InsidePulse Review – Kung Fu Hustle



Stephen Chow


Stephen Chow……….Sing
Wah Yuen……….Landlord
Qiu Yuen……….Landlady
Kwok Kuen Chan……….Brother Sum
Siu Lung Leung……….The Beast
Dong Zhi Hua……….Donut
Chiu Chi Ling……….Tailor
Xing Yu……….Coolie
Chi Chung Lam……….Sing’s Sidekick
Kai Man Tin……….Axe Gang Advisor
Hak On Fung………..Harpist No. 2
Xiaogang Feng………..Crocodile Gang Boss
Shengyi Huang………..Fong
Suet Lam……….Axe Gang Vice General

There are those films that you watch in your life that are just pure joy. That list of films (for me) includes Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Star Wars, Big Trouble in Little China and a few others. The movies begin and for the life of you, that big goofy grin on your face just won’t go away. The films are about entertaining you, making you laugh, and thrilling you with huge action sequences. To that list you can now add Stephen Chow’s Kung Fu Hustle.

After years of putting out mostly mediocre comedies in his native Hong Kong, Stephen Chow has emerged in the last few years with the success his previous film Shaolin Soccer. To those wondering if Chow could out do himself with his new film; the answer is a resounding “YES!” Kung Fu Hustle is a wonderfully engaging, nonstop action and laugh fest. The enjoyment factor the film brings just can’t be understated.

In the streets of 1930s Shanghai, the aptly named “Axe Gang” (because they all carry…um…axes) rules the streets of the city. Looking like Bill “The Butcher’s” army from Gangs of New York, the Axe Gang cut a bloody trail to the top of the underworld, executing all that have stood in their way. Lead by Kwok Kuen Chan’s Brother Sum, the gangsters are a seemingly unstoppable force.

The gang finally runs into trouble with the occupants of the slum known as Pig Sty Alley. The people seem to be ordinary folks, living their lives as best as possible through poverty and overbearing landlords, but when a confrontation occurs between the Axe Gang and people of Pig Sty, the true nature of the some the inhabitants of the slum comes to life. Living among the tenants are Three Kung Fu masters named Donut, Tailor, and Coolie. All three are retired, but still willing to defend their home against the evil street gang.

Also in the middle of the conflict is Stephen Chow’s Sing, a smalltime conman who started the incident by posing as a member of the Axe Gang. Sing has a secret beneath him that he doesn’t even know he needs. It’s hard to really go into his character too much without revealing too much of the plot. Suffices to say, Sing is a good guy, just in with the wrong crowd.

Things get nasty when the Axe Gang resorts to hiring assassins to take care of the trio of Kung Fu masters. Once the fight scenes get started, the action doesn’t really let up until the very end. Also seemingly nonstop is the comedy including references to Spiderman, The Untouchables, and The Shining, as well as a barrage of Tex Avery style jokes.

For those looking for a deep, meaningful story with great depth of character, then finding Oldboy or seeing Million Dollar Baby again is the way to go. For those who have got a fever to see ninety minutes of nonstop slapstick comedy and super kung fu action, then the only prescription is Kung Fu Hustle. Stephen Chow has made a film that holds laugh out loud moments and then gets your adrenaline going with brutal one-on-one combat. The surprise comes when the absolute beauty of the film hits you. There are sequences in the film of startling beauty as if the picture replaced its fights scenes with intricate dance sequences.

Just when Kung Fu Hustle seems to be going into Crouching Tiger mode, it changes gears. At once the film goes from beautiful artistry to absolute hilarity as if it were as much a live action cartoon as Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, and from then to the same type of harsh violence seen in Ong Bak: Thai Warrior.The film is perhaps the most accessible product from Hong Kong in years. Subtitles or no, audiences should put away their preconceptions to see this comedy masterpiece.

Stephen Chow directs the best film of his career with this picture. In recent years, the increase in CGI has seemed to water down the traditional Kung fu film. The awe inspired by Jackie Chan as he crawled through fire in Legend of the Drunken Master has now been replaced by a man in front of a blue screen, who is not only not doing his own stunts, he’s not even doing a stunt at all. The results have been less than stellar at times as a cartoon Neo beat up 100 Agent Smiths in The Matrix Reloaded or Chow Yun Fat looking utterly ridiculous doing CGI Kung Fu in Bulletproof Monk. Stephen Chow is able to fight through that in this by not only packing the film with CGI, but giving the film such gusto and making his action sequences so ridiculous that it doesn’t matter that its not really a hundred flying up in the air.

Chow is also supremely charismatic in the film as Sing. He is a sympathetic loser in the film until the very of the picture where he reaches his true potential. Chow’s performance is such though that when he goes from deadpan comedy, to Road Runner-esque goofball, to the second coming of Bruce Lee one is not jarred by the shift in tone due to the sheer enjoyment of the proceedings. The climatic fight scene is a sequence packed with so much showmanship that one can hardly catch his or her breath as the punches and the laughs keep coming.