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Kung Fu Hustle

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Directed by Stephen Chow
Written by Tsang Kan Cheong, Stephen Chow, Xin Huo and Chan Man Keung

Set during pre-revolutionary China, Sing, played by Chow, and his sidekick, known as Sing’s sidekick, are a couple of losers who try to make something out of themselves by pretending they are in the nefarious Axe Gang. They go to Pig Sty Alley, a run-down apartment complex, to shakedown its inhabitants, but this plan goes from bad to worse very quickly. Not only are Sing and his sidekick defeated by the Pig Style Alley’s landlord and tenants, but they also draw the attention of the real Axe Gang, who think they are coming to the aid of fellow gang members.

Powerful fighters who had been secretly living in Pig Sty Alley are forced to give up their identities to protect their neighbors from the gang. The trio gives them a good thrashing, but the gang’s leader won’t settle for losing, that’s why he’s the leader. He sends two stronger fighters back to Pig Sty Alley to avenge the gang. The action and the powers of fighters escalate in intensity with each battle eventually leading to the release of the Beast, the most powerful kung fu master. Will this evil man rule the day or will the chosen one of legend emerge to save the day?

In Kung Fu Hustle, a title that has obviously lost something in translation, Chow takes equal parts Bruce Lee and Bugs Bunny to intentionally create one of the funniest martial arts I have ever seen. I laughed almost the entire time. Chow is joined behind the camera by famed action choreographer Yuen Wo Ping, who worked on The Matrix trilogy and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, with some additional assistance from Sammo Hung. Together, they create a visual roller coaster ride as the many great fight sequences build in intensity to the climax.

Chow makes good use of combining CGI with live action because it wasn’t being used to seamlessly fit into the film unnoticed and it added to the comedy. The CGI effects are so unnatural and outlandish that the film becomes a live-action cartoon, such as the chase sequence where the characters legs spin around so fast they resemble the Roadrunner’s. Other funny moments include Sing as a child who defends the honor of a young deaf girl, and the characters of the landlady and landlord, who were so funny that they should get their own film.

Kung Fu Hustle was a lot of fun, but those who take their martial arts seriously might not care for how silly the movie gets. The violence doesn’t get bloody so it is good for kids of almost all ages. I was completely surprised that this film earned an R rating. There’s certainly nothing here that can’t be viewed by 14 to 17 year-olds and even younger. If they’ve seen a Tom & Jerry cartoon, and I don’t mean one of the stupid ones where they are pals, then they’ve already seen the extent of the film’s violence.

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About Gordon S. Miller

Gordon S. Miller is the artist formerly known as El Bicho, the nom de plume he used when he first began reviewing movies online for The Masked Movie Snobs in 2003. Before the year was out, he became that site's publisher. Over the years, he has also contributed to a number of other sites as a writer and editor, such as FilmRadar, Film School Rejects, High Def Digest, and Blogcritics. He is the Publisher of Cinema Sentries. Some of his random thoughts can be found at twitter.com/ElBicho_CS
  • Quack Corleone

    Maybe I’m just a curmudgeon, but I wasn’t nearly as entertained by ‘Kung Fu Hustle’ as you were. Too many [main?] characters and a story made up of several half-developed subplots made this a dissapointment after Chow’s simpler, more enjoyable ‘Shaolin Soccer’. I’m not sure if at times I didn’t know what was going or just didn’t care, but fight sequences get boring eventually if they aren’t supported by a good story. Of course, that may be part of the zaniness. Speaking of which, I never loved cartoons either.

    Still, nice review.

  • http://doubleaf.com doubleaf

    it’s a good comment on Kungfu Hustle.
    I’m a Chinese.And this film was simply called “KungFu” in China.
    Maybe I know better of this film. In fact, this film mainly talks about the story of a humble guy who became a hero at last. That is the true meaning of Kungfu Hustle and almost every film of Stephen Chow.

  • http://doubleaf.com doubleaf

    Add:
    the character of landlord was once a Bond girl in 1970s maybe.

  • Talos

    I just have a comment on the R rating of this movie. I don’t really agree with rating in general. I mean what 16 year old for example isn’t old enough to watch a rated R movie. At any rate the rating in this movie was more then likely recieved because of the scene when the little Sing gets pissed on. They also show this seen more then once. I think that alone being in live action goes beyone Tom and Jerry. Overall rating is an A. Tremendous movie. Action and comedy…Not much of a storyline but I wasn’t left wanting one. :)

  • http://paperfrigate.blogspot.com DrPat

    In Kung Fu Hustle, a title that has obviously lost something in translation…

    You lost me – sounds to me like the “Axe Gang” is trying a scam (or “hustle) on the inhabitants of Pig Sty Alley. Based on your review, I’m eager to see it.