Harry here, and now I've got it real bad, this film can not get here soon enough, listen to Copernicus sing its praises... this sounds great! Here ya go...
KUNG FU HUSTLE
It is screenings like this that make being in Toronto for the festival one of the most wonderful things in the world. Thirteen hundred rabid kung fu fans packed in a theater for the world premiere of Stephen Chow's Kung Fu Hustle. And it blew away our expectations. It features awesome Yuen Wo-Ping choreographed fights, a gorgeous look, and most importantly a completely unrestrained energy that makes it both hilarious and original.
Let me explain my Badass-Induced Giddiness theory. What is more beloved in cinema than the supreme ass-kicking badass? They are forces of nature, practically impossible to beat, and when they clear a room you just want to stand up and say "Hell Yeah!" At the end of the Matrix, when Neo just holds up his hand you just get this tingling all over. And that is only the first stirrings of the giddiness.
Of course this is what the kung fu genre is all about. The student or master meets a roomful of guys, or better yet, another supreme master, and it's ass-whooping ballet time. He pulls out some move that makes you crap your pants and then you look at your buddy in disbelief and issue a chain of expletives to celebrate the achievement. The Matrix and Crouching Tiger took the badass from kung fu movies, augmented the classic wire work with computer technology and large budgets, and raised the bar. They raised the poswer level but they couldn't play up the giddiness factor much because they were trying to be serious. But what if you just used the technology to take things totally over the top and played up that moment when you just bust out laughing at how monstrously good the hero or villain is? That is exactly what Kung Fu Hustle does to cackle-inducing effect. Just when you think you've seen the ultimate boss badass, here comes another even better. And another, and another, and so on to the point of complete, glorious absurdity. When you then mix in a cast with a great sense of comic timing, bring-the-house-down one liners, and some inspired physical gags, you get the funniest movie I have seen all year.
Even the setup for the movie brings a smile to your face. Chow plays a would-be, but inept bad guy who starts a war between tuxedo-wearing, dancing gangsters called the Axe gang, and the indigent residents of a housing project who all seem to know kung fu. It seems that in this universe the more unlikely the look of the person, the better they are at ass-kicking. The paunchy, middle-aged men and fat landlady of the project dish out a seemingly never-ending array of smackdowns - a gag that never gets old no matter how many times it recurs.
Chow is celebrating all the old-time kung fu classics, like Shaw Brothers movies from the 70s. But references have come full circle now. Chow pays homage to modern geek obsessions like Quentin Tarantino movies, and the Matrix, which were already referencing classic Shaw Brothers movies! Even unexpected references like Spider-Man and Loony Tunes crop up for scene-stealing cameos.
If you are any kind of kung fu fan at all you should be absolutely thrilled with Kung Fu hustle. Who knows, it may even bust out of its genre movie roots and attain true crossover status.
then Yin has this look...
Hey there Harry I wrote a more thorough review of the world premiere of Kung Fu Hustle. I hope you enjoy.
The story begins somewhere in early 20th century China just when the western influence was making its way around. A notorious group of thugs known as the Axe Gang led by the Jack Sparrow-ish "Brother Sum" bullies it's way into power as the police force and other gangs succumb under their mightyness. They have control over all except for the poor villages which they never cared enough to invade.
In comes Ah SING (Stephen Chow) and his chubby sidekick (Lam Ji Chung), two wannabe kung fu artists who make a living boasting about their claims of being in the Axe gang. However these false claims are quickly revealed as the tandem tried to hustle their way into a free haircut. The villagers of the Pig Sty village whom Ah Sing was trying to fool come to stand up against the two imposters. Not wanting to admit his lies, Ah Sing continues the charade and threatens to call reinforcements. Moments later to the surprise of everyone, the real Axe gang shows up at the village.
The sets were huge and wonderful, the Pig Sty Village created the perfect atmostphere for most of the film and the others were just as elaborate and interesting. This was another one of those clear examples of an increased budget. Despite all the money, fans will not have to worry, because this film is still very much a Stephen Chow film. His usual staphes are all here, the funny dance sequences, the parodies (The Matrix, Condor Heroes...many of the non-chinese audience didn't get the whole frog joke which is a parody of a character in Gum Yuong novels), and of course a great and always memorable cast of quirky characters. The performances were across the board amazing, from the minor characters who get no more than 5 minutes of screen time to the major support characters like the Axe gang leader, everyone delivers at one point in the movie.
With so many gags being thrown left and right you might wonder about the pacing of the film. Unlike the many horrible throwaway HK slapstick comedies (which were initially inspired by Chow), every joke whether simple or elaborate works towards furthering the plot. The ongoing barrage of jokes never seem like too much because they work within the context of the story. The audience never feels alienated nor do they ever feel overloaded. The movie progresses in a very engaging manner.
Surprisingly, the laughter was only half of the movie. Not only does Stephen deliver all the funnies, he does a superb job in making a Kung Fu flick. Much to the credit of Yuen Wo Ping and Sammo Hung, the fights scenes can easily hold up against other classic Kung Fu movie. But what's going to seperate this film from the pack, is the special effects. The Matrix comes to mind here and as mentioned before, Chow does some parodies, but the action scenes here are truly original. The CG is used to enhance the folklore aspects of Kung Fu, like Chi Gong and the shooting of internal energy. Similar to the projectile effects seen in Shaolin soccer. Very chique stuff.
There were also a lot of gag scenes that made use of the special effects giving the jokes a very cartoonish flavor. You would see poeple running off like the Road Runner or have punches bounce off like rubber. All in good taste though, it works well.
There were a few negatives about the film, in particular Eva's character who is severly underdeveloped, to a point where she almost seems unnecessary. But to her credit, given the time available she played a fairly convincing part. On the whole, the movie was spetacular, I didn't mind at all paying the $18 (CND) to see this film. Stephen Chow ventured into unchartered territory and successfully crafted a wonderfully entertaining movie. Thanks to Sony Classics, you won't have to wait several years to watch a heavily butchered version of the film. Expect it in North American theatres next year.
If you happen to use this long ass review, you can direct the people who want an even longer ass entry at our movieblog : SonicSplendor