[FILM] Steven Chow's "Kung Fu Hustle"
- TORONTO: Copernicus and more continue to praise KUNG FU HUSTLE!
Harry here, and now I've got it real bad, this film can not get here
soon enough, listen to Copernicus sing its praises... this sounds
great! Here ya go...
KUNG FU HUSTLE
It is screenings like this that make being in Toronto for the
festival one of the most wonderful things in the world. Thirteen
hundred rabid kung fu fans packed in a theater for the world
premiere of Stephen Chow's Kung Fu Hustle. And it blew away our
expectations. It features awesome Yuen Wo-Ping choreographed fights,
a gorgeous look, and most importantly a completely unrestrained
energy that makes it both hilarious and original.
Let me explain my Badass-Induced Giddiness theory. What is more
beloved in cinema than the supreme ass-kicking badass? They are
forces of nature, practically impossible to beat, and when they
clear a room you just want to stand up and say "Hell Yeah!" At the
end of the Matrix, when Neo just holds up his hand you just get this
tingling all over. And that is only the first stirrings of the
Of course this is what the kung fu genre is all about. The student
or master meets a roomful of guys, or better yet, another supreme
master, and it's ass-whooping ballet time. He pulls out some move
that makes you crap your pants and then you look at your buddy in
disbelief and issue a chain of expletives to celebrate the
achievement. The Matrix and Crouching Tiger took the badass from
kung fu movies, augmented the classic wire work with computer
technology and large budgets, and raised the bar. They raised the
poswer level but they couldn't play up the giddiness factor much
because they were trying to be serious. But what if you just used
the technology to take things totally over the top and played up
that moment when you just bust out laughing at how monstrously good
the hero or villain is? That is exactly what Kung Fu Hustle does to
cackle-inducing effect. Just when you think you've seen the ultimate
boss badass, here comes another even better. And another, and
another, and so on to the point of complete, glorious absurdity.
When you then mix in a cast with a great sense of comic timing,
bring-the-house-down one liners, and some inspired physical gags,
you get the funniest movie I have seen all year.
Even the setup for the movie brings a smile to your face. Chow plays
a would-be, but inept bad guy who starts a war between tuxedo-
wearing, dancing gangsters called the Axe gang, and the indigent
residents of a housing project who all seem to know kung fu. It
seems that in this universe the more unlikely the look of the
person, the better they are at ass-kicking. The paunchy, middle-aged
men and fat landlady of the project dish out a seemingly never-
ending array of smackdowns - a gag that never gets old no matter how
many times it recurs.
Chow is celebrating all the old-time kung fu classics, like Shaw
Brothers movies from the 70s. But references have come full circle
now. Chow pays homage to modern geek obsessions like Quentin
Tarantino movies, and the Matrix, which were already referencing
classic Shaw Brothers movies! Even unexpected references like Spider-
Man and Loony Tunes crop up for scene-stealing cameos.
If you are any kind of kung fu fan at all you should be absolutely
thrilled with Kung Fu hustle. Who knows, it may even bust out of its
genre movie roots and attain true crossover status.
then Yin has this look...
Hey there Harry I wrote a more thorough review of the world premiere
of Kung Fu Hustle. I hope you enjoy.
The story begins somewhere in early 20th century China just when the
western influence was making its way around. A notorious group of
thugs known as the Axe Gang led by the Jack Sparrow-ish "Brother
Sum" bullies it's way into power as the police force and other gangs
succumb under their mightyness. They have control over all except
for the poor villages which they never cared enough to invade.
In comes Ah SING (Stephen Chow) and his chubby sidekick (Lam Ji
Chung), two wannabe kung fu artists who make a living boasting about
their claims of being in the Axe gang. However these false claims
are quickly revealed as the tandem tried to hustle their way into a
free haircut. The villagers of the Pig Sty village whom Ah Sing was
trying to fool come to stand up against the two imposters. Not
wanting to admit his lies, Ah Sing continues the charade and
threatens to call reinforcements. Moments later to the surprise of
everyone, the real Axe gang shows up at the village.
The sets were huge and wonderful, the Pig Sty Village created the
perfect atmostphere for most of the film and the others were just as
elaborate and interesting. This was another one of those clear
examples of an increased budget. Despite all the money, fans will
not have to worry, because this film is still very much a Stephen
Chow film. His usual staphes are all here, the funny dance
sequences, the parodies (The Matrix, Condor Heroes...many of the non-
chinese audience didn't get the whole frog joke which is a parody of
a character in Gum Yuong novels), and of course a great and always
memorable cast of quirky characters. The performances were across
the board amazing, from the minor characters who get no more than 5
minutes of screen time to the major support characters like the Axe
gang leader, everyone delivers at one point in the movie.
With so many gags being thrown left and right you might wonder about
the pacing of the film. Unlike the many horrible throwaway HK
slapstick comedies (which were initially inspired by Chow), every
joke whether simple or elaborate works towards furthering the plot.
The ongoing barrage of jokes never seem like too much because they
work within the context of the story. The audience never feels
alienated nor do they ever feel overloaded. The movie progresses in
a very engaging manner.
Surprisingly, the laughter was only half of the movie. Not only does
Stephen deliver all the funnies, he does a superb job in making a
Kung Fu flick. Much to the credit of Yuen Wo Ping and Sammo Hung,
the fights scenes can easily hold up against other classic Kung Fu
movie. But what's going to seperate this film from the pack, is the
special effects. The Matrix comes to mind here and as mentioned
before, Chow does some parodies, but the action scenes here are
truly original. The CG is used to enhance the folklore aspects of
Kung Fu, like Chi Gong and the shooting of internal energy. Similar
to the projectile effects seen in Shaolin soccer. Very chique stuff.
There were also a lot of gag scenes that made use of the special
effects giving the jokes a very cartoonish flavor. You would see
poeple running off like the Road Runner or have punches bounce off
like rubber. All in good taste though, it works well.
There were a few negatives about the film, in particular Eva's
character who is severly underdeveloped, to a point where she almost
seems unnecessary. But to her credit, given the time available she
played a fairly convincing part. On the whole, the movie was
spetacular, I didn't mind at all paying the $18 (CND) to see this
film. Stephen Chow ventured into unchartered territory and
successfully crafted a wonderfully entertaining movie. Thanks to
Sony Classics, you won't have to wait several years to watch a
heavily butchered version of the film. Expect it in North American
theatres next year.