Opening 2 Jun 2005
As a boy Stephen Chow would escape from his modest and crowded Hong Kong neighborhood into the theater and dream of being a martial arts master like Bruce Lee. “I was simply overwhelmed by the movie experience. Watching his film in the darkness I felt as if my heart was going to burst, and I had tears in my eyes. Bruce Lee was so incredible, not only because of his martial arts expertise, but also because of his furious spirit. He just filled the screen. He became everything to me.”
From those passionate childhood memories Chow has created a humorous tribute to those former martial arts masters and films. It has now surpassed the record of his former film Shaolin Soccer as the highest grossing film made in Hong Kong in the Asian market.
As a young martial arts student Chow discovered that he got the most attention with his silly kung fu stunts, and a star was born. In Kung Fu Hustle he plays a young wanna-be gangster in Hong Kong in the 1940s that has to prove himself to be accepted into the evil Axe Gang. He was humiliated early in his life when he tried and failed to defend a young deaf girl, and he never wants to be seen as soft and weak again. When he visits a poor neighborhood called Pig Sty to try to extort money, the local inhabitants surprise him with their response. Eventually the members of the Axe Gang are drawn in, and the real battle between good and evil begins. Everybody was kung fu fighting………
The film parodies many films and includes scenes mimicking old western shootouts, Bruce Lee moves, Jackie Chan antics, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon fantasy flights and The Matrix CGI effects. Chow chose action choreographer Yuen Wo Ping whose work includes Crouching Tiger and Matrix and is one of the most respected action wizards. Chow did lots of his own fighting scenes and claims that it was the most physically demanding film he’s ever done. He also demonstrated that he could work just as effectively behind the camera and let the other masters take over.
My own favorite character was the chain smoking, pyjama clad, hair in rollers landlady of Pig Sty, brilliantly played by Yuen Qiu, a star of the 1970s who Chow tempted out of a 20 year retirement. She had been a Bond girl in The Man With the Golden Gun in addition to being in many Hong Kong films. Ms. Qiu said that the hardest challenge was not polishing up her martial arts skills but gaining 30 pounds in two months for the role. She used a diet that Japanese sumo wrestlers follow to bulk up.
Stephen Chow can be commended for making a fun and action packed comedy that has taken the martial arts from where they began to a whole new level and still keeping the spirit of what martial arts is all about. (Patricia Ritz)