I actually watched this last week but am only know getting around to sharing my thoughts on this little gem. Originally released as Gong Fu, Kung Fu Hustle, is the work of director Stephen Chow who also brought us Shaolin Soccor. Kung Fu Hustle is in a very similar vein, but perhaps a bit darker than Shaolin Soccor. That aside, if you enjoyed one, I believe you’ll be entertained by the other.
I’ll go ahead an issue the warnings… if you are not a fan of over the top martial arts situation comedy, liberally sprinkled with philosophical irreverence, this might not be your cup of green tea. Before you issue judgement though, keep in mind that this genre isn’t just your Stoogian slapstick but is actually rather engaging.
The opening is set in 1940s Shanghai where corrupt police and brutal mobsters rule the city. One gang in particular, the Axe Gang, is notorious for its ruthless tactics and power. They are, however, superb dancers incorporating the axe into a hustle that would leave Tony Manero green with envy. My only regret is that they don’t dance nearly enough.
Entering into the mix is a bungling gang member wannabe, a run down rental neighborhood and more hidden kung fu master than you can shake a bo staff at. Unlikely heroes emerge as do karmic reunions and, of course, the rediscovery on a long lost and supremely powerful kung fu move. While all common elements in your kung fu movies, Chow wields them masterfully.
Along side homages to Shaolin Soccor, Matrix, Chicago and lord know what else, you will actually have a tangible storyline with some pretty good kung fu, physical & verbal comedy and an obligatory dose of a morality lesson.