Kung Fu Hustle
Director: Stephen Chow (2004)
Starring: Yuen Wah, Leung Siu-lung, Stephen Chow, Yuen Qui, Dong Zhi-hua
Viewing Stephen Chow's new martial arts comedy on opening night -- when it broke one-day box office records for mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan -- was one of the best experiences this reviewer has had in a Chinese cinema. Every seat in the house was occupied and the audience was rolling with laughter.
Opening with a great cameo by director Feng Xiaogang as the Crocodile Gang Boss shaking down the police station, warring gangs are seen dominating 1940s China. A flashback to Sing's (Stephen Chow) youth shows a grizzled, homeless character and martial arts manual seller first spotting his great potential. After spending the family savings on a manual and studying religiously, Sing confronts a group of bullies only to be beaten and humiliated. It appears that Sing's great potential is for naiveté rather than kung fu.
Returning to the 1940s, the defeated Sing has grown up to be a petty thief whose only apparent talent is picking locks. In an attempt to extort protection money from the tenement residents of Pig Sty Alley, Sing impersonates an Axe Gang member. The rebuffed Sing calls for help and sets off a blood feud between the residents and the Axe gang. The ensuing martial arts extravaganza releases Sing's true potential.
Building on the success of Shaolin Soccer, director and actor Stephen Chow casts legendary stars from Hong Kong's kung fu heyday. These mythic martial arts masters disguised as ordinary people create both a hilarious lampoon and a loving tribute that channels the magic of those classic kung fu movies.
(cityweekend.com.cn January 14, 2005)