Kung Fu Hustle

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Sing (Stephen Chow) is a small-time, street thug who dreams of joining the ruthless Axe Gang, the much-feared lords controlling Shanghai's underworld in the Thirties. So, in order to prove himself worthy, he tries to extort money out of the denizens of Pig Sty Alley, a tight-knit community in one of the city's worst ghettos. But instead of capitulating to the bully's intimidation, the hardy locals band together and defend themselves, relying on rusty martial arts skills which haven't been used in years. Their resistance, while initially successful, only leads to Sing's summoning reinforcements, and the real gang arrives for a showdown over control over the town.

This is the basic plot of Kung Fu Hustle, which, at first blush, looks like an old-fashioned, Hong-Kong chopsocky. However, it is actually a visually-captivating satire of the genre full of humorous asides, comical stunt sequences, cartoonish special effects and clever allusions to a seemingly endless variety of screen classics.

Part parody, part camp, part homage, and part pure silliness, this brilliant spoof was written and directed by its star, Stephen Chow (Shaolin Soccer). Imagine a blend of Bruce Lee, The Three Stooges and Looney Tunes. For example, before a character gives chase, he might jump in the air and spin his feet rapidly before tearing off down the road in a manner reminiscent of Road Runner. Or, after a thug has his face flattened like a pancake, don't be surprised to see him peel himself off the ground a few seconds later, as if nothing had happened, ala Wile E Coyote.

Inane slapstick dressed up as an historical drama to fool audiences into thinking they’re watching something far more sophisticated. Ingenious.

Excellent (3.5 stars)
Rated R for violence and
for graphic stylized, martial arts action.
In Cantonese and Mandarin with subtitles
Running time: 99 minutes
Distributor: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment


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