Nishan Fuard

Kung Fu Hustle

1st August 2005
Official Movie Poster reviewer: Nishan Fuard
directed by: Stephen Chow
written by: Tsang Kan Cheong, Stephen Chow
starring: Stephen Chow, Kwok Kuen Chan, Yu Xing, Sheng Yi Huang
genre: Action, Comedy, Crime
released: 24th June 2005

You know youíre something special when your name is mentioned in the same breath as Jackie Chanís and thatís how Stephen Chow is introduced these days. A fan of Bruce Lee as a child (Chow learnt martial arts watching films and television) and later a stalwart of many Hong Kong TV series Chow now juggles the roles of actor, director, writer and producer.

Chowís brand of kung fu comedy first attracted attention outside of Asia with the release of Shaolin Soccer. The film, which sees a team of monks learning football and entering a prestigious tournament, is a mix of slick choreography and computer-generated special effects with plenty of humour. It was a massive box office hit in Hong Kong and was eventually picked up for international release.

Watch Kung Fu Hustle and itís not hard to see why Chow is compared to Chan Ė knockabout comedy and kick-ass action. The masterful Yeun Woo-Ping (Kill Bill, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) handles the choreography but the addition of special effects allows Chow to pull off some outrageously silly Looney Tunes-style stunts and gags.

The story concerns Sing (Chow) who as a kid realised that being good brought no rewards. However, his life of crime is marked with failure and he finally comes undone when attempting to shakedown Pig Sty Alley, a small town community. His inept performance attracts the attention of the infamous Axe Gang, a gang of sartorially savvy gangsters who are as good at dancing as they are fighting.

Yet even the Axe Gang finds the residents tough to beat, discovering the hard way that several kung fu masters are living there anonymously. After a series of defeats, the Axe Gang decides to engage the services of the ultimate kung fu expert in order to have its revenge. Meanwhile, Sing, now a provisional member of the Axe Gang and still suffering cuts and bruises, wonders whether itís worth being the bad guy after all.

Kung Fu Hustle is the perhaps the daftest and yet most enjoyable film I have seen in a long time. So many films are lazily described as exhibiting cartoon or comic book violence, but in the case of King Fu Hustle itís true. There are Roadrunner-style chases; hits and blows doled out with Tom and Jerry-like severity; and special moves so crazy they make some video games look dull. All provide laugh out loud moments.

Thereís no escaping the fact that Kung Fu Hustle is a simple story which has been liberally spiced with action and that it has a soft centre of sentimentality, but itís expertly done and thoroughly entertaining.