The 43-year-old Stephen Chow is the reigning king of Hong Kong comedy as well as the industry's most bankable star. As a writer-director, he's also something of an auteur. A martial arts film that's gloriously nonsensical and kickass deflationary (the Chinese title is simply Kung Fu), Kung Fu Hustle misses few opportunities to parody China's (and Sony Classics') current Crouching Flying Heroizing cinema of quality. The typically underdog Chow charactera sneak thief with dreams of glorypretends to be a member of the dread Axe Gang in order to shake down a local barber. The ploy not only backfires but precipitates a full-scale invasion by a horde of hatchet-wielding, top-hat-wearing dandies. Chow's comic persona was largely built on deadpan motormouth ranting, and Kung Fu Hustle applies the same principle to action. No special effect is too primitive, no sight gag too old. Chow also dotes on CGI mutations, subjecting body shapes, weather patterns, and space itself to a variety of eccentric shifts. The fights were choreographed by master Yuen Wo Ping and, escalating from straightforward kick-punch-and-parry through aerial acrobatics to delirious CGI freestyle, they are as spectacular as they are laughable. Chow manages to have his cake and eat it too: Kung Fu Hustle is a kung fu parody that's also a terrific kung fu movie.
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