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Kung Fu Hustle

So many gangsters...so little time. 

Year: 2004 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 (Scope) 
Certificate: BBFC 15 Cert – Not suitable for under 15s 
Subtitles: It is expected that this film is fully subtitled. 
Directed by Unknown 
Starring: Unknown  

Welcome to a kitchen sink gangster film set in 1940’s Shanghai. Trouble first stirs when the inhabitants of a local slum cross fists with the notorious Axe gang, where, as you might expect, every colour of slapstick hell breaks loose.

This is a film that, like Kill Bill, demands an abundant reference to other films. Only this film isn’t wasted if you do not know to what it is referencing, as it continually goes for the giggles in the same spoof manner as the Pai Mei section in Tarantino’s Volume two. It could be said that this is Scary Movie for the martial arts in that the characters, although archetypes of the genre (the officious landlady or the bumbling fat sidekick), are engaging and often hilarious. The plot is nothing to speak of as it follows the Leslie Nielsen flicks’ rule of using the plot as a washing line to hang the gags off, and thankfully very little is made of the love interest angle. Despite the name the kung fu itself is rather underwhelming, but this is made up for by the inventive use of special effects, of which there are very many of varying quality. Lots of the effects work seamlessly with the choreography and style, but with such a quantity of effects that inevitably some fall below the mark; such as the blatant blue screen used when two characters engage in a less than comic high-speed chase.

Not being of a squeamish persuasion I was surprised that I found some of the violence gratuitous (the violence is more sinister than in Shaolin Soccer). I think this was because in places it jarred with the Asterix style of the film and the camp sound effects, such as the pinball scoring noises during a particularly rambunctious fracas.

Some may find that this film contains more comic punching in its 95 minutes than they can take, but it is a great nod to the kind of slapstick comedy that the nineties TV series Bottom regularly acknowledged, that said, it does have a great look which could inspire a very successful Naked Gun style franchise.

Alastair Binnie-Lubbock

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