Doing the Hustle
Stephen Chow brings us the first cool movie of the year.
Fans of Hong Kong director-actor Stephen Chow have been waiting for the follow-up to his mega-popular Shaolin Soccer for a while, and now it's here. Kung Fu Hustle revs up the laughs and the thrills with more fantastic CG-enhanced martial arts, slapstick, sight gags and a nice story to boot.
Set in 1940s China, Kung Fu Hustle tells the story of Sing (Chow), an inept wannabee gangster who wants to be a member of the dreaded Axe Gang (a syndicate of top hat and suit-wearing, hatchet-toting, mobsters). To prove himself, Sing and his chubby sidekick (Nino Muhlach-lookalike, Lam Chi Chung, one of Chow's chums from Shaolin Soccer) try to extort some money from the residents of a run-down apartment complex known as Pig Sty Alley. Needless to say, their efforts fail miserably. However, they DO cause the real Axe Gang to crack down on the place, causing some of the resident martial artists to reveal themselves in a flurry of fists and kicks. From there on it's an escalating battle of killer kung fu as the residents of Pig Sty try to fight off the criminals and their hired assassins.
I won't go any more into detail, suffice to say that Kung Fu Hustle throws combos of laughs, chills and thrills at you pretty much from beginning to end. KFH isn't rocket science; there are slapsticky bits which work best when watched in a theater, with a whole audience laughing to get you in the fun. There's lots of kung fu with overblown CG work that looks quite awesome, and tons of playful nods to various movies from Spiderman to The Matrix and even The Shining. In the midst of all this, there's a sweet romance story so guys can bring along their dates to watch as well. Parents should take note though- there are a couple of bits which might be a bit too scary for really young kids.
KFH is currently doing the rounds in theaters around the world, to rave reviews. The icing on the cake for me is that KFH is such an Asian-flavored movie through and through, yet a big change of look and feel from the recently serious batch of martial arts features like House of Flying Daggers and Hero. Chow and crew gives us a classic, simple story that's imaginatively and refreshingly told, with a likeable cast that gives great performances (even the non-actors have funny little touches) throughout. Big props to Wah Yuen, one of Hong Kong's most famous comedy actors, and Yuen Qiu, a former Bond Girl, who play the Landlord and Landlady of Pig Sty, and Leung Siu Lung who plays 'The Beast'. Chow himself is in hilarious form as always.
If you love Stephen Chow's past works, you'll be in stitches with this one. Bring your friends, your workmates and see it in a good theater. If you haven't seen Shaolin Soccer or God of Cookery, just have an open mind, think 'anything goes' and just enjoy the show.
Kung Fu Hustle is now showing in theaters in the Metro. Don't wait for the Axe Gang to break down your door- Rustle up your friends and catch it over the weekend.
Addendum: The fight scenes in Kung Fu Hustle were choreographed by Yuen Wo-Ping and Sammo Hung. Well, that explains the Matrix similarities. The Chinese titles for 'Kung Fu Hustle' are 'Gong Fu'/'Kung Fu'.
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