01/02/2005. Contributed by Mark R. Leeper
From the director of SHAOLIN SOCCAR comes this satire on the Shaw Brothers martial arts films, which is live-action but takes on the style of a cartoon. It is a very funny film, even for people who are not kung fu enthusiasts.
Very few comedies actually make me actually laugh out loud. I did not have high expectations of a film with a title like KUNG FU HUSTLE. Martial arts films usually do not do much for me. To say I laughed out loud is one of the highest compliments I can give a comedy. All my low expectations were dashed. This film written by, directed by, and starring Stephen Chow was the funniest comedy I saw in 2004.
The scene is the 1940s and the story opens in a police station with a super-elite squad of police being mopped up by the incredible force of one legendary street gang. I mean these guys are really tough. After totally destroying the police the gang walks out to the street only to run into The Axe Gang. The gang that the police could not stop is in seconds wiped out by the even more incredibly powerful Axe Gang. These are people in their suits, ties, and top hats that never even get mussed and are not to be trifled with.
The Axe Gang members are mean and they are powerful. They also dance very stylishly. Their influence has spread just about everywhere but to a little slum called Pig Sty Alley. This looks like just a normal low-rent section of Shanghai. The residents play off of each other in very normal ways. Living there is not easy and it has made the denizens tough. Now the super-powerful Axe Gang wants to take over the streets of Pig Sty Alley. The smart money would bet on the Axe Gang. But then the smart money doesn't live in Pig Sty Alley if it is really smart. The Axe Gang finds taming this one little slum neighborhood will take more than they could ever imagine.
This wild satire of old Shaw Brothers' kung fu films is live action but has the level of reality of a Chuck Jones cartoon. The unexpected and hilarious happens time after time, catching the viewer by surprise. The mammoth battles are outdone by the supreme battle.
The supreme battles are brushed away by the ultimate battles and the ultimate battles are pushed aside by even more absolute battles. Stephen Chow previously directed SHAOLIN SOCCAR, a film that enjoyed great popularity worldwide. After seeing KUNG FU HUSTLE I rented SHAOLIN SOCCAR. Stephen Chow seems to get better with every film.
I give KUNG FU HUSTLE a rating of a high +2 (-4 to +4) or 8/10.
Mark R. Leeper
(c) Mark R. Leeper 2005
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