Kung Fu Hustle

 (curtosey of IMDB.com)

(curtosey of IMDB.com)

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Kung Fu Hustle, which released in the United States in April 2005, could be passed off at first glance as just another gimmicky, cheap kung fu movie. When I saw it playing in theaters, that’s exactly what I thought it was. But the title (who calls a serious fighting movie Kung Fu Hustle?) and the fact that it was listed as a comedy caught my attention.

So I took a chance, got some friends together, and went to see it. If it was bad, we could make fun of it, and if it was good we’d enjoy it.

What I got out of that movie completely shattered any preconceptions I had about it. Not only was it a good action movie in its own right, having all the over-the-top fighting scenes that are a staple of kung fu movies, but it was hilarious and not unintentionally so.

The writing was witty, and that combined with the good acting meant that the movie never appeared to be trying to be funny, but it always was when it needed to be. In some unspoken way, it acknowledged that not only was it a kung fu movie, it was making fun of kung fu movies.

With the deliberately cliché setting, plot, and characters, the movie is something you can enjoy while still laughing at.

The plot is simple, a small-time lockpick and his bumbling friend aspire to be powerful mobsters and try to impress the notorious Axe Gang. But they bite off more then they can chew when the inhabitants of a housing complex they try and shake down exhibit amazing fighting prowess and take down the entire group of gang members.

To make up the disaster to the Axe Gang, the lockpick and his friend must break the world’s top contract killer out of jail and convince him to kill the inhabitants of the housing complex. A twist makes the lockpick an enemy of the Axe Gang and their new contract killer, and he must unlock his hidden potential as a kung fu master if he is to have any hope of survival.

Just because the movie presents itself as an action/comedy does not mean you should expect a stunt-heavy movie with a few cheap jokes. The writing, directing, and acting are all good enough to portray a wide variety of emotions, and it helps to avoid the shallow story that is the bane of cheap action movies.

Even the “cheap and gimmicky” action is fantastic to watch. The action scenes are directed flawlessly, and they are immensely entertaining to watch every time. The fight scene between the three kung fu masters and the dozens of Axe Gang members is hands-down one of the best fight scenes I’ve ever seen, and the others are nothing to be scoffed at either.

The only complaint I have about the movie is that there are one or two occasions where they resort to crude humor to make an impact, which I never think has a place in any form of entertainment (ask me what I think of Jackass).

Despite this tiny flaw, I thoroughly enjoyed Kung Fu Hustle, and I think anybody that feels like watching an “easy” but solidly entertaining movie should definitely check it out.