Kung Fu Hustle movie review, Stephen Chow, Stephen Chow, Chan Kwok Kwok Kwan, Yuen Wah, Yuen Qiu. Review by Jeffrey M. Anderson
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"Kung Fu Hustle"
3.5 stars
(In subtitled Cantonese & Mandarin)
99 minutes | Rated: R
LIMITED: Friday, April 8, 2005
WIDE: Friday, April 22, 2005
Written & directed by Stephen Chow

Starring Stephen Chow, Chan Kwok Kwok Kwan, Yuen Wah, Yuen Qiu, Huang Sheng Yi, Leung Siu Lung, Dong Zhi Hua, Lam Tze Chung, Chiu Chi Ling, Xing Yu, Feng Xiaogang, Tin Kai Man


Kick-butt kung fu always plays well at home.

  Stephen Chow
('04) "Shaolin Soccer"

 LINKS for this film
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'Kung Fu Hustle' is inspired cartoonish chaos destined for the pantheon of uproarious martial arts comedies

 by Jeffrey M. Anderson (Combustible Celluloid)

Last year, Miramax released one of its all-time worst butcher jobs, Stephen Chow's "Shaolin Soccer," three years late, with about 30 minutes of footage removed and the rest sloppily dubbed into English. Most Americans would never know that this curiosity had, at one time, been Hong Kong's highest grossing film.

Now for Chow's follow-up -- which, incidentally, broke "Shaolin Soccer's" box office record -- Sony Pictures Classics has stepped in to give it a proper release. The hugely enjoyable "Kung Fu Hustle" races across the screen in a colorful collage of various styles, from classic kung fu films to silent comedies to Tex Avery and Chuck Jones cartoons.

Set in a dilapidated apartment complex called Pig Sty Alley outside a stylized 1930s Shanghai, the action centers around a small time crook (Chow) who tries to swindle money from the locals by claiming to be a member of the sinister but oh-so-dapper Axe Gang. Two problems arise: these locals aren't so easily fooled and the real Axe Gang turns up, none too pleased about the ruse.

But amusing as it is, this plot is merely an framework upon which Chow hangs an uproarious array of increasingly elaborate fight scenes. Each time a "master" is defeated, an even more powerful one emerges from the sidelines. When we reach our final showdown, it feels like the most extraordinary match ever waged. Each blow sends sprays of rubble flying into the wind. Chow cleverly incorporates comically cheap CGI effects into his fights so that combatants can be blasted miles into the sky, or appear to run like Wile E. Coyote or leap like a frog.

As an actor, Chow emotes very little and lacks the explosive presence of a Jackie Chan or a Jet Li, but his directorial skill more than makes up for it. He gets a terrific, especially animated performance from Yuen Qiu as a chain smoking, curler-wearing landlady who turns out to be yet another kung-fu master.

And the icing on the cake: Two Hong Kong legends, Yuen Wo Ping and Sammo Hung, served as action choreographers, helping place "Kung Fu Hustle" in the pantheon of great martial arts comedies.

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