Kung Fu Hustle

Reviewed By Jason Whyte
Posted 04/28/05 02:14:42

"Do The Hustle!"
5 stars (Awesome)

If I told you that there was a scene in the middle of “Kung Fu Hustle” where two people chase each other at the speed of the Roadrunner, complete with giddy footwork, would you believe me? Better yet, would that make you want to see it? In Stephen Chow’s world, scenes like these are ordinary, and “Kung Fu Hustle” is full of one insane moment after another. And it’s with great pleasure to report that Hong Kong’s own box-office champ has finally made its way to the West in its full, uncut form.

To describe what Chow has done here is pretty difficult to fit into such a short review, just like how I couldn’t describe “Shaolin Soccer” to friends except to say “Well, it’s about soccer, but with kung-fu. And lots of weird effects” and then lend them my DVD copy. He brings his own form of wacky, unadulterated style into a day and age where everything is exploding or trying to give us a scare. It may take a while getting used to, but when you get into his head, you don’t want to get out.

Set in Shanghai in the style of the 1930’s crime noir pictures a’la Howard Hawks and Billy Wilder, the film begins by introducing us to the Axe Gang in a full force dance number as they show that their power even supersedes the police. We then cut to Pig Sty Alley, which lives up to its name, where we meet Sing (Stephen Chow) who is a wannabe member of the Axe gang with his oversized friend. When word gets out that Sing is trying to play a member of the group, the Axe gang responds to fight, all to find out that the Pig Sty Alley has several interesting characters of their own, not the least the Landlord (Yuen Wah) who is quiet and calm despite a major kung-fu ability, and the Landlady (Yuen Qai) who, with a forever dangling cigarette in her mouth, can scream or run her way out of any situation.

And then it comes to the aforementioned chase sequence where Landlady runs into Sing, and the two of them have a giddy chase in the outskirts of Pig Sty Alley where all I can think of is Wily E. Coyote chasing after the Roadrunner. If you’re not completely in love with this movie at this point, there is no turning back as the film’s use of comedy and visual effects does not stop as Sing tries to get into the Axe Gang and simultaneously comes to realise his full potential as a kung-fu master.

Chow’s “Shaolin Soccer” was not handled well when released stateside, with Miramax delaying the release and finally shuffling it out into theatres last year with a quick DVD release. Thankfully, Sony Classics has distribution of “Kung Fu Hustle” and the stateside release is completely uncut with English subtitles. This is thankfully the norm after the successful releases last year of “Hero” and “House of Flying Daggers” which were also in their unabridged form.

Here is the kind of wide-screen entertainment that is best been on the largest screen possible with the biggest audience. It is too timid for even the best home theatre set-up. The style, cinematography, blitzkrieg effects and comedy can really only be appreciated in this form. “Kung Fu Hustle” is really like what the other critics have said: it truly IS like nothing you’ve ever seen before.

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