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Kung Fu Hustle

Reviewed by: Hyomil
Date: 04/07/2011

Reviewer Score: 1

Reviewed by: cal42
Date: 11/07/2008

Pig Sty Alley is a small rural settlement on the outskirts of 1930’s Shanghai. Insignificant, it is left to its own devices by the crime organisation known as the Axe Gang. That is until hopeless wannabe gangster Sing (Chow) shows up and draws attention to the place. However, the Axe Gang has its work cut out for it when gang boss Sum (Danny Chan) finds out that every inhabitant of Pig Sty Alley is a master martial artist, and to cross the Landlady (Yuen Qiu) is foolish to say the least.

Ever since 1995’s SIXTY MILLION DOLLAR MAN, it has occurred to me that Chow has been increasingly preoccupied with special effects, and KUNG FU HUSTLE was his most overtly effects-driven movie at this point. The whole premise is pretty much a one-joke affair (the town full of supernaturally-endowed fighters) but, even though Chow stretches the material somewhat, the film is entertaining enough for the most part.

The film opens with quite a nasty bit of violence with the Axe Gang wreaking havoc in one part of town and killing without mercy. This tendency to use violence in comedy is typical of Chow, but this is the first time I can recall Chow starting a movie this way. Thankfully, the tone lightens considerably later on, but as usual there’s also some dark touches to the humour all the way through.

Sing is a hapless wannabe gangster trying to prove (mainly to himself) that he’s a ruthless criminal, but his crimes always backfire on him in spectacular ways. In an inspired flashback to his childhood, he is duped by a beggar into buying a kung fu manual promising unbeatable power. He trains, and believes that his Qi is so strong that he can disturb the leaves on the trees (the viewer realises, of course, that it’s just the wind) but this leads to a fierce drubbing that sets up the love interest character played by Huang Sheng-Yi. This sub-plot manages to feel touching, superfluous and darkly tragic by turns and doesn’t really gel with the rest of the story.

Chow has imbued KUNG FU HUSTLE with an assortment of odd, wacky and just plain bizarre characters on both sides of the law. The chain-smoking Landlady (who, I was surprised to learn, was one of the kung fu schoolgirls in Roger Moore’s second Bond outing THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN) and her long-suffering hen-pecked husband (Yuen Wah) take centre stage, but there are all kinds of outlandish figures on the periphery too. “The Beast” (Leung Siu-Lung) is suitably seedy and typical of Chow’s more unsavoury and surreal characters.

The film does turn into a special effects showcase at times, and the section where two guqin players attack the town goes on far too long in my opinion. The humour seems concentrated in certain areas, a bit like the occasionally hilarious KING OF COMEDY rather than Chow’s previous mega hit SHAOLIN SOCCER. The bit where Sing and his rotund sidekick start throwing knives around had me in stitches, as did the part where he calls out members of the town to fight only to find they’re not as puny as he thought. The rousing score, played by a Chinese orchestra, is also worthy of note. It sounds like a lot of the film’s budget went on the music, and it’s rare to hear such aural sumptuousness in a Hong Kong film.

I have to admit that KUNG FU HUSTLE, despite its technological proficiency and fitful hilarity, is not among my favourite Stephen Chow movies. It relies a little too much on special effects setpieces to be a truly great comedy in my opinion. Mind you, I can’t argue with the millions of people around the world who found it the best thing since sliced bread, and a more than worthy successor to SHAOLIN SOCCER. Me, I still prefer his more comedy-orientated films like FORBIDDEN CITY COP and LOVE ON DELIVERY.

Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: Chungking_Cash
Date: 02/28/2007

Watching contemporary Hong Kong films has become something of a chore lately. Once an industry of unequivocal uniqueness has now all but given way to pre-sold bubble gum commodities with a frightening reliance on Western aesthetics. In essence, the industry's more westernized now than it ever was in 199 years of British colonization. Only a handful of entertainers are rising to the challenge of effectively balancing an increasing accessibility to technology (namely CGI) with Hong Kong's once distinct brand of moodiness. "Kung Fu Hustle" is that rare harmonious balance of two distinct but contradictory brands of filmmaking.

Reviewer Score: 8

Reviewed by: pjshimmer
Date: 11/11/2005
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

Reviewed by: Gaijin84
Date: 09/14/2005
Summary: A new high for Stephen Chow...

Kung Fu Hustle is an absolute gem of a movie from the cinematic genius of Stephen Chow. Sing (Chow) and his friend (Lam Tze Chung) decide they can take advantage of the small town folks of Pig Sty Alley by pretending they are members of the feared Axe Gang. Unfortunately, the real gang shows up and much to their surprise are thoroughly whipped by three martial arts masters (Dung Chi Wa, Chu Chi Ling and Xing Yu) who have been living incognito within the community for years. Blaming Sing and his friend for their demise, the Axe Gang threatens to kill them, but instead allow Sing into the gang in order to use him for his lock picking skills. In the meantime, they send two blind Zheng (Chinese lap harp) players to kill the three masters, but again are thwarted when Pig Sty Alley's landlord and landlady (Yuen Wah and Kan Chia Fong) reveal themselves to be masters as well. Not to be beaten, they manage, with Sing's help, to break the #1 assassin (Bruce Leung Siu Lung) out of a psychiatry ward and set him on the two remaining masters. During the battle, Sing comes to realize his true nature and unleashes his skills on the gang and their cohorts.

Although this sounds like a serious movie, it is honestly one of the best combinations of comedy and action I've seen in years. Chow has absolutely perfect comic timing with whoever he shares a scene with and his co-stars handle their roles perfectly. In addition, the action scenes are some of the most exhilarating filmed, especially the one with the Lap Harp assassins. Yuen Wo Ping once again confirms his place as the most innovative and skilled of the choreographers working today. The finale of Sing realizing his potential and his battle with the Beast is everything it should be, with inventive martial arts styles and excellent use of seamless CGI. Chow even manages to evoke a bit of a tear-jerk ending to top it all off. In my opinion, Kung Fu Hustle represents a new pinnacle for Chow in his directorial and acting career.


Reviewer Score: 10

Reviewed by: j.crawford
Date: 08/31/2005

So good. Laugh out loud funny and dropped jaw astonishing all at the same time. I'll call this film simply the best Hong Kong movie of the 21st century [so far]. I think it's safe to say that even if you don't like martial arts films, you will enjoy yourself with this movie.

Reviewer Score: 10

Reviewed by: RLM
Date: 08/04/2005
Summary: Mixed feelings but thumbs up over all...

Stephen Chow's humor is obviously morphing into something more sophisicated while at the same time remaining at the 'over the top' level. Kung Fu Hustle is a prime example. It is a very slickly crafted and edited 'old school' martial arts story blended with Stephen's unique humor. This humor can be difficult to take in at times, such as the ultra-violent opening scene that mingles a Michael Jackson gangster style dance number with violence (including women). It is definitely a sight to behold! We do cheer and fret for the heros in the film and all who watched the film with me were completely satisfied with the ending. The martial arts combine a serious dose of Matrix like CGI, bone crushing hand to hand fighting and even a wink and a nod to Deadful Melody! I, for one, was glad not to have to sit through watching yet another 'martial arts training' montage. Stephen's transition from thug wanna be to master was faster and more uneventful than a Wendy's drive thru order. The story line of the movie - ruthless gansters taking over a slum - and running afowl of retired kung fu masters was really quite fun to watch as was the comeuppance meated out to the gangsters (and the main villian - the Beast). Consistent with other reviewers, I too thought the love story to be under developed. However, when it was the focus of the movie, it worked well.
Rating - 8/10

Reviewer Score: 8

Reviewed by: evirei
Date: 07/25/2005

Stephen Chow is also being known as the King of Comedy in Hong Kong. Everyone loves his jokes. His comedy movies has been selling like hot cakes. In every DVD shop, you could see a special sections just for his movies.

After his success in Shaolin Soccer, Chow continues on with Kung Fu Hustle. As a person who admires Bruce Lee... is no wonder both his movies were so much into Kung Fu.

From the start of the movie till the end of it is simply entertaining. The CGI's are done quite good to achieve the effects needed for the movie. However the storyline and character's introduction are not well developed compared to Shaolin Soccer.

Many might not agree but I find Chow's old movies more entertaining and funny.. compare to these new ones. I could watch his old movies over and over again and still find it funny... but Kung Fu Hustle seems to lost it's funny sense the second time I watched it.

But well... what can I say... it's still a good movie after all.

Rating 9 out of 10

Reviewer Score: 9

Reviewed by: mrblue
Date: 03/23/2005

There are a select number of stars in Hong Kong that can afford to wait three years to make a movie, and Stephen Chow seems to be one of the lucky few. After the runaway success of Shaolin Soccer, Chow took an eternity (at least relative to the blitzkrieg-paced world of Hong Kong films, where proudctions often just take weeks, if not days, to finish) to come up with his latest picture, Kung Fu Hustle. The wait seems to have paid off. In an industry where more and more pictures seem to be cranked out to make a quick buck, Kung Fu Hustle is one of the increasingly rare efforts that manages to be highly entertaining and smartly constructed, something that both film aficiandos and those just looking for some laughs will enjoy.

The film takes place in 1930's Shanghai. A vicious group known as the Axe Gang (led by Chan Kwok-Kwan, the "Bruce Lee" goalie from Shaolin Soccer) has taken over the city, but leaves the poorer areas, such as a tenement called "Pig Sty Alley" alone. Seeing an opportunity, a couple of bumbling con artists (Stephen Chow along with Lam Tze-Chung, who takes Ng Man-Tat's place this time out as Chow's sidekick) come into Pig Sty Alley posing as members of the Axe Gang, thinking the poor residents will be an easy score. However, some of the residents (including the landlords, played by Yuen Qiu and Yuen Wah) have great kung fu skill and basically beat the crap out of the duo.

As Chow is leaving town, a chance meeting with one of the top members of the Axe Gang (portrayed by Lam Suet, who seems to be fufuilling his yearly quota for cameos at a breakneck pace, but is still very entertaining) prompts them to attck Pig Sty Alley, which turns disastrous as they feel the wrath from the unlikely heroes. The ass-whipping prompts the Axe Gang to bring in a series of assassins (including Leung Siu-Lung, who plays a killer known as "The Beast", a top hitman who has the unfortunate habit of wearing pink flip-flops) to try and break the residents' collective will. As the attacks continue, Chow must decide whether to keep up his charade or help out the people he has grown to admire.

Kung Fu Hustle, from start to finish, is simply one of the most entertaining movie this reviewer has seen in quite some time. That might not seem like too much given Hong Kong's fairly anemic output as of late, but this is one of those movies that you almost wnat to re-wach it right after it's done. However, as with many of Stephen Chow's other films, he does go all over the map and a bit overboard in parts -- most notably here with a subplot involving a childhood love (played in her adult form by Huang Sheng-Yi) that ultimately doesn't really go anywhere. There's also a Looney Tunes-inspired chase that goes over the top with CGI, the use of which is actually handled well during the fight scenes. There's a lot of computer trickery, but at its' core, there is an understanding and respect of kung fu that makes the action scenes simply outstanding. Yuen Woo-Ping (and Sammo Hung in the early days of Kung Fu Hustle's production) laid a solid foundation, and the actors make the action scenes feel like something whole, unlike the empty shells of half-ass execution we see too often nowadays.

Speaking of the actors, Stephen Chow's past few movies have been moving more from being star-driven vehicles (where he is the focus) to films that emphasisize strong ensembles. In a movie where he is the star, director, writer and producer, Chow actually has relatively little screen time -- but there's nothing wrong with that in my opinion. The characters here are so interesting, that we really don't need to have Chow in every scene to keep the viewer's interest. In a day and age when many aging actors from all over the world try to cling onto scraps of their youth by putting themselves into vanity projects, Stephen Chow seems to be moving more into becoming a true director, making sure those around him look as well as he does. Even though it contins the requisite movie parodies, Cantonese puns and toliet humor, Kung Fu Hustle feels unlike most every previous effort Stephen Chow has put out and is something which marks a new standard for Hong Kong movies to follow.

Thankfully, Kung Fu Hustle was a winner at the box office as well. In a year where most of the local product failed to impress audiences, Hong Kongers made Kung Fu Hustle the top-grossing domestically-produced film of all time, putting the previous champ Shaolin Soccer down a notch. This, in my opinion, at least dispels some of the word going around that Hong Kong cinema is dead. It's not dead; it's just that audiences (both in Hong Kong and internationally) have wisened up and will no longer plunk down cash for just any movie featuring a big star or nifty special effects. Believe me, if Kung Fu Hustle was bad in any way, shape, or form, you would have heard that by now. I'm probably preaching to the choir here, but if you're a fan of Stephen Chow, kung fu flicks, Hong Kong movies, or just good comedy, you owe it to yourself to check out Kung Fu Hustle.

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Reviewed by: pjshimmer
Date: 03/21/2005
Summary: Best of 2004

At a time when HK films rarely deliver, Stephen Chow's "Kung Fu Hustle" wraps up the year nicely with solid entertainment. What a fine accomplishment from HK's greatest asset! This polished film embodies the highest level of maturity that Chow has accumulated over the years as filmmaker. Gong Fu, along with Wong Kar Wai's "2046," are the best showcases of HK cinema in the year 2004.

There have been some criticism regarding the underdeveloped romance here. Yes, it's unusually short for Stephen Chow, and it's sweet and deeply moving (if you are sentimental like I am). Even the short romantic scenes are so well crafted that I have zero beef with this delightful film.


Reviewed by: hoppingghost
Date: 03/10/2005
Summary: A funny Kick In the Ass....

I loved this "makes no sense film". I am a Chow fan ever since I saw "Forbidden City Cop" Years ago. The film is a great combo of fun cgi, comedy, and action. I love the knife scene alot, Hilarious. I hope this film does great in the US and does not get the runaround that Shaolin Soccer did. This films a gas ........LOL

Reviewed by: Sydneyguy
Date: 03/06/2005
Summary: Agree with MR Booth

There is nothing more i can add as MR Booth has said it all. I agree with everything he is said.


Reviewer Score: 8

Reviewed by: MrBooth
Date: 02/25/2005
Summary: 8/10

I really enjoyed the film - kind of like a love song to kung fu films - but I do agree with some of the criticisms that have been levelled at it. Stephen Chow's character and the "love interest" are very underdeveloped characters - to the point that I wonder if removing them from the film altogether might have been a better plan. Stephen's sudden metamorphosis into "the one" has pretty much no emotional impact because a) he doesn't have to train for it, the staple of 90% of kung fu films and b) you've never been in a situation during the film where you really want him to turn into a kick-ass hero. Also, I think there was too much reliance on CGI... some of it was used well, to create things that couldn't possibly have done otherwise, but in other places it was just used for effects that they've been doing through good old wires & exploding props for 40 years... and the CGI looked less impressive.

I don't think the film is as good as Shaolin Soccer, but it's still a fine film. I'm curious how it will do in the US when Columbia Tristar release it... it seems like it has much less crossover appeal than Shaolin Soccer, since it's so intimately bound up with the tradition and history of HK martial arts films without the globally familiar soccer angle to slide the kung fu in...

I hope it does well though :)

Very nice soundtrack from Raymond Wong btw!

Reviewer Score: 8

Reviewed by: danton
Date: 09/15/2004

After the success of Shaolin Soccer, expectations for Stephen Chow's newest film with the somewhat unfortunate English title Kung Fu Hustle were skyhigh. Judging by the enthusiastic audience reaction during the film's World Premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, the film more than delivers on those expectations and might well surpass the commercial success of its predecessor.

Building on the CG-heavy special effects magic first seen in SS while also looking back towards the kind of storylines typical for the heyday of the martial arts movie genre during the sixties and seventies, Chow successfully combines the familiar plot formula with modern day computer FX and his own unique brand of irreverent homour.

Set in the early 20th century in an unnamed Chinese city that looks very much like Shanghai in the 1930s, the movie clearly offers great production values and a high budget, featuring great detailed set and costume designs, beautiful old cars, scores of extras, and gorgeous women dressed in lovely qipaos. The main villains are a ruthless bunch of gangsters called the Axe Gang. They start terrorizing the tenants of a slum apartment building, only to be thwarted at first by 3 Kung Fu masters living amidst the colorful characters that inhabit the building (played by an assortment of Stephen Chow regulars). Several great fight scenes occur, the Axe Gang recruits two master assassins to help in the struggle and the good guys prevail only through the help of the apartment building's landlady and her husband (played by Yuen Wah).

Stephen Chow is almost a side character in all of this. His first appearance in the movie doesn't occur for at least 10 minutes, and even then he seems more like a funny sideshow to the main storyline. Only in the second half does he begin to establish his character more prominently, when he first joins the Axe Gang, and then eventually rescues the "Fat Lady" and her husband from "The Beast" and undergoes a miraculous metamorphosis that prepares him for the final, over the top showdown.

This plot summariziation doesn't really do the film justice. There's certainly big holes in the storyline, and some characters (especially the mute street vendor who plays the love interest) are seriously underdeveloped. But first and foremost, the movie is so chockful of sightgags, physical humour, funny FX, clever lines and great action setpieces that everything just whizzes by at breakneck speed.

The film skewers everything from The Matrix films to Jin Yong novels, and intersperses all this with cleaver inside jokes and references to Chows previous films. Whenever the movie arrives at a familiar kung fu movie cliche, the film immediately breaks into parody. For example, after having joined in battle, the 3 masters exchange respectful greetings of mutual admiration, only to have one of them immediately fall of a staircase. Chow has parodied the Kung Fu genre in many of his previous films (e.g. the Jin Yong adaptation Royal Tramp 1/2, or King of Beggars), but here he does it while at the same time offering new and innovative ways of visually staging the fights. Taking the type of CG FX he first deployed in Shaolin Soccer, and adding new levels of technical sophistication, he creates a dazzling mix of actual physical stunt work and digital enhancements. The action choreography by Yuen Woo Ping and Sammo Hung may not be that impressive by old-school standards, but it blends perfectly with the digital action. I was never a fan of the type of CG FX first seen in StormRiders (and taken to almost absurd levels by Tsui Hark in Legend of Zu), because the FX themselves became the focus. Chow doesn't fall into that trap - the human body in action remains the centrepiece of his fight scenes, and the CG FX merely add to the palette of what can be done to those bodies. In that sense, the action choreography is not unlike the Matrix trilogy (movies that are frequently quoted and made fun of, from the Axe Gang's apparel that makes them appear like Agents in the Matrix, to Chow's final transformation onto "The One), except that here the emphasis is on humour, and on using digitized actors only for humanly impossible stunts rather than throughout a whole fight.

There's lots of really funny characters and sight gags in the film, but the "Fat Lady" steals the show. She is hilarious, and has some of the greatest laughs in the movie. She is played by an actress whose name I didn't catch (Yuen something), but who was introduced as the Elder Sister of the Seven Fortunes. She was present during the screening (along with the young actress playing the love interest) and appeared quite charming in real life.

Notably absent is Ng Man Tat, but other than that, most of the actors that have appeared as side characters in recent films are present. The one drawback might be the underwritten love angle and subsequent absence of a deeper emotional core in the film, but I would consider that a minor flaw that doesn't take away from the overall enjoyment of the movie.

I don't want to spoil any of the great gags, but let me emphasize again: this film is a riot. It was screened to a packed house, and the audience broke into spontaneous applause multiple times during the film, and gave it a rousing ovation at the end.

Reviewed by: senordingdong
Date: 09/15/2004
Summary: Chow Sing Chi does it again!

I just saw this last night at the Toronto International Film Festival and it was well worth the ticket price to see it. The completely over the top fight sequences, enhanced by CG, are both action packed and comical at the same time, much like what was seen in Shaolin Soccer. Also in this film are some of the cartoony antics that were seen in The Sixty Million Dollar Man, including a Roadrunner-like chase sequence. The only thing that seemed tacked on was the childhood love story. I wish that there was a bit more screen time devoted to their story as adults. Overall Stephen Chow fans will definetly not be disappointed.

Reviewer Score: 8