Take a healthy dose of slapstick, add a dash of kung fu fighting, a pinch of Looney Toons, and serve with a popcorn and soda, and you have a dish called Kung Fu Hustle that is sure to satisfy a much needed comedy fix. Kung Fu Hustle delivers big laughs and martial arts action and is sure to please fans of both genres.
Kung Fu Hustle takes place in China during the 1930s. Gangs have all but taken over city life, and the most powerful of the gangs is the aptly named the Axe Gang. This band of misfits is defined by the axe they carry at their sides at all times. They are well connected, own the police and take whatever they want. The only way to avoid them is to live in an area too poor to merit their interests. Such is the case for the residents of the “pig sty” slum. Unfortunately, a couple of troublemakers have come to town and stirred the attention of the Axe Gang. Just when it seems that members of the gang are about to demolish the town, several kung fu masters emerge from hiding and quickly dispose of the threat. Not surprising after their beatdown, the Axe Gang, bent on revenge, hire their own kung fu masters to destroy the slum. What ensues is a mixture of martial arts that ranges from the fighting styles seen in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon to the bullet time effects of The Matrix. Ultimately, the people of the slum must rely on the awakening of the hidden kung fu talents in a down-on-his-luck thief (Stephen Chow) who, legend has it, is “The One,” and no, it’s not Neo.
You may be thinking that this sounds more like an action movie than a comedy, and while the fight scenes are taken fairly seriously, the events leading up to them are anything but. The Axe Gang is just as likely to break out into a dance routine as it is to beat the snot out of some unsuspecting sap. Stephen Chow, who produced, directed, wrote and starred in this slapstick/action comedy does an amazing job of mixing fight scenes with laugh-out-loud comedic moments. He’s no stranger to this type of genre; he previously released Shaolin Soccer, to which he pays homage in his opening scene. Stephen Chow brings an amazing sense of comedic timing and knowledge of slapstick humor that would even make Larry, Moe and Curly proud.
What more could you want from a movie? Kung Fu Hustle delivers action, drama, comedy and even a little suspense. There are a couple moments in this movie that can only be described with the phrase “What the heck?” that keep it from getting a full four stars. Overall, though, this movie will make you laugh and then some, and it just goes to prove that slapstick is universally funny. To that extent, it’s always refreshing to see that though there may be cultural differences and different beliefs in the world, we all laugh at basically the same thing.