(R) 3.5 Stars Ed Johnson-Ott
Oh look, it's Yuen Qui, a Bond girl in The Man With a Golden Gun, as a nasty bathrobe-wearing landlady with a cigarette dangling from her bottom lip. Don't give her any guff or she'll kick your ass. If you dare to fight back, don't be surprised if you end up in a balls-to-the-wall kung fu death match with her in mid-air over a fast-moving truck. You haven't got a chance. She'll clean your clock without ever losing her smoke. Ciu Chi Ling as Tailor
In Kung Fu Hustle, a goofy, wildly imaginative kung fu comedy by Shaolin Soccer creator Stephen Chow Sing-chi, that sort of thing happens all the time. Imagine a martial arts movie crossed with a Popeye cartoon and you'll have an idea of what to expect. The film is laugh aloud funny, at least in the first half. The filmmaker gets so caught up in the martial arts mayhem in the second half that he neglects to keep the comedy as bright. Regardless, the film is a hoot.
And this is coming from a man who has zero interest in martial arts or martial arts movies. Zip. Nil. Nada. I watch the damn things because it's part of my job. The furious battles employing numerous mystical disciplines - the kind of face-offs that make genre fans droll ... that stuff leaves me yawning. But I keep coming back because of guys like Stephen Chow Sing-chi with talent popping out of his ears.
The plot barely matters. An ax-wielding gang terrorizes the poor folks that live in a tenement called Pig's Sty Alley, but three of the hometown boys fight back. Accordingly, the gang hires more dangerous mercenaries and everything escalates to an absolutely insane level. Wire work and computer graphics allow the characters to make like Popeye and Bluto (or Brutus, I never could figure that out) and what fun it is to watch.
As if that wasn't enough, the film is also nicely shot and edited. This is not just an original, but a very well-made original. The only real liability is a lack of characters to identify with. Chow would probably say that it's just me. You see, in addition to directing and co-writing the film, he also stars as the bare-chested kung fu hero. Why? Because he can.