Kung Fu Hustle
written and directed by Stephen Chow
starring Stephen Chow, Leung Siu Lung, Yuen Qiu, and Chiu Chi Lung
available at Oddities on Whyte
DVD review by Stephen Notley
North American movieland looks kinda barren these days, but
fear not; the Asians are still making films. South Korean cinema is the surging
new style, and of course those folks in
We start with some cops getting humiliated and the
introduction of the Axe Gang, black suit-and-top-hat-wearing hatchet-wielders,
a giddily cool mélange of styles from Matrix Reloaded and Gangs of New York.
After some appropriately cold establishment of their badassery we are told that
the Axe Gang are ascendant in 1940's
And then there's Stephen Chow, taking an almost subsidiary role in this film, as the cheap hustler who wanders into Pig Sty and tries to pretend he's an Axe Gangster. One thing leads to another, the real Axe Gang gets involved, suddenly it turns out there were a lot more kung fu masters in this little slum than anybody realized, and from there the rest of the movie is an escalating unveiling of ever-more astonishing kung fu mastery.
Kung Fu Hustle is no Shaolin Soccer. There's even a scene where Stephen Chow's character stomps a soccer ball flat --"No more soccer!" and makes the children cry. Shaolin Soccer, for all its exploding joy and fun and humor, is a serious film; when it goes for the heart it means it, and it never makes jokes at its own expense. With Kung Fu Hustle, that's the whole game --crazy referential gags, gigantic action sequences turned into jokes, stuff flying out in all directions. It's a much sillier movie, more along the lines of Chow's earlier films like King of Comedy and God of Cookery, with more absurd computer-assisted special effects. There are homages to and lifts from Matrix Reloaded, Spider-Man, Top Hat with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, Legend of Drunken Master… the list goes on.
And of course, there's some pretty primo kung fu. There's this one guy, Iron Fist, rings around his wrists, very punchy, and there's a light, almost poetic assassination scene that unfolds into a throw-down of ridiculous craziness, and there's some old-school Toad Style stancing, and the best Buddha's Palm ever, and jammed in there is a corny little sweet romantic scene that keeps dragging tears from my betraying, sentimental eyes every time I see it.
In short, it's a Stephen Chow movie, jam-packed with crazy
Chinese humor and whipsaw tone changes, a perfect example of that wonderful
Chinese style of film that confidently blends comedy, action, horror and
romance. In a better world Shaolin Soccer would have burst across America as a
ray of golden light rather than being dribbled, pisslike, across the continent
by the faithless folk at Miramax. In a better world, Stephen Chow would be
revered here as he is in