Kung Fu Hustle (Gong Fu) (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner22/06/2005

Five out of Five stars
Running time: 95 mins

Extremely entertaining, fast-paced chop-socky action comedy, bursting with wit and invention that’s worthy of Tex Avery – this is easily one of the best films of the year.

Asian writer-director-star Stephen Chow was already a superstar in his own country when he made a splash over here with the action-packed football comedy Shaolin Soccer last year. His experiences with Miramax - who dubbed and recut Soccer, sitting on it for nearly three years - are well-documented, so it’s no surprise to find that Chow has jumped ship to Sony for Kung Fu Hustle.

His reward is a bigger budget and artistic freedom, as well as a subtitled print, while, the only compromise for a Western audience seems to be a drop in the number of incomprehensible Chinese verbal puns that are his trademark.

The Story

The film is set in China in the 1940s and opens with a terrific scene in which the notorious Axe Gang perform a toe-tappingly infectious soft-shoe shuffle before despatching their enemies in an extremely violent manner.

With the Axe Gang introduced, we meet Sing (played by Chow), a small-time con-man who attempts to blackmail the locals of a ghetto known as Pig Sty Alley, by posing as a member of the Axe Gang. However, Sing discovers to his cost that the seemingly helpless locals are in fact more than capable of taking care of themselves and he soon finds himself in the middle of an all-out turf war when the real Axe Gang members show up.

The Acting

The acting is kind of irrelevant, because this is essentially a non-stop barrage of cartoonish action comedy that is breath-takingly hilarious from start to finish. Chow throws every film reference and sight gag he can think of into the mix and it works beautifully, whether it’s sending up the seriousness of something like Gangs of New York (if only Scorsese had allowed Day-Lewis to tap dance!), borrowing conventions from Spaghetti Westerns or conducting foot-chases at Roadrunner-style speeds, complete with blurred legs and cartoon sound-effects.

The Fights

The fights themselves are wonderful; Chow uses a combination of CGI and impressive fight choreography by Matrix Guy Yuen Wo-Ping that pulls out every trick in the book. Chow’s great achievement is that he has found a way to make dodgy-looking CGI effects acceptable by treating them as live-action animation as opposed to trying to make it look “real”.

The Plot

There’s no real plot to speak of – it’s basically just a massive fight from beginning to end. However, there are several amusing “twists” as it becomes apparent that no-one is who they seem and unexpected characters reveal themselves to have supernatural kung fu skillz; the old landlady and her hen-pecked husband in particular are both endearing and extremely funny to watch.

The Conclusion

In short, Kung Fu Hustle is deliriously enjoyable roller-coaster ride of a movie, from which you’re liable to emerge punch-drunk, grinning from ear to ear and demanding to go round again. Highly recommended.

Film Trailer

Kung Fu Hustle (Gong Fu) (15)
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Content updated: 23/10/2017 19:45

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