KUNG FU HUSTLE (GONG FU) (Stephen Chow, 2004)
Writer, director, and star Stephen Chow brings his unique blend of comedy and martial arts to KUNG FU HUSTLE. Chow is featured as the aspiring gangster Sing. He wants to join the vicious, stovepipe hat-wearing Axe Gang, which terrorizes the hapless residents of Pig Sty Alley. Conditions worsen to the point that the kung fu masters secretly living there reveal themselves and fight back.
Part live action cartoon, part love letter to the cinema, KUNG FU HUSTLE is one of a kind. With astonishing results Chow uses well-integrated CGI to manipulate the actors like drawn figures. KUNG FU HUSTLE’S humor benefits from this freedom. A snakebite gives Sing lips swelled to ridiculous proportions. Martial artists defy the laws of gravity and physiology. It’s good, roughhouse fun. Chow also finds creative ways to pay tribute to films classic and recent. Sing and a mute street vendor develop a relationship that recalls Chaplin’s Little Tramp and the blind flower girl in CITY LIGHTS. Martial arts sequences are akin to dance scenes, and Chow mirrors a poster for Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in TOP HAT with a man holding a woman at knifepoint. References to GANGS OF NEW YORK, THE SHINING, and THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS are among Chow’s many other tips of the hat to Hollywood movies. KUNG FU HUSTLE bursts with imagination and energy.
(Review first aired on the April 26, 2005 NOW PLAYING)