Stephen Chow (director and star of Shaolin Soccer) is at it again with his newest action-packed and comedic martial-arts adventure, Kung Fu Hustle. From wildly imaginative kung fu showdowns to dance sequences featuring tuxedoed mobsters, you've never seen action this outrageous and characters this zany! With jaw-dropping fight sequences by Yuen Wo Ping (famed action choreographer of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and The Matrix), Kung Fu Hustle will blow you away! In a town ruled by the Axe Gang, Sing (Stephen Chow) desperately wants to become a member. He stumbles into a slum ruled by eccentric landlords who turn out to be kung fu masters in disguise. Sing's actions eventually cause the Axe Gang and the slumlords to engage in an explosive kung fu battle. Only one side will win and only one hero will emerge as the greatest kung fu master of all.
If Shaolin Soccer marks an impressive Stephen Chow’s directorial debut then Kung Fu Hustle must be consider as what Titanic is to James Cameron. The man is at the top of his game.
Chow co-wrote, produced and directed this 2004 action comedy and yes turns in a surprisingly toned-down performance as a gangster wannabe, Sing. The plot itself is remarkable simple and yet for the most part, hilarious. Hoping to impress the notorious boss (Chan Kwok Kwan) of the Axe Gang, Sing and his sidekick (Lam Tze Chung) decides to stir up the residents of the Pig Sty Alley not knowing that it’s populated by Kung Fu masters in disguise. There’s the baker (Dong Zhi Hua), an effeminate tailor (Chiu Chi-Ling), a coolie (Xing Yu), the loudmouth landlady (Yuen Qiu) and lecherous landlord (Yuen Wah). Roles that didn’t have much screentime yet Chow manage to successfully craft each and everyone of them with memorable characteristics.
The combination of his love for martial-arts and his brand of mo-lei-tau humour (nonsensical comedy) is obvious right here. The out-of-nowhere silly Wile E. Coyote run will certainly bring the house down. Some of the characters are mainly here for silliness fun notably the 'four eye guy' from Shaolin Soccer who shows up yet again and a repetitive barber character who reveals his butt crack whenever he appears onscreen. As a veteran comedian, Chow knows the importance of comic timing. He himself contributes to the zany humour with a comic skit that requires him to assassinate the landlady. The success of this must have inspired the airplane sequence in the Steve Carell’s comedy Get Smart.
But it’s the Yuen Woo Ping’s action choreography with enhancement from Centro Digital that truly gives new meaning to the word 'Kung Fu'. A reminiscent of those great old Shaw Classics, a sequence involving two blind pugilists with a deadly guzheng is a fantastic scene to behold. Depending on how you see it, there are scenes which can be classified as ultra-violent or cartoony violence, imagine seeing Sing’s face being constantly punched at by The Beast (Leung Siu-Lung) . Chow even pulls of every familiar Kung Fu’s moves including the infamous Buddhist Palm in a finale that will leave you craving for more.
The fusion of comedy and martial-arts with imaginative visual effects propel Kung Fu Hustle into an instant classic. You never would have imagined the 'mo-lei-tau' comedian to pull off such tremendous feat after his career downfall towards the end of the nineties. But he bounced back with triumph anyway. This Blu-ray release is a must for your home entertainment collection and it set a standard few can topple not even Chow himself.
SPECIAL FEATURES :
The extras begin with the Audio Commentary with Cast & Crew – Stephen Chow is joined by Chan Kwok Kwan (Axe Gang leader), Tin Kai Man (Axe Gang advisor) and Lam Tze Chung (Fatty). Recorded in Cantonese, it’s a fun trivial track to follow, nothing too serious to bore you.
There are 4 minutes of Deleted Scenes involving two sequences which were cut from the final version. There’s no commentary given by Stephen Chow so we can safely assume it was cut due to pacing.
Behind-the-Scenes Featurette is those typical promotional featurettes that last almost 40 minutes. Comprising of interviews with Chow, scriptwriters, action choreographer Yuen Woo Ping and the visual effects team etc.
Ric Meyers Interview with Stephen Chow – Ric Meyers for the uninitiated is a respected writer for Asian Cult Cinema magazine who conducts an interview (in English) with Chow who is not really proficient in the language here. They talk about anything under the sun but you can see Chow cleverly avoided Meyers’ prompting as to why Sammo Hung abruptly left the set and was subsequently replaced by Yuen Woo Ping.
A 5 minutes worth of Outtakes and Bloopers and Sony Blu-ray Previews round up the extra features.
Presented in High Definition, Kung Fu Hustle looks near perfect right here but image still look slightly soft and grainy as compared to other Blu-ray titles. The Dolby Digital audio is loud and aggressive. When the landlady screams, remember to cover your ears.
by Linus Tee