Kung Fu Hustle

on April 08, 2005 by Shlomo Schwartzberg
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Veteran Hong Kong filmmaker Stephen Chow ("Shaolin Soccer") pays tribute to legendary Hong Kong producers The Shaw Brothers with a noisy action-packed movie that is so busy paying homage to the brothers and others that it fails to develop a personality of its own. Chow also stars in the film as Sing, a cocky young guy who pretends to be a gang leader in 1930s Shanghai in order to impress some poor townsfolk, which opens up a Pandora's Box that sees every second resident displaying martial arts skills and facing off against the bad guys. Despite an imaginative dance number with axe-swinging gang members at the outset and some funny slapstick involving a bad-tempered landlady, "Kung Fu Hustle" relies so much on special effects--and unnecessary violence--that the movie quickly grows repetitive and tedious. The admittedly handsome-looking film may evoke Jackie Chan and John Woo but without the former's charm (Chow's is a singularly uncharismatic screen presence) or the latter's artistic prowess. Those looking for martial arts magic here will find they've been hustled, too. Starring Stephen Chow, Yuen Wah and Leung Siu Lung. Directed and written by Stephen Chow. Produced by Stephen Chow, Chui Po Chu and Jeff Lau. A Sony Pictures Classics release. Martial Arts. Cantonese-language; subtitled. Rated R for sequences of strong stylized action and violence. Running time: 99 min
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