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Kung Fu Hustle


Kung Fu Hustle

Directed by Stephen Chow (DVD)

I don't really care how the Oscars shake out for the movies released in 2005 'cuz pound for pound, fist for fist, Kung Fu Hustle was my favorite movie of year. Palms down! Directed, conceived and starring Stephen Chow, this ultimately redemptive action-adventure comedic yarn deserves the Golden Buddha of Enlightenment statue for its cleverness and rapid-fire eye-popping action.

Set in Shanghai in the 1930s, this throw-back gangster flick is a non-stop amusement park ride with plenty of sinister bad guys looking to take out plenty of heart-of-gold good guys while the protagonist struggles to decide with whom to side. Many snickered -- me included -- at Quentin Tarantino proclaiming it the best movie at Cannes last year, but after snoozing through many of the so-called best of the year, Kung Fu Hustle was the only big screen movie I've seen repeatedly just to make sure I didn't miss anything. And believe me, you can if you divert your eyes from the screen just once.

The kung fu scenes alone -- choreographed by Yeun Wo Ping (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and The Matrix) -- are exhausting in their brutal inventiveness, slapstick comic mugging, and execution. It's so refreshing to view such an overwrought genre through such a fresh kaleidoscope of lenses. It's like watching an Aesop fable filtered through the acid lens of Looney Tune cartoons that spoof gangster flicks, other Kung Fu movies, and classic American movie scenes throughout.

The opening sequence with Axe Gang sporting stovepipe hats mugging Gangs of New York was very clever indeed. And ditto for a nod to The Hulk when Chow's character Sing, a wanna-be gangster, withstands the attacks of a basket full of cobras. Mr. Chow borrows a fistful of The Matrix's CGI deftness, some chops from Jackie Chan school of stunts, and even a long pull from Mr. Tarantino's pop culture reference well.

And the actors? Well, the actors are terrific in a genre often bent on serving up stunt people. You actually feel empathy for the crazed landlady (Yuen Qiu) and her philandering, cake-eating punching bag husband (Yuen Wah), once their story unfurls.

And the bad guy, "the beast," played by Leung Siu Lung, came out of a 20 year retirement to play his role. His fight sequence with Chow at the end is like Enter The Dragon meets the WWF.

Check out Kung Fu Hustle. It's Chi flow is powerful.

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