Kung Fu Hustle (2004)
Reviewed by: pjshimmer on 2005-11-11
Summary: Falling in love with HK cinema, all over again
Stephen Chow Sing Chi's Kung Fu Hustle is probably the most satisfying film-going experience that many Hong Kong film enthusiasts have dreamed for. Some viewers may attribute KF Hustle's greatness to Hong Kong film industry's lack of quality production in recent years, thus enabling KF Hustle to shine through. I don't see it this way. I believe the film's success owes all to its own merits.

I grew up watching Hong Kong (HK) movies. When I was a kid, I cherished what I saw on the screen--being a child was great, and HK cinema was larger than life to me. As I entered adolescence, I lost most of what I cherished: action sequences that took my breath away started looking cheesy compared to the latest blockbuster; revered performances started to pale as they were mimicked. As I understood more about life and how movies were made, I never saw movies the same way again; I became more critical, and I thought the joy of becoming one with the movie would be lost forever.

Yet I rediscovered this joy in Kung Fu Hustle, perhaps for the first time since childhood. Why is KF Hustle able to deliver the joy of pure entertainment to a broad range of audiences, from innocent kids to mature grown-ups? That is to say, how could watching KF Hustle enable an adult such as myself to take a trip back to childhood, remembering what it was like to truly cherish a film? I believe this is the result of several important elements employed by the film: firstly, Stephen Chow in making a film in the new millennium has not forgotten the old ways. The scenes in Pig Sty Alley employ a background score reminiscent to those in traditional martial arts films from decades before. In addition, Chow selects several classic kung fu actors as homage to the golden days of the genre (including Bruce Liang {Beast}--one of several Bruce Lee clones in the 70s who is perhaps most remembered for his roles in Fist of Fury and Legendary Fok TV series, and long-time sidekick Yuen Wah {Landlord}). These slick blasts from the past strike a chord with older audiences while still managing to be refreshing to the young.

Another element that makes this movie such a tour-de-force is the transcendence above genre conventions. KF Hustle embodies the quality of a martial arts feature, a comedy, an action flick, and occasionally borderlines a sci-fi/fantasy/special effects extravaganza. KF Hustle is ALL of this and NONE of it. What it is is nonstop exciting and unpredictable entertainment the whole way through, never letting audience involvement slip. When there's action, you never want to blink for a second; when the action isn't on, there is always comedy, suspense, or complex drama to keep us involved.

In my book, Stephen Chow in crafting Kung Fu Hustle has reached the peak of perfection in film-making. In the ride, I was able to suspend my belief and FEEL Chow's magical world, the same way I entered the universe of my fondest childhood films without critiquing little details, and that is just what we need sometimes.

Reviewer Score: 10