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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 34.09%
Average: 2.84%
Pretty Bad: 2.27%
Total Crap: 0.57%

14 reviews, 92 user ratings

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Kung Fu Hustle
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by Rob Gonsalves

"Stephen Chow strikes again; wall-to-wall fun."
5 stars

Equal parts Bruce Lee and Chuck Jones, 'Kung Fu Hustle' is one of the great nonsense movies -- a smash-and-grab action farce madly in love with old Hollywood and old martial-arts flicks.

The mastermind behind it all is Stephen Chow, whose 2001 comedy Shaolin Soccer broke box-office records in Hong Kong; Miramax bought it for release in the States, but delayed it and then fumbled it in 2004 -- but by then, lots of people (including me) had seen it on one import disc or another and eagerly awaited Chow's next. Chow seems to have been given a much larger piggy bank this time; Kung Fu Hustle is a triumph of set design, taking us from the flea-bitten slum of Pig Sty Alley to the swanky atmosphere of what looks like 1930s Hong Kong. In these environments, the laws of physics no longer apply, if they ever did; characters leap, run at neck-breaking speed, bash each other through several walls with one blow. Weightless as a feather, the movie takes its cue from such gravity-defying works as Hero and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and then ramps it up into a comedy of excess.

Chow stars as Sing, a ne'er-do-well lockpick and thief who wants to be accepted into the fearsome Axe Gang -- a group of toughs whose sartorial choices are a nod to both the Crazy 88s of Kill Bill and Bill the Butcher's gang in Gangs of New York. The Axe Gang terrorizes everyone except the residents of Pig Sty Alley, a dirt-poor slum concealing some unlikely kung-fu masters. Humiliated by a run-in with said masters, the Axe Gang vows revenge, calling in a pair of hired killers whose main weapon is a deadly harp that generates spectral swords and skeletons. When that doesn't work, the Beast (Leung Siu Lung) is called in -- a mousy-looking fellow with a bad combover, who nevertheless wipes the floor with almost any adversary without thinking about it much. Only one person is fated to be the Master who can defeat the Beast, and that person is too busy trying (and hilariously failing) to ingratiate himself with the Axe Gang.

For most of the movie, Chow plays Sing as a grubby opportunist, an idealist turned bitter pessimist ("Good guys never win" was the lesson he took away from a youthful attempt at a Buddhist Palm defense against some bullies). His destiny is redemption, but it's hard-won, and when Chow pulls out the stops and introduces the now-grown-up mute girl Sing tried to rescue as a boy, the Hollywood sap runs as thick as the implausibility of the stunts -- Chow actually poses the two against a poster of Astaire and Rogers. And it works. It's far from the only tip of the hat to Chow's ancestors; during the climax, Sing goes through two changes of outfit that pay explicit homage to Bruce Lee, though Chow isn't as serious-minded as Lee was. For instance, he gives a lot of screen time to the landlady (Qiu Yuen) and landlord (Wah Yuen) of Pig Sty Alley, who seem like comic-relief squabblers until the movie reveals more up their sleeves. Qiu Yuen, a staple of Hong Kong movies back in the '70s, should become a fan favorite all over again; decked out in hair rollers and an ever-present cigarette, she's so relentlessly irascible she's funny, like Captain Lou Albano in Wise Guys.

The stuntwork here was supervised and choreographed by Master Yuen Wo Ping, the avatar of brutal cool (he designed the fights for Kill Bill, Crouching Tiger, and the Matrix films). The spinning wirework of those films is just a hair away from comedy anyway, and Chow merrily pushes it into the realm of the absurd while sacrificing none of its beauty or dazzlement -- or excitement. People in Hollywood spend a lot of money flailing around witlessly to achieve the anti-gravity of cartoons, seldom coming close to what Chow does here. The extensive CGI is used to heighten and then demolish reality. Flesh folds or flattens against fists; dozens of gang members scatter into the sky, sometimes kicked into each other. The tone is light but not callous -- little blood is shed (except for a goofy one-off sight gag that tweaks the elevator scene in The Shining for no apparent reason). The most painful blow in the movie is when a sentimental-value lollipop is shattered.

Kung Fu Hustle came (in this country) on the heels of two other movies that leave mundane reality far behind -- Ong-Bak, in which Tony Jaa folds time and space all by himself, and Sin City, which takes place in some gleaming hellhole in Frank Miller's head. Taken together -- and they really should be shown together, if any imaginative movie-night programmers are listening -- these films represent a restless and reckless energy powered by a love of what movies at their best can do: transfix, transport, and transcend.

Blessed with the most fluid camerawork since Sam Raimi in his prime, and punctuated with stunning action sequences to match, 'Kung Fu Hustle' is proof positive that whatever the future of movies may be, it certainly doesn't have to be boring.

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originally posted: 01/04/07 15:16:37
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Toronto Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Toronto Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Sundance Film Festival. For more in the 2005 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 U.S. Comedy Arts Festival. For more in the 2005 U.S. Comedy Arts Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 SXSW Film Festival. For more in the 2005 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

4/02/13 Atari TwentySixHundred Flaxman, totally missed the mark. This film is beautiful, fun, and exciting! 5 stars
1/05/10 stephan chow fan forever ok.. if you want to get the full effects of the movie, then learn chinese (puns and stuff) 5 stars
12/23/09 Cody This movie is one of the best I've ever seen and I am waiting for the 2010 sequel 5 stars
8/30/08 Shaun Wallner The Action was Amazing! 5 stars
3/13/08 ako excellent film by Chow with indepth understanding of the 3 level of Kung Fu. 5 stars
6/06/07 tracey chambers great movie. funny as hell. 5 stars
5/06/07 fools♫gold Die?! In this racket? 5 stars
4/18/07 David Pollastrini pretty silly! 2 stars
2/07/07 AJ Muller Drops laughs and ass-whuppins our way in old school WB style. Awesome. 4 stars
1/09/07 Drew Galletti As a kung-fu nerd, a well done, humorous homage to the genre 5 stars
12/08/06 UGB Definately worth a look - I thought it pretty funny 4 stars
7/06/06 drydock54321 just like a live action cartoon. Love that lion roar. 5 stars
5/05/06 Jason Terrible, unfunny movie. I'd rather watch a Tony Jaa movie 1 stars
3/31/06 Steb A kung fu comedy! What more could you ask for? 5 stars
2/12/06 brewt hustle me good 4 stars
1/01/06 metalhead Kung Fu Hustle is Freakin Sweet! One of the greatest movies ever made. 5 stars
11/16/05 Adrian Unique in every aspect...and thats what makes it so damn good and fun to watch. 5 stars
10/14/05 eddiejohns Funny and action-packed. I liked this combo. 4 stars
10/14/05 Indrid Cold A cross between "Crouching Tiger" and "Kung Pao"; dumb but entertaining. 4 stars
9/24/05 Mark Radburn A Kick-Ass Asian movie, A must-see 5 stars
9/22/05 Fritz Kind of amusing, but not as funny as it thinks it is. 3 stars
9/17/05 millersxing riki tiki tembo no sa rembo chari bari ruchi pip peri pembo 5 stars
9/11/05 Rever_Bear-Trap This RATING says it all! 5 stars
9/11/05 Alex Robert Rodriguez died 5 stars
9/09/05 Phil M. Aficionado The more I think about it, the better I like it; stunningly chaotic and funny and lively 5 stars
9/02/05 Zack it pretty sweet 3 stars
9/02/05 JFK great asian comedy. 4 stars
8/29/05 Quigley doesn't deliver what it promises. the CG wasn't great and neither were the fight scenes. 3 stars
8/28/05 Tom Burns This movie was amazing. 5 stars
8/25/05 Kat Scrumtrilacent with a hint of stellar. 5 stars
8/23/05 Nick Great movie.Up there with Spiderman. 5 stars
8/15/05 John Kung Fu Hustle R1 DvD is edited. Blood has been taken out and a scene has been shortened 4 stars
8/15/05 Ebru Germeyan Not even a Cartoon movie could top this movie 5 stars
8/14/05 othree next level. solid story, cast, imagery, believable cheeziness 5 stars
8/13/05 Justin Kline Funnier Than Heck 4 stars
7/17/05 Kathy terPlugg Not as good as KUNG POW: ENTER THE FIST. 3 stars
7/05/05 jim even better than Revenge of the Sith 5 stars
6/25/05 Sean Poon It has more depth than it appears to be 5 stars
6/14/05 jameth burketh Absolutely hillarious-gets better with repeated viewing. A very clever film 5 stars
6/09/05 Gray It was fun 4 stars
6/07/05 captain craig the more I see it, the more I like it 5 stars
5/27/05 juli Matrix fights ripped off Hong Kong movies to begin with 5 stars
5/22/05 Cham Like watching a live-action violent cartoon. 4 stars
5/21/05 kemalx78 very funy when i watching this i amnt boring 5 stars
5/17/05 Shawn Borucki Excellent film, Stephen Chow tops "Shaolin Soccer" with mixing gangs and land ladies.. 5 stars
5/10/05 Morrigan Matrix Ripoffs? You sir are an idiot. 5 stars
5/09/05 Ka-Poon Chan Its a very good film, a different outlook from this genre of film making! 4 stars
5/05/05 Koitus Was the urination scene REALLY necessary??? Also, MANY scenes were "Matrix" rip-offs... 2 stars
5/03/05 michaelb14 "I did'nt know The Lion's Roar could be done with a speaker!" 5 stars
5/02/05 your worst goddamn nightmare Take a bit of Loony Toons and Jackie Chan and you've got this. Sounds terrible, BUT........ 5 stars
5/02/05 Dorothy Malm quite entertaining, a lot of fun 5 stars
4/30/05 Chris Stephens This is one cool movie 5 stars
4/29/05 Titus Way cool. 5 stars
4/28/05 Uncle Salty See it. Love it. 5 stars
4/28/05 Colleen Godlrick unique 5 stars
4/27/05 Jeff Anderson A high energy, hysterical & full-throttle BLAST! More fun than all 3 MATRIX films combined! 5 stars
4/27/05 Naka God, YES!!! 5 stars
4/26/05 Whatevr Oh, dizzamn! 5 stars
4/25/05 KingNeutron Fkg awesome, wacky, goofy, sometimes disturbing, and oddly... moving. See twice! 5 stars
4/24/05 jeff not as good as house of flying daggers but still funny and awsome 5 stars
4/23/05 jakob it rocked hard. 5 stars
4/20/05 jordan can you give kung fu hustle movie 0n dvd 2004 2 stars
4/19/05 Al Guy I love it! Watch out for the Hollywood "remake". 5 stars
4/14/05 Gray this movie was great fun! 5 stars
4/13/05 Junior LaRoche Great! Sony Classics know how to release films, unlike Miramax. 5 stars
4/13/05 visual A must-see!!!! 5 stars
4/12/05 Mr. Majestyk If you can't enjoy this movie, you need a blowjob. 5 stars
4/11/05 Dan Olson Good, but not Chow's best and not worth the acclaim 4 stars
4/10/05 Vince Not overly hilarious, but fun. 4 stars
4/09/05 mahn erfa 5 stars
4/08/05 Lina Correa everyone should borrow this from their friend with the large DVD collection 4 stars
4/02/05 kran must watch 5 stars
3/26/05 Greg Ursic Outstanding!! Never have I seen that many reviewers mock fighting in a lobby. 5 stars
3/09/05 vu Awesome 5 stars
3/03/05 michael weber gwaaaaaaaaaa!!!! 3 stars
2/25/05 jandro Great and Side-Splitting funny, Chow sure knows how to tickle the funny bone 5 stars
2/12/05 anthony hilarious and energetic fun! but the script couldve used more work 4 stars
2/07/05 Zach a must-watch! 5 stars
1/30/05 Ery amazingly beautiful and funny 5 stars
1/29/05 buddy garrett same old formula 2 stars
1/29/05 keith james CHOW (GETS) DOWN! 4 stars
1/13/05 Maya gut-busting funny, way cool fight scenes, and unpredictable. i'm now a huge fan. 5 stars
1/12/05 Josh Funniest film i've seen for ages - very stylish too 5 stars
1/11/05 Miles Bader Hits every note just right, silly and affectionate 5 stars
1/09/05 Francis Ayock Stephen Chow homage to the Cantonese Martial Arts films of the last few decades. 5 stars
1/01/05 Dominique Incredibly hilarious - far better than Shaolin Soccer! 5 stars
1/01/05 alicia yeo shi ling absolutely funny! 4 stars
12/24/04 ArQ Chow did it again! 5 stars
9/21/04 Naka Hysterical!!! 5 stars
9/16/04 Pop very good film 4 stars
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  08-Apr-2005 (R)
  DVD: 09-Aug-2005



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