Kung Fu Hustle (2004)Dir: Stephen Chow
Starring: Stephen Chow Sing-Chi, Lam Chi-Chung, Yuen Qiu, Yuen Wah, Eva Huang Shengyi, Chan Kwok-Kwan, Tin Kai-Man, Feng Xiaogang, Dong Zhi-Hua, Hsiao Liang, Chiu Chi-Ling, Leung Siu-Lung, Xing Yu, Lam Suet, Zhang Yi-Bai, Yuen Cheung-Yan, Lam Chi-Sin, Wellson Chin Sing-Wai
Tagline: Better than Shaolin Soccer
With Asian films becoming more popular, the term "better than Kill Bill" or "Kill Bill Killer" is going to be worn out before long by reviewers. In this case the only thing you can compare a Stephen Chow movie is another of his movies as they are so different to anything else out there.
This is quite a departure from the type of movies Stephen Chow usually makes. For starters his usual partner in crime, Ng Man-Tat isn't on the cast and it is a lot more dramatic and action-packed. The character Stephen plays isn't even the main focus of the movie for most of it.
It's a really great setting that the movie has. Even though the city is not mentioned specifically, it does bear a passing resemblance to 1920's Shanghai, which was well known for its gangsters. It reminded me a lot of Jackie Chan's Project A movies and also Mr Canton and Lady Rose.
What makes this movie really special are the colourful characters. Even the bad guys in the Axe gang are cool with their stylish top hats and funky dance moves with an axe in hand.
The stand out characters for this movie are the Landlord and Landlady who look after the "pig sty" slum that gets into trouble with the Axe gang after Stephen's character impersonates a gang member. It also turns out that three kung fu masters are living in the slum incognito and they beat up the gang when they arrive.
If you have seen any 'one man challenges the mob' type movies, you will pretty much know the plot. It is done with such energy and enthusiasm it is easy to see why this movie was such a big hit in Hong Kong.
One thing I should warn people about is that this isn't really a family movie like Shaolin Soccer was as it is more violent and bloody (a cat gets cut in half). It is not overdone like in Kill Bill though as there is also a great cartoon type chase where the Landlady goes splat on a sign after running like Speedy Gonzales.
As with his last movie, there is quite a bit of CGI in this movie but it is not used gratuitously. I only counted a couple of bullet-time type effects. One of which was used to show how fast "the Beast" was stopping an actual bullet with two fingers when he fires a revolver at his head on purpose.
This movie does not really have 'laugh out loud' moments of comedy like in his previous movies, but the comedic element is used very effectively throughout the movie. My favourite funny scene was Stephen's character trying to choose slum residents out the crowd who all turn out to be different than they look in the line up.
As this movie has Columbia as a distributor it is going to get a wider release than it usually would. I expect some of the scenes to be cut from the movie though (like the kids pissing on the young-kid version of Stephen's character scene.) Hopefully it is not as bad as the Miramax version of Shaolin Soccer and they resist the urge to use "Kung Fu Fighting" on the soundtrack.
This is sure to be one of the best Asian movies released this year and I would recommend it even if you haven't seen a Stephen Chow movie before.
Some of my favourite scenes: