Kung Fu Hustle (written by Chow, Tsang Kan Cheong, Xin Huo, and Chan Man Keung) follows despondent wannabe gangsters Sing (Chow) and Brother Sum (Kwok Kuen Chan) - two inept bunglers with dreams of criminal fame and fortune - as their attempts to impress the Axe Gang bring chaos to the working-class town of Pig Sty. There, a screaming landlady (Qiu Yuen) and her licentious husband (Wah Yuen) maintain order and obedience with an iron fist. However, after the arrival of the Axe Gang - a group of suit-wearing toughs whose leader (Hsiao Liang) likes to orchestrate choreographed line dances after killing his adversaries - the town's landlords, as well as three seemingly ordinary men, reveal themselves to be superpowered kung fu masters. What ensues is inventive, frenzied combat of the fantastical variety, highlighted by a Wachowski-esque battle involving innumerable (and identical looking) Axe Gang members swarming Pig Sty's enclosed courtyard for a chance to vanquish the unretired martial arts heroes. Throughout such visually hectic set pieces, Chow's direction proves a model of efficiency, presenting every special effects-enhanced roundhouse kick, aerial jump and flaming fireball with a lucidity that allows for spatial coherence. Assured and exhilarating, the filmmaker's dynamic staging and blocking allows him to stretch the boundaries of his confiding frame, culminating in a high-flying, earth-shattering climax that virtually leaps off the screen.
Chow's film is like an Asian Looney Tunes short (replete with an homage to the Roadrunner) stretched to 90 minutes and blown up for the big screen, but buried underneath this madcap exterior lurks a touching David and Goliath story - its action a metaphor for class warfare - about injustice, camaraderie, and communal bonds. Similar to Jean-Pierre Jeunet (Delicatessen, A Very Long Engagement), Chow has a gift for CGI-infused cinematography and a fondness for classic Hollywood romance (note the Top Hat poster behind Sing and his lollapalooza-adoring love interest), and his opening scene in Pig Sty - in which he depicts both the milieu's destitute economic condition and its numerous citizens' distinct personalities - is a mesmerizing example of directorial economy. The film finishes with a thrilling one-on-one showdown between Sing (now a kung fu master) and The Beast (Siu Lung Leung), a notorious killer with the ability to blow himself up like a bullfrog and hop at his opponents with cannonball ferocity. Yet like Shaolin Soccer, Kung Fu Hustle's humanism, its sympathy for the disenfranchised little guy, its finely drawn comic book characters, and its explosive action ultimately unite to form a giddy portrait of triumphant teamwork and togetherness.
The DVD includes deleted scenes, gag reel, commentary track, and a couple of additional behind-the-scenes featurettes.
Aka Gong fu.
Fu the hustle!
Run time: 99 mins
In Theaters: Friday 22nd April 2005
Box Office USA: $17.0M
Box Office Worldwide: $100.9M
Distributed by: Sony Pictures Classics
Production compaines: China Film Group Corporation (CFGC), Beijing Film Studio, Columbia Pictures Film Production Asia, Star Overseas
Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 90%
Fresh: 164 Rotten: 18
IMDB: 7.8 / 10
Director: Stephen Chow
Starring: Stephen Chow as Sing, Yuen Wah as Landlord, Yuen Qiu as Landlady, Lam Tze-Chung as Sing's sidekick, Huang Sheng-Yi as Fong, Dung Chi-Wa as Donut - Hexagonal Staff, Chiu Chi-Ling as Tailor, Xing Yu as Coolie - 12 Kicks of Tam School, Danny Chan Kwok-Kwan as Brother Sum, Bruce Leung Siu-Lung as The Beast, Tenky Tin Kai-Man as Axe Gang Advisor, Jia Kang-Xi as Harpist Assassin # 1, Fung Hak-On as Harpist Assassin # 2, Lam Suet as Axe Gang Vice General, Yuen Cheung-Yan as Beggar, Feng Xiaogang as Crocodile Gang Boss
Also starring: Kwok Kuen Chan, Qiu Yuen, Wah Yuen, Xiaogang Feng, Hsiao Liang, Dong Zhi Hua, Chiu Chi Ling, Siu Lung Leung, Chi Chung Lam, Po Chu Chui, Jeffrey Lau, Tsang Kan Cheong, Xin Huo, Chan Man Keung