Movie Reviews by Jonathan Harvey
and Neils Hesse
Starring: Stephen Chow, Yuen Wah, Leung Siu Lung, Dong Zhi Hua, Chiu Chi Ling
Director: Stephen Chow
Review by Jonathan Harvey
KUNG FU HUSTLE is the latest zany action comedy from Stephen Chow, the ingenious Hong Kong filmmaker who last year brought us the superbly wacky SHAOLIN SOCCER.
It sees Chow (who also wrote and directed the movie) star as Sing, a petty criminal haunted by the childhood memory of being conned into buying a pamphlet on how to be a martial arts master. Now Sing only has ambitions of joining the infamous, and surprisingly twinkle-toed, mobsters The Axe Gang, who want control of Pig Sty Alley, the last neighbourhood not yet under their control. It’s a run-down and ridiculous place, run by an old landlord (veteran actor Yuen Wah) who himself is under the thumb of his frighteningly domineering wife (played superbly by Yuen Qiu). When it emerges that three old, retired kung fu masters are living in the alley, a fierce battle for control with The Axe Gang ensues.
The whole film is laced with a cheeky slapstick tone that’s a joy to watch, topped off with spectacular effects thanks to fight choreography by the legendary Yuen Wo Ping and some wonderfully cartoonish CGI and sound effects – in a scene of carnage reminiscent of KILL BILL VOL 1 a single fighter takes on a huge mob of suited goons, who end up flying in all directions to the sounds of a pinball machine. At the same time, Chow proves himself again to be not only a fine martial arts star but also a masterful judge of story, able to build bizarre and surreal worlds populated by believable and endearing characters.
The overall effect is one of ‘Bruce Lee meets a Loony Tunes cartoon’, not the most obvious mix, perhaps, but one that works hilariously in another piece of madcap brilliance from one of cinema’s hottest comic talents.
Review by Neils Hesse
Canton China, somewhere in the 1940s, two wannabe gangsters, Sing (Stephen Chow) and his sidekick (Lam Tze Chung) spark a brutal retaliation by the top gang aptly named the Axe Gang against those living in a small settlement that turns into an all out kung fu battle. Some of the seemingly unassuming residents turn out to be kung fu masters of the highest level possible and so in order to save face the Axe Gang call in professional kung fu assassins to get rid of them.
The first two assassins manage to kill three of the kung fu masters but are defeated by two legendary masters called Landlord (Yuen Wah) and Landlady (Yuen Qiu). The Axe Gang then call in the most brutal kung fu master of all time a ferocious man called The Beast (Leung Siu Lung), but just as Landlord and Landlady are about to be crushed by The Beast the supposedly helpless Sing steps into to save them. Just how he does this though you will have to see for yourself!
With wonderfully basic ideas, great slapstick comedy but above all fantastic fight scenes Stephen Chow delivers a masterpiece. He not only directs this energetic mix of gangster/comedy/romance and brutally efficient kung fu but also delivers an excellent and talented performance as the helpless wannabe gangster, convincingly portraying the evolution of his character from a vulnerable nobody to the ultimate one.
In addition the outstanding fight sequences have been choreographed by the legendary action choreographer Yuen Wo Ping renowned for his work on CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON, THE MATRIX trilogy and KILL BILL I & II.
Don’t miss this excellent movie packed with action and thoroughly entertaining – there’s something here for everyone.