KUNG FU HUSTLEColumbia Pictures
2004
R

“You may know kung fu… but you’re still a fairy.”

Due to the shenanigans of a couple of street miscreants, the small slum town of Pig Sty is descended upon by the deadly- but stylin’- Axe Gang. Shortly after their arrival, though, the axe-wielding Scorsese knock-offs discover that being poor doesn’t necessarily mean being timid, as their collective butts are systematically and methodically handed to them by a trio of the slum’s merchants. To gain revenge on the simple townsfolk, they enlist a couple of deadly kung-fu assassins, including the insane Beast, a man who is so dedicated to the martial arts that he lost his mind. How can the Landlady and her husband protect their slum? Can you believe the miscreant who inadvertently brought all this trouble to begin with?

After viewing Kung Fu Hustle with Nex and my visiting cousin, and after having a couple of days to digest this experience in foreign cinematic wackiness, I would liken this flick to a multi-layered parfait- it has the basic but tasty Kung Fu movie base, and is topped with several different but equally tasty layers that borrow heavily from different genre pics: The Seven Samurai, Gangs Of New York, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon (which comes naturally because of the director / writer / star), The Matrix: Revolutions…and some not-so-expected layers from old Laurel And Hardy flicks, and especially a heavy dose of classic Chuck Jones cartoons, mainly the Coyote and Roadrunner classics. All of which are served up into a damn fun concoction.

And by “fun”, I mean wacky, over-the-top, cartoony-in-a-good-way fun, where the acting is ham-fisted, the humor is goofy, the characters are eccentric, and the situations are zany. Add in the esophagus-crushing kung-fu action, and you’ve got 90 minutes of pure escapist fun. Imagine, if you will, the final big fight scene at the end of Matrix: Revolutions between Neo and all o’ them Agent Smiths, only with pinball machine sounds chiming every time contact is made, and you have a very small idea of the wackiness ensuing. You also got a Kung Fu master that takes on the attributes of a frog to fight, a couple of assassins that look like they stepped out of the Mortal Kombat game to battle with…music, a chain-smoking landlady who sucks down her cancer stick to the butt while preparing to unleash her Lion’s Roar on unsuspecting gang members, tons of Looney Tunes-style slapstick (the scene where the landlady hits a billboard after running about 1000 MPH, and “SCREEEEEEEEEEE!”‘s down slowly…I just about died)…just a nice balance of extreme action and extreme belly laughs from yours truly…which is rare in a “Kung Fu Comedy”…then again, thus far the only offerings in that department have been Jackie Chan’s one-trick-pony flicks. And Kung Pow doesn’t really count, as it’s an American movie made from an older, “serious” Kung Fu movie…

The things that work against this movie, though…would be the same things that made it such a great wacky ride for me. Let’s face it, there’s going to be people going to this expecting Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, with a couple of gags in the fight scenes. These are probably the same people who don’t get Monty Python’s Search For The Holy Grail, so they don’t concern me really. Basically, if you ever seen that movie and shook your head in confusion as to why they were skipping around hitting coconut shells together instead of riding actual horses…um, you might want to stay away from Kung Fu Hustle. Trust me. You’re head will blow up. That, and personally, I didn’t like the English subtitles, as I know I missed a few things just trying to read and keep with the narrative. What could have worked, if there was an actual overdubbing of this movie, is to use gangsta rappers for the voices. I mean, gangsta rap is already cheesy and unintentionally funny while trying to portray a “thug” persona, so it’ll work well with the Axe Gang members…think about that…

Enough said. I enjoyed this movie. And if you’re a fan of the wacky, over-the-top action comedies, hitch up your pants (INSIDE REFERENCE ALERT!!!) and check this foreign flick out.

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