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Kung Fu Hustle (Gungfu) (15)



Review by: Jack Foley | Rating: Two

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Cast and crew commentary. Deleted scenes. Behind the scenes. Director interview. Outtakes and bloopers. Photo gallery. TV spots.

I DOUBT that anything can prepare you for the madcap extravaganza that is Stephen Chow's Kung Fu Hustle.

Part martial arts movie, part Spaghetti western homage and part Tom & Jerry-style cartoon tomfoolery, this Far Eastern record-breaker is a giddy, goofy, eyeball-popping treat that's certain to bring the house down.

Chow is, of course, the heir apparent to Jackie Chan's martial arts comedy throne, having cut his teeth on films like Shaolin Soccer.

With Kung Fu Hustle, however, he ups the ante considerably, turning in a breathtaking movie that marks a personal tour-de-force.

Not only does Chow direct and star, but he also writes and produces - and the effect is likely to leave your mind in a spin.

Set in 1930s China, the film focuses on smalltime bandit, Sing, as he attempts to make a bigger reputation for himself as a member of notorious gangsters, The Axe Gang.

Far from doing himself any favours, however, his ineptitude kicks off a war between the Axe Gang and the inhabitants of Pig Sty Alley, a run-down shanty town that provides a surprising home to some kung-fu legends.

Where films such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and House of Flying Daggers offered high-brow entertainment with mainstream appeal, Kung Fu Hustle is pure popcorn fodder; a film so shamelessly insane that you just have to give in to its craziness.

Chow isn't really interested in intricate plots or strong characterisation, preferring instead to leap from one madcap scenario to the next, and borrowing heavily from just about every movie medium that's influenced him in the process.

Hence, expect wildly over-the-top martial arts sequences that take the proverbial out of films such as The Matrix (despite being choreographed by the same man, Yuen Wo Ping); as well as sharp bursts of Tex Avery style visual humour that punctuate some Tarantino-style violence.

Joining in the fun is a cast that has been lovingly put together by Chow to represent a veritable who's who of martial arts movies, including former Bond girl, Yuen Qiu, as a hard-as-nails landlady, and Leung Siu Lung, as The Beast, the most legendary of Chow's on-screen fight opponents (who was known as one of the 'three dragons' of the 1970s along with Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan).

Where Chow goes from here is anyone's guess, but Kung Fu Hustle is one of the most audacious romps you are likely to see all year; a visually stunning, tongue-in-cheek rollercoaster ride that is guaranteed to leave you breathlessly crying out for more.

Read our interview with Stephen Chow

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