Related Articles: Movies, All

Kung Fu Hustle

Lost In Translation

As a self-professed Bruce Lee aficionado and martial arts junkie, it seems Stephen Chow should be making an entirely different kind of movie. Instead of lampooning the martial arts genre with purposefully exaggerated wire-act special effects and screwy maudlin romances, Chow should be calling for the formation of a directorial think tank alongside revered colleagues Ang Lee and Zhang Yimou with the goal of solidifying martial arts’ position as a medium for meaningful artistic expression.

Instead he’s headed in the opposite direction.

Coming on the heels of the ridiculous, yet completely entertaining Shaolin Soccer, Chow strips any remnants of seriousness that existed in his previous films from his latest feature Kung Fu Hustle, a seemingly mismatched conglomeration of pieces inspired in equal doses by Broadway musicals, Clint Eastwood spaghetti westerns and Saturday morning cartoons. The result is a whirlwind of action held together (loosely) by a storyline that pits the inhabitants of a shanty town called Pig Sty Alley versus the rapacious Axe Gang.

In many ways, Kung Fu Hustle represents the logical next step forward for Chow. Clearly, with its effort to tie in so many genres under the umbrella of a martial arts spoof, it’s a more ambitious effort than his previous films. However, despite undeniable moments of humor, the film strains to shoulder the increased responsibilities that accompany the making of a bigger film. In fact, it suggests that such an onerous load may exceed what members of this genre can reasonably handle. No doubt, however, Chow will try to prove otherwise in the near future.

Stars: 3 out of 5