East Bay View (a blog about several things)

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Monday, May 02, 2005

Kung Fu Hustle: A Chinese gross story [movie note]

Stephen Chow is king of comedy, action and sentimentality; the order in which he prioritizes these varies. In Shaolin Soccer, sentiment ruled, and it absolutely became him, allowing him to gloss over the cheesiness of his CG. This time it's been scaled back: his variation on Chaplin's blind flowergirl is heartrending but extraneous. The postscript to the final fight would be Spielberg-beautiful - if it had ended E.T. and not a bloodfest, no matter how stylized. The nonseq comedy is sparse, with even the best effort (Sing gets stabbed! Repeatedly!) a regression from From Beijing with Love's backfiring pistol.

This one's mostly a kung-fu movie. The fights escalate to higher levels of martial goodness, building from crisp, standard Yuen Wo-ping body flinging to creepy assassinations-by-zither to vulgar battery to megapowered chi-wars. If only it had stretched out into Dragonball epicness. It's excellent, but it's an end - Chow has taken action comedy as far as it can go. He's more likely to make a City Lights, or else a Duck Soup, than anyone working today; his current success is the greatest obstacle to this - why fix what ain't broke?

Further reading: Jean Lukitsh's profile of the awesome Yuen Wah and Yuen Qiu and their history in Chinese opera, at Kung Fu Cinema.


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