[Deep Focus]
Kung Fu Hustle

Dressed to kill .

Movie Credits:

Directed by Stephen Chow

Written by Chow, Tsang Kan Cheong, Lola Huo and Chan Man Keung

Cinematography by Poon Hang Sang

Edited by Angie Lam

Action Choreography by Yuen Wo Ping and Sammo Hung

Starring Stephen Chow, Yuen Wah, Leung Siu Lung, Dong Zhi Hua and Chiu Chi Ling

Hong Kong, 2004

Aspect ratio: 2.35:1

Screened on DVD

Reviewed 4/10/05



Stephen Chow’s newest — about a small town in pre-revolutionary China populated by kung-fu masters who are drawn out of retirement by the arrival of a criminal gang — is being compared to Buster Keaton and Chuck Jones, correctly enough, but its cartoon-come-to-life visuals put me in mind most immediately of Terry Gilliam’s The Adventures of Baron Munchhausen. Then again, it’s clearly a Stephen Chow film more than anything else, with broad slapstick undergirding typically impressive martial-arts choreography by the amazing Yuen Wo-ping and Sammo Hung.

By itself, the opening sequence — a near-musical set piece involving a group of well-dressed, ax-wielding thugs that come on like the gangs in “Beat It” — is pretty amazing, but the rest of the film is an ever-escalating, near-joyous expansion of the possibilities offered by Chow’s particular brand of homage and parody coupled with a willingness to try anything with CGI. (If you’re watching carefully, you might notice an actor transform into a digital double right before something terrible happens to him.)

Like the other Chow films I’ve seen (only Shaolin Soccer and God of Cookery) Kung Fu Hustle is a fresh, contemporary take on Chinese storytelling traditions, and few directors in world cinema are working so competently and consistently in any mode as Chow is in this one. A really good time.

DEEP FOCUS: Movie Reviews by Bryant Frazer