling show. This gives him an idea – a wrestling-themed restaurant, where there’s a ring in the middle of the floor and matches go on while you’re eating.

Mike steals the money from Timmy and opens the restaurant without his permission, right across the road from the evil place where Timmy used to work. So, will they be a success? Will his old boss successfully sabotage him? How about the weird subplot about some disc with some secret stuff on it?

This film stars some of the real stars of beloved (former) Japanese wrestling promotion Osaka Pro. It was home to the weird and wonderful before shutting its doors for good earlier this year, and its “ace” was Super Delfin, a high-flying masked guy. I always liked Ebessan myself, who was based on Ebisu, the Japanese god of good fortune. Anyway, their work is dotted throughout the film, and it’s good fun, and presumably was a good local advert for them all.

But sadly, and I have a very high tolerance for these things, it wasn’t very good. On a boring film-y level, the subplot involving the disc was clearly something left in from an earlier draft of the script that they couldn’t be bothered with, meaning it’s a bit of a waste of time. And the acting is pretty rotten, with the wrestlers absolutely not being the worst offenders.

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On a “hey, let’s have fun and watch a silly film” way, it still manages not to work. The comedy is incredibly broad, sub-farce level stuff, and while I’m aware that a lot of comedy from that neck of the woods bases its laughs on cultural and language differences that we in the West wouldn’t necessarily understand, it didn’t make it any funnier. Even Sammo Hung as a restaurant critic realises it’s hardly worth bothering with, and doesn’t give the film much of a lift with his performance.

And what’s worst, the wrestling’s not even that good! But seriously, I love oddball comedies, love pro wrestling, and am the absolute perfect audience for this film. But it’s like the people making it realised that a good film, with all the extra care and attention that would involve, would make them the exact same amount of money as a hastily thrown-together film like this, so decided trying was a waste of time. For an example of comedy from Hong Kong that works, Stephen Chow has been making hilarious films for decades – “God Of Cookery”, “Shaolin Soccer” and “Kung Fu Hustle” being particular favourites. So it’s not just a cultural thing, is the point I’m trying badly to make. Anyway, even if you’re in the market for a film like this, there are better choices out there.

Rating: thumbs down

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