Sunday, May 22, 2005

Kung Fu Hustle

A bit of a relief after Hitchhikers: a genuinely silly movie. Although don’t believe the trailers: this is not as cartoonish as they suggest. At heart, Kung Fu Hustle is a traditional redemption story.

There’s a shaky start: an exceptionally violent confrontation between two street gangs, which made me wonder if this was going to be 90 minutes of Tarantino-esque blood and severed limbs. It’s not: although a few too many of the following 90 minutes are kung fu, and a few too many jokes fall flat to western eyes (including some very cheap homophobic stereotyping), there’s a lot to enjoy.

It borrows, often unashamedly, from other movies: a line is lifted verbatim from Spider-Man, a scene from The Shining; the street scenes owe a lot to Gangs of New York; and the over-the-top fighting owes a lot to the Matrix trilogy. (The last is not entirely surprising: the same choreographer worked on both.) But it has enough charm to get away with these casual thefts.

And occasionally it’s exceptionally imaginative. Gangs of black-suited axe men dance a soft-shoe shuffle under the opening credits. And in the most spectacular fight, three warriors fight a supernatural stringed instrument, manned by two mysterious musicians, which launches blades and demons at them.

And gradually, for a movie which needs little excuse for a rumble, a plot emerges; people are not who they at first seem, past actions are redeemed, and loss need not be final.

3/5: far from perfect, but an entertaining ride.