Movie Review
Gong Fu
Kung Fu Hustle poster
By Greg Ward     Published April 27, 2005
US Release: April 8, 2005

Directed by: Stephen Chow
Starring: Lam Chi Chung

Running Time: 95 minutes
Domestic Box Office: $17,104,669
I used to like this genre quite a bit, but movies like Kung Fu Hustle are making that enjoyment fade.
Like a lot of martial arts movies, ?Kung Fu Hustle? heavily relies on visual effects and very little on story. With some movies, this approach might work. But due to the overflow of this genre recently, including ?Hero? and ?House of Flying Daggers,? I feel like martial arts films are beginning to overstay their welcome. While ?Kung Fu Hustle? is periodically entertaining, the lack of a plot leaves something more to be desired.

The Axe Gang is notorious in China. A ruthless group of killers, they leave no one standing. A young man named Sing (Stephen Chow) wants to prove that he will be a valuable asset to this group. We also meet a landlord and his crazy landlady wife who possess powers that no one knew they had. Yes, and that?s basically it in terms of story. There is no character development, and there are characters who pop in and out who we never get to know; they are simply pawns. If one of the main characters had died, I would not have cared. In fact, throughout the entire film I didn?t even know a single name of any of them.

The landlady?s ability to run as fast as Speedy Gonzales from ?Looney Tunes? is overdone, but it?s also kind of funny and is a nice use of visual effects. The other big fight scenes, such as one in which three men off various members of the Axe Gang, are skillfully done and are a feast for the eyes. Still, all of these scenes feel like d?j? vu. Various critics have commented that the film is ?Like nothing that you have ever seen.? I beg to differ ? did anyone see ?Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon?? It seems as if every martial arts movie since then has been an imitation without offering all of the key elements that made "Crouching Tiger" a great film; this movie isn?t any different.

The film works on an entertainment level; it?s so stupid and yet I couldn?t help but laugh sometimes. There is a hilarious sequence in which Sing?s friend accidentally stabs him with a knife many times before throwing the knife at someone else. But at the same time, how stupid can you really be? We go to the movies to be entertained, sure, but sometimes a little substance is necessary to complete the experience. I used to like this genre quite a bit, but movies like ?Kung Fu Hustle? are making that enjoyment fade.
Greg's Grade: C+
Greg's Overall Grading: 25 graded movies
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