I have no idea how to review this, I really don’t. Let me start by telling you my experience of the movie, and we’ll take it from there.
Right from the start I was under pressure to like it. The cast, the Director and everything that’s already been said, not to mention that it’s an Asian film and I’m a huge fan. The other reason I was under pressure was that my girlfriend loves the sun and this was the hotest day we’ve had in Edinburgh all year, it was the peak of a hot week, and she let me take her inside to a movie. An Asian movie no less. The cinema was empty, the two of us and the projectionist – although it was all digital so who knows if someone was there, and when the movie began I just wasn’t sure.
The movie opens strong, with a wonderful mix of visual styles and periods. The sets give the feel of a western, and the gang clothes give the impression of 50’s America, with the Police looking just like Police today. These opening scenes are pretty strong, loud and violent, and so my expectations were whipped in the opposite direction as an axe murder and shooting rivet you to the spot. That’s when the dance number begins and you’re whipped in another direction. Nervous laughter ensues.
I think that paragraph defines the film quite well, not that you really can define it, but if you imagine genres and styles as straight lines, traditional movies will pick one at the start and pretty much stick to it, yes it might flip back and forth from it’s neighbour, but what it won’t do is weave a criss-cross path back and forth between them all. That’s what Kung Fu Hustle appears to do, it grabs from different styles, genres and movies and pulls them together in a rich weave of a movie, something you’re not really used to.
After that the movie comes to the current period and begins the story in earnest. The laughs start from the beginning, but to be honest we were still reeling from the opening and being thrown back and forth. At this point I wasn’t sure whether I was laughing because I thought I should be, or because it really was funny. I didn’t know what mode or genre I was supposed to be in.
What quickly happens though is that you forget that standard you’ve been conditioned to expect by those endless reams of movies you’ve watched, and suddenly, out of nowhere, you’re enjoying the ride. Then you really do start laughing.
After all, I would really describe this as a comedy, but it also brings you some amazing Kung Fu mixed with Hollywood blockbuster effects, a smidgen of a love story, and a tiny bit of thriller. It’s also a huge tale of good and evil, and what it does take to be truly one or the other. Yeah, but it’s still a comedy, and one that pokes a finger at Hollywood in the process.
Most of the humour is bizarre and off the wall, and I’m not sure that’s entirely down to the culture difference. I wonder if even Asian viewiers would be feeling some of what we did during the early parts of the movie. However it works, it really does, it grabbed me and made me laugh and I was often laughing at the movie itself and not the story.
The story is great fun and it’s a massive story at that, not just some small tale, but an epic. This is, as the young boy is told, about saving the world, it’s that big. With that, I’m afraid that’s all I’m going to say, if you want more on the story read someone else’s review and have it all given away, or go and see the movie and revel in the first time viewing.
The fight sequences are something else, they’ve done an amazing job to make the fights so seamless and to be able to visualise the effects during the choreography. The fight scenes coupled with the stylistic effects they provide some breathtaking scenes all fantastically choreographed by Sammo Hung Kam-Bo, and managing to keep a good feeling of fun throughout.
Apart from being surprised by the scale of the movie, the huge effects and the excellent fight sequences, the acting was pretty damn amazing, and not just from one or two of the actors but from everyone. Not one of the actors stood out as being out of place, and not a single one seemed to be dwarfed off the screen by the sheer number of actors around them. I have to say that my favourite is the camp Kung Fu Master, the way he slipped from complete mastery of Kung Fu and strength of body and mind to his camp character running around the set was superbly entertaining.
Stephen Chow is totally natural in his role and plays both sides of his character extremely well. Never mind the fact that he co-wrote, Directed and co-Produced too, he’s pulled out a stunning performance with an amazing movie.
Really I don’t think I can find any fault with this movie because there is so much to it. I could keep writing about it and praising each individual element, actors, effects, story, but the beauty of this movie is that it is so much all at once. It’s that rich weave of so many styles and genres that I already mentioned. Think of it as a beautiful dress, you can’t disect it and being to critique the individual strands of the weave, you loose the beauty of the dress and of seeing it being worn.
If that sounds cryptic, it’s supposed to. I can’t give you anymore than that. You just have to take my word for it that this is a stunningly good movie for so many different reasons. Relax, let it flip you around, and enjoy.