Anthony's Film Review

Kung Fu Hustle (2004)

A martial arts film so surreal and bizarre that I cracked up many times...

At this point, it seems as if the genre of kung fu movies has three pioneer actors. First and foremost, Bruce Lee defines the traditional martial arts film with serious fighting. Next, Jackie Chan creates more lighthearted action by adding a twist of comedy to the mix. Now enter Stephen Chow, who takes it a step further with special effects and cartoonish gags. He's done this with his earlier hit, Shaolin Soccer, and he does do again with Kung Fu Hustle, featuring a homage to 1940s gangster films. Just based on this film alone, I can honestly say that I like Stephen Chow's sense of humor.

If there is a plot in Kung Fu Hustle, there isn't much. You have a gang of Chinese men in tuxedos, known as the Axe Gang, who terrorize a small slum called Pig Sty Alley. Those who can fight back try to do so. In addition, you have a poor guy named Sing who wants to join this gang simply because they're rich and he's not. He could have been a doctor or lawyer, but he wasted his savings on a useless martial arts manual from a beggar. To join this gang, all he has to do is kill someone. In his attempt to throw a knife at the town's mean landlady, three hilarious accidents occur with the blade.

This is where the movie functions like a cartoon. The landlady is definitely an amusing character because she is like a cartoon character herself. Consider one scene in which she throws her husband out of a third-story window. He lands on the ground face down, and out of the blue, a flower pot shatters on his head. Film critic Roger Ebert says this film combines Jackie Chan, Buster Keaton, Quentin Tarantino, and Bugs Bunny. It's true. The movie really is like a live-action cartoon with comical scenes like this. There's even a chase scene in which two characters move their legs so fast that the ensuing chase is reminiscent of Wile E. Coyote versus the Road Runner.

Let's not forget that it's a martial arts film. Even so, the action is just too funny. Kung Fu Hustle is the most unusual martial arts film I've ever seen. Some of the characters may look like ordinary people, but they really are kung fu masters with special supernatural powers. The film goes from an earthly kung fu extravaganza to a metaphysical one.

With elements of cartoons and kung fu movies rolled into the same film, the kung fu action is either hilarious or so bizarre that you're staring at the screen on the brink of laughter. The action includes members of the Axe Gang being kicked and thrown into walls like massive cannonballs, the landlady's ability to scream and shatter everything in her path, and throwing swords that appear out of thin air with the stroke of harp strings. I found myself laughing at some of it, ready to laugh at most of it, and laughing so hard after the movie ended.

Kung Fu Hustle is definitely a good movie if you just want humorous sight gags regardless of any plot and characters. Stephen Chow demonstrates his wacky brand of humor while maintaining the excitement characterizing the genre of martial arts pictures. The film works because the action is not bound by the laws of physics. When just about anything goes, you never know what to expect. It is this series of surprises that makes Kung Fu Hustle a very fun experience.

Anthony's Rating:

For more information about Kung Fu Hustle, visit the Internet Movie Database.


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