Kung Fu Hustle
[Movie Review]

I was encouraged to watch Kung Fu Hustle and at first I strongly resisted. The title had a distinctive "low budget cheesy Asian flick" stench to it, and I'm not a big fan of live action Asian movies. I was pressured into watching it, and so I gave in, and the intro sequence only confirmed my fears. Ugly actors, low resolution subtitle font, grainy film and poor lighting: This was a low budget cheesy Asian flick. Or was it? The very next thing I see is some very decent computer graphics. Axes chopping off legs, shotgun blasts sending people flying, and a guy wearing a stylish hat perfoming a little jig before hacking his victim to pieces.

Kung Fu Hustle is Steven Chow's latest, and while I don't know who Steven Chow is, it seems like everyone else I talk to does, which is why I mention his name here. When you watch this film, you have to disable the part of your brain that validates logic which in my case is probably close to 90% of my brain. The first time I watched this film, I was wondering if these guys were so good at Kung Fu, why are they slaving away at low wage jobs and living in absolute poverty, and why do they allow themselves to get their asses kicked, and only when a gang member threatens to set people ablaze do they reveal their martial arts prowess? The second time I watched it, I just ignored the blatant disregard for self-consistent world, and enjoy myself tremendously. This movie has some of the most creative fight scenes I've seen, including a toad-based style of fighting, and, my personal favorite, a guy who wiggles his hips to evade all punches directed at his person.

The plot is somewhat convoluted, and while I wasn't always following what was going on the first time through, I had it figured out by the end (and thus didn't need to perform a second viewing to "get it"). Unfortunately, depending on how sensitive you are to spoilers, I probably won't be able to get very far in a synopsis without revealing the first plot twist. About all I can say is that the opening sequence serves to demonstrate that "The Axe Gang" is the dominant gang in this neighborhood. Even in the very next scene, in which two guys try to hustle their way into a free haircut, not all is as it seems. As I mentioned earlier, there is some logical consistency problems, and while the plot is more complex than many other films I've seen, I wouldn't say that plot is this film's strong point. It should rather be taken as a kung fu flick, with a lot of comedy thrown in.

The comedy is excellent. In particular, the scene in which the main character tries to assassinate the landlady with knives and snakes is hilarious. The film uses a lot of slapstick comedy heavily influenced by cartoons. Using the magic of computer graphics, you'll see classic cartoon cliches such as flower pots landing on people's heads, foots stomped paper thin, roadrunner-esque chase scenes, and smacking into walls and slowly sliding off.

The music was generally good. The fight against the beast has a nice rhythmic drum song, as does the koto playing brothers, but the most memorable song of all is without a doubt the theme of The Axe Gang. A western oldschool jazz song with a very catchy beat plays whenever The Axe Gang makes its appearance, and they even have a dance that the members perform. My girlfriend and I could not stop ourselves from mimicking the onscreen moves. This IS a soundtrack I will look for.

I recommend this movie, and assign it a score of 8.5 out of 10. Furthermore, I recommend that you check out the movie's official site. It features one of the few good flash based site designs I've ever seen, and even has four mini games based on the movie, including Pig Sty Panic and Axe Gang Rampage.

 
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1. Leafy Person said:
Stephen Chow is one of the most famous actors/directors/writers in the Chinese film industry. Despite a long and impressive filmography, he is not as well known in the West. His latest hit is Shaolin Soccer. More info: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0159507/ and his fan club site: http://chow-sing-chi.com/
Posted on Tue February 8th, 2005, 11:41 AM EST acknowledged
2. Leafy Person said:
Stephen Chow is one of the most famous actors/directors/writers in the Chinese film industry. Despite a long and impressive filmography, he is not as well known in the West. His latest hit is Shaolin Soccer. More info: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0159507/ and his fan club site: http://chow-sing-chi.com/
Posted on Tue February 8th, 2005, 11:41 AM EST acknowledged
3. Leafy Person said:
Sorry for the double posting. Can the admin please fix it? I forgot to add that the fight/action scenes that Neb likes so much are choreographed by Yuen Woo Ping of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon fame.
Posted on Tue February 8th, 2005, 12:40 PM EST acknowledged
4. Ringohime said:

The cast is great in this movie. (Although most of them are probably not that famous.) I kinda feel bad for the fat guy though. You know, he's THE Chinese fat guy, and he didn't get much of part. He deserves more for his extra booty.

I think I liked this movie a lot more than Shaolin Soccer.

Posted on Wed February 9th, 2005, 2:11 PM EST acknowledged

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