Kung Fu Hustle

[rate 4]
It’s a lot of fun when a foreign language film breaks out of the art film circuit and into mainstream American culture, which will easily be the case with this movie. The subtitles were quickly digested by the audience, made all the more palatable with the zesty sprinkles of Warner Brothers “cartoon violence” (boy does that term steam my goat (no, I don’t know what that means either)).

The movie tells the story of a conflict between the residents of a dingy multi-story set of apartment flats and the all-powerful Axe Gang. The time period is early/mid 20th century. The style of the production design is American-Italian-influenced Chinese gangster. The theme of the movie is transformation, and it packs plenty of twists to keep you on the edge of your sticky seat.

I’m giving this movie 4 out of 5 legendary Flying Buddha Palm strikes. Ka-chow!

While there’s a lifetime’s worth of nuance that we Westerners may not fully appreciate (the various fighting disciplines, references to existing Chinese character stereotypes, even certain facial expressions), the broad slapstick easily spans continents and cultures with a cartoon bound. If you’re worried that this movie will be too “foreign” for you, consider the fact that the bad guys, the Axe Gang, has a penchant for dance numbers that are as ridiculously prancy as anything Broadway can throw at you.

After all, when you’re a Jet….

This movie is rated ‘R’ for a reason, even though the violence is cartoonishly exaggerated there are moments of sheer malice. I suspect that the fantastic trailer for this film, coupled with the repeated comparison to Warner Brothers cartoons by reviewers (like me) is going to tempt a lot of parents to take their kids to see this film. Don’t. If I had kids I’d buy them the Bugs Bunny collection on DVD instead, and ease them into the world of cartoon violence properly.

I don’t know if it’s a cultural difference in traditional storytelling style or if its just bad writing, but there’s never really one singular character for the audience to follow. I overheard somebody whispering to their seatmate but only caught the words ‘The Matrix’.

Comparisons to ‘The Matrix’ are unavoidable and ironic since the Wakowski brothers borrowed their cup of cinematic sugar from the culture behind “Kung Fu Hustle”. It’s kind of like the time I caught a kid laughing in church because we were singing “Rock of Ages”…. “it’s a Def Leppard song,” he giggled.

If you’re old enough to see an ‘R’ rated movie and love cartoon violence, this is the book for you. I mean MOVIE. This is the movie for you.

Where’s that Reading Rainbow sound snippet they play after a review? Ba-dum-dum!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *