Directed by Stephen Chow
Written by Stephen Chow, Tsang Kan Cheong, Lola Huo, and Man Keung Chan
Cast: Stephen Chow, Tze Chung Lam, Siu-Lung Leung, Qiu Yuen, and Wah Yuen.
Length: 1 hour and 39 minutes
Genre: Action, comedy, crime
MPAA Rating: R
Description from IMDB:
“In Shanghai, China in the 1940s, a wannabe gangster aspires to join the notorious “Axe Gang” while residents of a housing complex exhibit extraordinary powers in defending their turf.”
In 1940s China, the ruthless Axe Gang has been taking over the urban areas and suppressing all in their path. Two hoodlums who want to join the gang, Sing (Stephen Chow) and Bone (Tze Chung Lam), pose as members and try to extort a resident of a rural apartment complex. Through a series of flukes, the Axe Gang is offended by the tenants and comes to collect. In the ensuing fight, three kung fu masters make their presence known and begin a chain of events that unleashes the deadliest kung fu killer upon the world. Not everyone is as they seem as amazing fighters reveal themselves in order to face evil.
Sing isn’t much of a likeable leading man at the beginning of the film. He is mean to his friend, Bone, and wants to act tough, often threatening to kill or hurt people despite the fact he is easily bested. He was told as a child that he had the aura of a kung fu genius and, when trying to save a girl from bullies, he is let down when his attack doesn’t work and he is subsequently beaten up. He decides to be evil since good never prevails and wants to become a gangster so as never to feel that way again. He goes through a gradual transformation after releasing the Beast (Siu-Lung Leung); an insane and unstoppable kung fu master.
The film action is very cartoony and campy which lends itself to the funny tone of the film. This occurs especially when people are hurt; when Sing is bit on the face by two cobras, his lips swell to ridiculous proportions. There is also a sequence where he is being chased by the Landlady (Qiu Yuen) and it looks as if it was lifted right out of a Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner cartoon. The actors are dusted and use wires during fight scenes, as well as a decent amount of slow motion to show how quickly the masters are able to move.
Fate and running away from one’s destiny factor into the story. The Landlord (Wah Yuen) and Landlady both stopped fighting after their son died in a kung fu battle, but they realized that the gang would never stop bothering their tenants, so they decided to end things once and for all. Sing spends most of the movie fighting his good nature and consciously trying to be a bag guy, though it is only through doing good that he is able to unlock his potential.
Kung Fu Hustle is an entertaining movie that manages to pay homage to the martial arts films that came before it while adding new and unique elements. There are a lot of funny parts (many at Sing’s expense), and the fight sequences are interesting in their use of different techniques that are supplemented by the CGI. The story is rather formulaic, and there are some parts that are unnecessarily gross (I’m personally not a fan of butt cracks or kids with snot leaking from their nostrils), but the overall effect creates a fun experience. Kung Fu Hustle shows how classic movie genres can be augmented and given a new spin in a world where formulaic films are often the norm.
Verdict: 3 hidden kung fu masters out of 5
Recommended for: Adults, fans of kung fu movies, fans of Stephen Chow, those with a sense of humor, those who aren’t easily grossed out by butt cracks or snot, and people with a goofy sense of humor.
Not recommended for: Children, those easily grossed out by butt cracks or snot, those who dislike kung fu movies (why are you even watching a movie with it in the title, I ask you!?), or people without a sense of humor.