Combustible Celluloid
 
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With: Stephen Chow, Yuen Qiu, Yuen Wah, Dong Zhi Hua
Written by: Stephen Chow, Tsang Kan Cheong, Lola Huo, Chan Man Keung
Directed by: Stephen Chow
MPAA Rating: R for sequences of strong stylized action and violence
Language: Cantonese, Mandarin with English subtitles
Running Time: 99
Date: 09/14/2004
IMDB

Kung Fu Hustle (2005)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Master Blast

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Last year, Miramax released one of their all-time worst butcher jobs, Stephen Chow's Shaolin Soccer, three years late, with about 30 minutes of footage removed and the rest sloppily dubbed into English. Most Americans would never know that this curiosity had, at one time, been Hong Kong's highest grossing film. Now for Chow's follow-up -- which, incidentally, broke Shaolin Soccer's box office record -- Sony Pictures Classics has stepped in to give it a proper release. The hugely enjoyable Kung Fu Hustle races across the screen in a colorful collage of various styles, from classic kung fu films to silent comedies to Tex Avery and Chuck Jones cartoons.

Set in a dilapidated apartment complex called Pig Sty Alley, the action centers around a small time crook (Chow) who tries to swindle money from the locals by claiming to be a member of the sinister Axe Gang. Two problems arise: the locals aren't so easily fooled and the real Axe Gang turns up.

This plot is merely an excuse for Chow to hang ever-increasingly elaborate fight scenes on. Each time a "master" is defeated, an even more powerful one emerges from the sidelines. When we reach our final showdown, it feels as if it's the most extraordinary match ever waged. Chow cleverly incorporates computer-generated effects into his fights so that combatants get blasted miles into the sky, or appear to run like Wile E. Coyote or leap like a frog. Each blow sends sprays of rubble flying into the wind.

As an actor, Chow emotes very little and lacks the explosive presence ofa Jackie Chan or a Jet Li, but his directorial skill more than makes up for it. He gets a terrific performance from Yuen Qiu as a chain smoking, curler-wearing landlady who turns out to be yet another kung-fu master. Two Hong Kong legends, Yuen Wo Ping and Sammo Hung, served as action choreographers.

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