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"Kung Fu Hustle"

Directed by Stephen Chow.
Written by Tsang Kan Cheong, Xin Huo, Chan Man Keung and Stephen Chow.
Starring Stephen Chow, Qiu Huen, Kwok Kuen Chan and Siu Lung Leung.
Release Year:  2004 
Review Date:  4/25/05


It may look hokey in the trailer, but "Kung Fu Hustle" really is a great time at the movies and is also a film that you definitely have not seen before.

That's because the film is the product of a man that is clearly insane, Stephen Chow; he directed 2003's "Shaolin Soccer" as well, an action/soccer hybrid that apparently worked out quite well.  This time around, Chow plays Sing, a gangster wannabe that tries to join up with the biggest, most dangerous gang in town, the Axe Gang, led by Brother Sum (Kwok Keung Chan).  This Brother's got soul, alright...he dances after he kills off adversaries, but he meets his match when he tries to take over a poor slum called Pig Sty Alley that is run by a crazed Landlady (Qiu Huen).  This Landlady, well...let's just say she's tougher than she looks, and when she starts whoopin' the asses of some of those Axe Gang boys, Sum enlists Sing to get him the world's #1 killer, The Beast (Siu Lung Leung), who is currently languishing in prison.

The plot is whacked out, the scenes just wacky...but, there's cool fighting built into the story arc, enough of which makes "Kung Fu Hustle" actually live up to the "action/comedy" billing that helps it stand out.  Sure, you have some fight scenes where the physics are utterly ridiculous...but, the moves look so good and sound so perfect that it makes watching the film a joy.  Just the comic stylings of the Tailor, who prances like a fairy from place to place and wears red underwear, made me laugh; it's even funnier when this guy goes from 100% softee to 100% badass in the blink of an eye when he helps defend the Alley from the scumbags that are trying to take it over.

The special effects also aid in the farce--the Landlady gets from A to B by running like she's the Road Runner, with spinning feet instead of actual leg motions; characters see their heads literally spin around when they get punched; hitmen throw daggers from played notes of an oversized guitar by never lifting a finger.  Even when things turn violent--decapitations, shotgun blasts and men getting thrown through walls, for example--Chow keeps things fun by never taking a single thing in the film seriously; how else could a set of golden showers be played for laughs?  Or watching a guy die, leading to a scream-to-the-sky moment where a guy has to utter the now-dead guy's name to no one in particular:  "DONUT!!!!!"

Chow does take it too far at times, and I felt like the Sing character's background dragged down the otherwise-fun times had the expense of everyone.  But, in general, "Kung Fu Hustle" shines for what is clearly missing at the movies these days--martial arts films that feature a mix of rousing laughter and good ol' fashioned ass whoopin'.  Here's to hoping that we get a steady stream of these kinds of films and not more freakin' shitty PG-13 horror films.  Ugh.

Rating:  $9.50 Show


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09