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Kung Fu Hustle (2004)
So many gangsters… so little time.
Filmmaker(s): Stephen Chow

It's the 1940s, and the notorious Axe Gang terrorizes Shanghai. Small-time criminals Sing and Bone hope to join, but they only manage to make lots of very dangerous enemies. Fortunately for them, kung fu masters and hidden strength can be found in unlikely places. Now they just have to take on the entire Axe Gang.

Kung Fu Hustle (2004)

Comedic Self-reference

You can read from others about the basic nature of this, and how widely it is admired and enjoyed. I myself admire and enjoy it.

It is a movie about movies. Its something between a “Scary Movie” style parody and a “Charlie’s Angel’s” … What’s called an homage but is really more of an annotation at a distance, with a tinge of Mystery Science thrown in.

What’s here is all the stuff you’d see in serious movies, assembled and recreated with a quirky space between it and its references. There are some actual jokes in the thing, but the big joke is the that it does what all the serious kung fu movies do but with a wink. I believe Jackie Chan invented the mode, but I think I like this sort of excess better. I’ll take one of these over a Matrix-style morality play any day.

Because you are already inwardly giggling at the nature of the thing, when actual sight gags happen, you just can’t help but burst out laughing.

But that aside, the pacing of the thing is phenomenal. Chow knows how to reach the inner rhythm of the visual mind. This is an enormously complex story with few things explained in words. Its mostly visual. When you put together something like this, the motions across the screen, the busy and quiet moments, the brutal and the sweetly comic all have to be modulated. He does this with a quarter beat faster than everything he quotes.

He does it in the large, with the action sequences, but in the small too. Look closely at the blood in the corridor inspired by “The Shining.” Then go look at the original, both slow motion, but Chow’s is faster than what we expect to see.

I always throw up my hands when I see masterful filmmaking skills that are obvious and powerful, and turned only to the goal of eliciting laughter. Anyway, terrific skill in the art is rare, and you should see this.

And laugh.

Posted in 2006

Ted’s Evaluation — 3 of 3: Worth watching.


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