Kung Fu Hustle

| May 2, 2005

Hong Kong funnyman Stephen Chow creates an offbeat part western, part slapstick comedy, part kung fu madhouse hybrid to surprising good effect in this, his fourth film and follow up to the hilarious Shaolin Soccer.
Set during the days of pre-revolutionary China, corruption is king. The axe handle gang, black clad axe-wielding thugs led by the nefarious Brother Suma dour-faced, mustachioed man with a penchant for dancing-control everything. The police are helpless, too corrupt or too weak to stand in the way. As the Axe handle gang grows, they begin to absorb the inner workings of municipal government into their sphere of influence.
And, as the film tells us, only the very poor know any peace.
Tucked away from the prying eyes of the gangsters that run everything, Pig Sty Alley operates on a slow squalid scale. Poverty-stricken, the denizens of Pig Sty Alley barely survive, no thanks to the loud-mouthed landlord or her drunken husband. Here, amidst the dusty downtrodden, a small-time pick pocket named Sing decides to make a name for himself by posing as one of the axe gang, hoping to extort money from those who don’t know any better. But his plan fails, attracting the real axe gang to the scene.
Three former kung fu masters hiding amongst the peasants of Pig Sty Alley come out of retirement to defend their home, setting the stage for the series of increasingly outrageous battles between the two. Caught in the middle, the bumbler Sing who inadvertently caused the whole thing looks for a way to turn the carnage to his advantage.
As a filmmaker, Chow uses CGI frills to great comedic effect. People are punched through buildings, outrun automobiles and suffer the indignities of a thousand different attacks. At one point, kicked into the atmosphere, a character sees Buddha resting on the clouds. Venomous snakes and blind killer mandolin players and cowardly gangsters and a dog-faced killer who fights by turning into a man-frog.
It’s that kind of movie.
The storyline operates as a springboard for Chow’s comedic talents to shine. Chow abrogates authority, replacing the moral order with his own zany sense of humor. It is this immersion into another world, of aging kung fu masters and locked up super villains, that gives King Fu Hustle its power. Here is a universe where anything goes. Chow offers no explanation to the mysteries of his character’s superpowers other than kung fu.
And in the current filmmaking atmosphere where independent mavericks each try to out-shock the next while big budget actioners lose more and more of their soul, Chow creates a no holds barred comedy on his terms, an action movie with verve and heart.
More a live action cartoon than anything else, Chow returns to the anarchic roots of the original Looney Tunes, with unpredictable but satisfying results. Both a parody of American action movies (with references from everything from The Matrix to the Untouchables) and a fine action flick itself, Chow proves himself one of the most versatile and appealing of international filmmakers.
Ultimately, the amped up slapstick quotient delivers a pleasing, gut-busting, chop sockey, three stooges romp. Chow’s sense of the absurd might prove too oddball for some, but for those worth taking a chance, it’s worth the ride.

About the Author:

Filed in: Video and DVD

Post a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.