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Chow Hustles His Kungfu

As the year winds down, the film market seems to be cranking out more movies than we can keep up with. Mainland blockbuster A World Without Thieves, which has just gone on release, will have direct competition in about ten days when Hong Kong film Kungfu Hustle hits screens around the country. As the title suggests the film packs a real punch and has inspired our theme on today's Spotlight.

Regarded as the King of Comedy in Hong Kong, Stephen Chow is actually an action movie fan. And he has finally turned his infatuation into a high cost production with an investment of 150 million Hong Kong dollars, or about 20 million US dollars.

The film tells the story of the hero who grows from a humble attendant to a gang leader, Even though the story is inevitably interwoven with bitterness and sorrow, Chow can change all troubles into japes. "Kungfu Hustle" is the filmmaker's long premeditated big production, having been in the works for three years. Chow undertook the multiple roles of producer, scriptwriter, director, and lead actor.

Secret Two: fists and feet

Let's recall some of the Kungfu moves delivered by Stephen Chow in his previous films. The kicks in Fight Back to School, the palm strikes in The God of Cookery, and the punches from Forbidden City Cop.

Kungfu Hustle shows Chow's Kungfu in an upgraded version in a move known as Buddha's Palm. Unlike Chow's previous films which rarely resorted to hi-tech visuals, his latest production employs many computer-generated special effects. As the name indicates, Kungfu Hustle offers a wonderful fight scene on average every two minutes.

Secret Three: funny imitations

If you are a big film buff, you'll definitely find some of the scenes in Kungfu Hustle very familiar.

There is the notorious opening of Forrest Gump, when a feather drifts down slowly in front of Gump. Whether or not Chow asked permission from the creator of the original shot, in his movie, he takes the liberty of exchanging the feather for butterflies and dandelions.

And Neo escaping bullets in The Matrix is imitated without scruple by Chow in his escape moves,and at an even faster speed.

Nor did the Hong Kong action film Deadful Melody escape the compliment of imitation by Chow, who finds a new use for the producers of beautiful harmony.

It seems Chow has used all the "weapons" he has to hit his target, aiming to produce his greatest ever film. He's definitely placed greater importance on the selection of the cast this time. Even the supporting roles are played by big names in Chinese entertainment circles.

The man Chow's praising is none other than Bruce Leung. Well-known as one of the four 1970's action movie stars, the other three being Jackie Chan, Bruce Lee and Ti Lung, Bruce Leung's most famous role was as the patriotic Kungfu master Chen Zhen. This time he plays a fierce and powerful Kungfu figure, who fights to the death with Chow at the end of the film.

No.2 supporting actor: Yuen Qiu

Don't dismiss this ordinary looking woman. The actress is actually a senior fellow apprentice of Jackie Chan. She learned Kungfu with Chan when they were in their teens. After her marriage, Yuen stayed away from the Hong Kong movie scene for twenty eight years to enjoy her family life. But she accompanied her niece to an audition for a role in this film, without thinking at all she might herself be chosen for another role. She was finally convinced by Chow to act in the film. When Chow saw her, he thought he couldn't give the role to anyone else. Unfortunately for Chow, he's often given a lesson in Kungfu by his high-kicking "elder sister".

No. 3 supporting actor: Lam Tze-Cheung

In the film, Lam plays a critical catalyst role in the altering of Chow's character. At the same time, he gives Chow scores of lessons in his guise as a planted agent. In normal life, Lam is well-known as the youngest ever screen writer at Hong Kong's TVB station.

No. 4 supporting actor: Feng Xiaogang

What we'll never know is, if Feng Xiaogang had known Chow would be competing with him in the 2004 New Year film market, whether he would have been so willing to play a role in Chow's film. Appearing in the first several minutes of the film, Feng plays as a gangster boss who is causing trouble at a police office with all his followers.

"Who else?"

He couldn't have imagined the reality: none of his gang left alive, all killed in the fighting. Chow only takes a few minutes to let Feng's character die. But it's these few minutes many fans of both Chow and Feng are now looking forward to.

We'll call a halt in introducing "Kungfu Hustle", which will be ready for general release across China in ten days. On December 23rd, the film will speak for itself, and for its director Stephen Chow, whether it's a great Kungfu movie or not.

(CCTV.com December 14, 2004)

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