A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 395 – Kung Fu Hustle

Kung Fu Hustle – March 30th, 2011

Clearly we need to get more Stephen Chow movies in our collection. And he needs to make more movies. Because there is something so bizarrely awesome about the two that I’ve seen and I think I need more of it in my life. It’s not just that it’s funny and full of good action. It’s the type of humor combined with the type of action. It’s a perfect mix of cartoonish comedy with unreal fighting.

There is something about this movie that puts me in mind of the old Roadrunner cartoons. And it’s not just the chase scene where two of the main characters go racing off along a dirt road with their legs blurred into whirlwinds while the scenery whizzes by. Though that is a fairly iconic image, so it figures in. But it’s that spirit of absolutely everything that happens being so thoroughly over the top and ridiculously dangerous, and while the people involved get banged up, for the most part they bounce back. Okay, so that’s not true of everyone in this movie, but once we pass the halfway mark? Yes, it is.

We begin our story with the introduction of the Axe Gang, who all wear black suits and top hats and carry little hatchets. They dance with them. This is about where I fell in love with this movie, because anything that has men in dapper suits dancing in formation while holding bladed weaponry is a-ok by me. Alas, there’s not much more dancing in the movie, but there is a lot of the Axe Gang, who’ve apparently taken over much of the city. They’ve got a nasty leader who’s not afraid to hack a man to death and they run whatever they feel like running. Then we meet the residents of Pig Sty Alley, who are all too poor to be worth the Axe Gang’s time. The residents are a motley bunch who seem to live hand-to-mouth and all owe back rent to the landlord and landlady of their buildings.

The landlord and landlady are interesting figures here, because while the movie starts out by setting them up as antagonists to the people who rent space from them, they end up being rather heroic. And I like that. I like that while the real bad guys are truly bad, and the good guy ends up being truly good, there’s plenty of gray area for everyone to spend some time in. I am all about the gray area. It’s nice to have characters who don’t neatly slot into Good and Bad sometimes. So anyhow, we’ve got Pig Sty Alley and its denizens and in walks Sing, a petty criminal who’s attempting to extort a little money out of folks by claiming to be with the Axe Gang. Unfortunately for him, and for the folks of Pig Sty Alley, he’s not in the gang at all. So when they show up, they’re not happy. And then the fighting starts.

The fight scenes are amazing. They’re varied and fun and fast but not too fast. There’s always something happening in screen but not enough to make it confusing or muddled. And during one of the big scenes I pondered aloud “So, this is the movie, right? It’s going to be another hour of fight scenes, right? Cause I can get behind that.” And okay, not quite. There’s plot in between the fight scenes, where we learn that the neighborhood has not one, not two, not three but five Kung Fu masters just hanging out incognito. We see the Axe Gang bring in hired killers to take out the folks who humiliated them. We see Sing try to get into their good graces by agreeing to do just about anything they want if they’ll let him join the gang. We get some background for Sing and find out that he was cheated out of his life savings by a con man who sold him what seems to have been a worthless kung fu manual. There’s a bit with a girl and a lollipop. The girl with the lollipop doesn’t get much in the way of time. She’s basically a symbol of Sing’s lost innocence and hope. Ah well. No movie’s perfect.

So wrapped around this plot are the fight scenes. There are the three masters in the beginning, fighting against the Axe Gang first and then two kung fu musicians, who use a guqin to make music that forms ethereal blades, fists and skeletal warriors to strike at their enemies. There are the other two masters who show up later and fight against the musicians and then against the Beast, freed from an institution by Sing at the Axe boss’s command. There’s Sing’s huge battle against the Beast that I swear takes up a third of the movie. And it’s all fantastic. And I mean that not only in that it’s good, but that it’s fantastical as well. It’s magical and outrageous as a movie like this should be. It’s the perfect combination of comedy and action and I honestly don’t think I’ve ever seen anything quite like it outside of Shaolin Soccer, which is, of course, another Stephen Chow movie. So I repeat what I said at the outset: I need more of him in our collection. Because this was awesome.

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March 30, 2011 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , ,

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