Before you wonder why I’m reviewing a movie that’s been out for almost eight years, let me explain: Kung Fu Hustle is finally making its way to North America for a limited engagement in theaters. It’s pitiful that the now classic Chinese blockbuster is only set to play for a couple of weekends in major American cities, but it is laudable that Columbia Pictures has finally stepped up to the plate and let American audiences see this gem of a movie where it was meant to be seen: on the BIG screen. This is an old Hollywood style spectacle akin to West Side Story or Mary Poppins.
Americans have the sad misconception that most Chinese movies are just martial arts movies, and this movie (which also happens to be an action comedy with lots of martial arts in it) will only reinforce that stereotype. I can live with that if audiences at least go to see the film in cinemas as it introduces them to much more than standard kick, punch, and karate fare: there”s much that bubbles under the surface here, especially when it comes to the subtle complexities of class, community, gang violence, and the fantastic spirit of Chinese lore.
The story is about an innocuous thief named Sing (Stephen Chow) who wishes to ascend to the top of Shanghai’s most dreaded gang in the 1940s known as the Axe Gang. To gain entry, he must commit murder, which leads him to launch an attack on poor slumdwellers living in a tenement known as The Pig Sty. They may be poor, but these slumdogs sure know how to put up a fight, which begins the 2.5 spectacle of kung fu, action, and comedy that will raise your spirits and oddly make you wonder how you ended up watching what is quite possibly the most-watched “feel-good” movie of all time.
The acting is superb, the cinematography breathtaking, and the fight choreography by legendary masters of martial arts cinema Yuen Woo Ping and Sammo Hung has to be seen to be believed. Check it out!