Preview by: Jack Foley
STEPHEN Chow has become Asia's biggest comedy director and star
following the success of movies like Shaolin Soccer.
His latest, an insane mix of martial arts mayhem and fantasy-comedy,
is called Kung Fu Hustle and such is its unique mix of comedy,
heart-pounding action, astonishing kung fu choreography and state-of-the-art
CGI effects, that it has quickly smashed box office records in
a number of countries.
It opens in UK cinemas on June 10 and has already gone down a
storm in America, where critics have been raving.
The film is set amid the chaos of pre-revolutionary China, during
which time a small-time thief, Sing (Chow), aspires to be one
of the sophisticated and ruthless Axe Gang whose underworld activities
overshadow the city.
Stumbling across a crowded apartment complex aptly known as
'Pig Sty Alley', Sing attempts to extort money from one of the
ordinary locals, but the neighbours are not what they appear.
Sing's comical attempts at intimidation inadvertently attract
the Axe Gang into the fray, setting off a chain of events that
brings the two disparate worlds face-to-face.
As the inhabitants of the Pig Sty fight for their lives, the
ensuing clash of kung fu titans unearths some legendary martial
arts Masters. Sing, despite his futile attempts, lacks the soul
of a killer, and must face his own mortality in order to discover
the true nature of the kung fu master.
The film that results pays homage to everything from Bruce Lee
to The Matrix and House of Flying Daggers without ever feeling
as though it is taking the proverbial.
It's nuts, for sure, but taken in the right way is sure to be
the most wildly inventive film in its genre you're likely to see
Critics in the States went mad for Kung Fu Hustle when it opened
at the beginning of April.
The Hollywood Reporter, for instance, wrote:
"With a delirious mix of the sublime and the silly, Hong
Kong comedy king Stephen Chow Sing-chi has taken the kung fu comedy
genre to new heights of chop-socky hilarity."
While Rolling Stone opined: "Does the plot
spin out of control? You bet. But dumb fun this smart is a gift."
Efilmcritic.com sums it up well by noting: "Imagine
a movie in which Wile E. Coyote, Jackie Chan and The Three Stooges
share top billing. That's Kung Fu Hustle."
And Film Journal International stated that it
is 'a technically expert and visually seductive tour de force
from someone who is very likely the funniest man in Asia'.
Of the negatives, Variety wrote that it is 'a
chop-socky on f/x steroids that's devoid of genuine inspiration
or involving character development'.
And Compuserve described it as 'derivative,
repetitive, and over the top to the point of weariness'.
But such comments were generally in the minority, with Entertainment
Weekly stating that 'Chow, perhaps the first action star
and filmmaker to be as influenced by classic cartoons as by the
karate-chop balletics of human movement, directs like a gonzo
fusion of Tarantino and Tex Avery'.
And the New York Times opined that 'Stephen
Chow's kinetic, exhausting, relentlessly entertaining film throws
scraps of a half-century of international pop culture into a fast-whirling
Reelviews, meanwhile, wrote that 'viewers will
discover that the film has something to offer nearly everyone,
whether they are a novice or a black belt in kung fu cinema'.
And Newsday concludes this round-up by writing:
"If the plot elements seem like a duck soup of every Bruce
Lee and Jackie Chan picture ever conceived, they are lifted into
a whole other stratosphere of ingenuity by Chow and his design
team's indefatigable visual imagination."