Technology

A Nonsensical Kickass Martial Arts Parody

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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
character—a sneak thief with dreams of glory—pretends 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.