Film: Kung Fu Hustle (2004)
Director: Stephen Chow
Kung Fu Hustle is an eastern delicacy produced by Paramount Pictures (Asia). The action packed film was highly anticipated after the same writer and director, Stephen Chow, released the surprisingly successful Shaolin Soccer (2001). Kung Fu Hustle was estimated to have cost $20 million and the fairly high budget is reflected in the quality of the film. I say this of course as the film offers martial arts scenes that Bruce Lee himself would have imagined for future films as well as offering glorious cinematography and CGI that would give The Matrix a run for its money.
The director and writer himself Stephen Chow plays our action packed hero Sing. From rags to riches (then back to rags due to an intense final show down with the villain), Good to bad and thief to legend Chow portrays the main character gracefully as his character engulfs the ethos of ancient Chinese folklore perfectly. His evil counterpart, the hideously infamous Beast is characterized by Siu-Lung Leung and bought into play by the ruthless Axe Gang leader Feng Xiao Gang. Sing’s beacons of light are husband and wife duo Wah Yuen (The Landlord) and Qiu Yuen (The Landlady). Both happen to be Kung-Fu experts and the inspiration of Sing’s rise to glory as the ‘chosen one’. The crew of course must get a shout out, cinematography was left in the capable hands of Hang-Sang Poon and all visual effects were under the super vision of Frankie Chung. A big thank you to these unsung heroes as without them the film may not have reached its high standards.
Set in rural 1940’s Shanghai, the Axe Gang are the true rulers of the city. The ruthless occupiers are above the law, encouraging violence and terror if it were to benefit them, only the poorest of communities that would not profit their cause are left alone. Simultaneously, Sing and his right hand man Bone (Chi Chung Lam) try to attack a poor pig farming community claiming they are a part of the infamous Axe Gang. Once the community refuses to yield to their hollow threats the real Axe Gang show up and commence their reign of terror, however, the plot from this point certainly packs a punch. Members of the community, notably the tailor, local builder, errand boy and the Lord and Landlady turn out to be Kung-Fu experts trained in many different Kung-Fu schools. Humiliated, the Axe Gang flees seeking help from the evil Beast locked away in a mental institute as he is the only person skilled enough to battle the Lord and Landlady. Sing offers to bust The Beast out and in return is offered a place in the Gang. Once the Beast and the loved up duo meet to face battle Sing is faced with a choice, kill the combat duo and secure a high profile position in the gang or alternatively save the couple but subsequently be prepared to be beaten to an inch of his life……well he does make the right decision and yes, his face is surely the Beast’s new punching bag. However, once again the plot thickens. His beating and his path to purity unleashes his true potential which is his Kung-Fu technique. An old school show down is due right back where the story began, the poor pig farming community. After finishing off the entire body of the Axe Gang Sing must battle the beast and whilst doing so masters the lost art of ‘the Buddhist Palm’, an ancient fighting form that was thought to be extinct. The Beast admits he is obsolete in comparison to Sing and becomes his apprentice. Sing retires from fighting and opens up a candy shop where he rekindles his love for a deaf girl who he has known since his school days. The film ends with a tramp offering ‘do it yourself’ Kung Fu books, the same tramp offered the same books to Sing when he was a boy symbolizing that there is no chosen one but true strength is within anyone.
What can I say except WOW! A true mixture of traditional and modern Kung Fu is positively shoved in the audiences face, and as an avid Kung-Fu lover I cannot get enough of it! Throughout the film there are references to ancient Kung Fu techniques which I feel connects the audience to the spiritual side of the martial art. However, without getting too sappy there is also the kick- ass Kung-Fu that explodes off the screen with the assistance of CGI (computer generated images). The action is not just physical but is in the form of ghosts and instruments that are based on Chinese legends which are brought to life gloriously in the film. My favourite scene is of course the face off at the end, never have I seen such a dramatised piece of Kung-Fu cinema that is worth a full rewind once finished.
After listening to the story line, getting to know the characters and examining the Kung-Fu I can truly say this is my favorite Kung-Fu movie. Chow has left nothing out as the use of comedy, love; drama and action are all rolled into a ball that is Kung-Fu Hustle. The film slows down in the right places to give the audience a small breather to take in the story line but does not lose focus of the point…..first class Kung-Fu. To end I would recommend the film to anyone that was interested in the genre and ensure that one goes to the toilet before because you would certainly Kung Fu yourself if you had to miss this beauty.
This film surpassed ‘Shaolin Soccer’ in February 2005 to become the highest grossing Hong Kong-made movie in Hong Kong.
As of 2005, this film has the widest cinematic release in the USA of a foreign language film.
When the landlady is seated between the Boss and his assistant, she faces the boss, and mimics the gestures Bruce Lee used while also facing a crime boss in ‘Return of the Dragon. She wags her finger at him, then closes both fists, then just the right (while knuckles cracking can be heard), she jerks her head up, the boss nods as he understands, then she thumbs, exactly like Bruce Lee.
Film Rating 9/10