Kung Fu Hustle (2004)

Posted in Reviews by - October 18, 2014
Kung Fu Hustle (2004)

To get things started, we are introduced to the Axe Gang – an army of suited henchmen who dominate the underworld of 1940s Shanghai – by way of a brutal slaying worthy of Scorsese. They then quite spontaneously break into a Thriller-esque dance routine over the opening titles, and it quickly becomes apparent that we are firmly back in Stephen Chow territory. In a provincial town, a burly landlady screams at her tenants with such force that the ground shudders and the windows smash. An Axe Gang leader is given a bad haircut by one of the town’s idiot folk, and soon the whole village is under attack. Sing (Chow) wants to be an Axe member because “being a bad guy is cool”, so he helps the protagonists get ‘the Beast’ out of a mental asylum so he can defeat the screaming landlady and her dithering spouse in kung fu combat. Chow’s inspiration is as much western as it is eastern, with obligatory Bruce Lee parodies working alongside brilliant takes on Gangs of New York and The Matrix. Although still rooted in the kind of madcap surrealism previously witnessed in Shaolin Soccer, the grand scale of this production (partly financed by American money) makes it an altogether more polished and accomplished piece. Chow displays his maturity as a director: the sets, costumes, and characters are vividly imaginative, and the solid pace of the humour is complimented by a more sinister, darker undertone, something Chow has embraced wholeheartedly. Then there is Chow as the consummate comedian, and he has never been better. With CGI tackling the more irreverent moments, Chow uses his central performance to fine-tune his Chaplin-like timing, boyish demeanor and Bruce Lee intensity. The results further cement his standing as Hong Kong’s greatest comedian. This is a delightful kung fu romp, and if you don’t find something to love about this film, then you need to check if you’re still breathing.

AKA: Crazy Kung Fu

This post was written by
Editor and creator of Kung Fu Movie Guide and the host of the Kung Fu Movie Guide Podcast. I live behind a laptop in London, UK.

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