(Stephen Chow - 2004)
Review by Leonard Norwitz
Studio: Columbia Pictures (China) / Sony Pictures Home Entertainment (USA)
Aspect ratio: 2.40:1
Feature film: 1080p
Chinese (Cantonese) Uncompressed 5.1 PCM
French: DD 5.1 Surround
English SDH, English and French
• Commentary with Cast & Crew
• Ric Meyers Interview with Stephen Chow
• Behind the Scenes Featurette
• Deleted Scenes
• Outtakes & Bloopers
• Trailers for Magnolia Blu-ray releases in HD
Standard Blu-ray case.
Release Date: March 6, 2007
Kung Fu Hustle
Stephen Chow - the producer, director, writer and star of this movie – has been a big name in Chinese martial arts films for some years, specializing in zany kung-fu comedy and fantasy. Kung Fu Hustle should do much to bring his name to the West, but I will be surprised if his intention is to become the next Jackie Chan. Chan's films, while laced with spectacular stunts, are always grounded in plausible reality. Chow's films are not. That is their particular charm and, as far as the average Western moviegoer is concerned, their liability. While Kung Fu Hustle has a plot that can be described in Western terms, many of Chow's films cannot be understood in a context that makes much sense to us. If you can imagine melding The Marx Brothers with any of Chan's recent movies, you have an idea what's in store.
I first came into contact with Chow's particular brand of humor about 8 years ago when I saw the God of Gamblers movies of the early 1990s (which he did not direct) at a local theatre's Hong Kong Film Festival. At the time I was more focused on his co-star, Cho Yun Fat. But since about 2000, I have enjoyed quite a few of Chow's movies as star and sometimes-director, beginning with the delightfully absurd Fist of Fury 1991 (a Bruce Lee parody, including the famously repulsive spitting duel), A Chinese Odyssey (a movie that separates out Hong Kong fans from Hong Kong addicts, from 1994) and continuing on with From Bejing With Love (a sort of James Bond meets Tiger Lily) God of Cookery (1996 – imagine Iron Chef run completely amuck), and the brilliant Shaolin Soccer (2001).
Kung-Fu Hustle is his most accessible and, by Western standards, his most acceptable film to date. It is laugh-out-loud funny and touching by turns, mostly the former. As is usual with Chow, everything is over-the-top, but this time it is all in tight directorial control. Chow borrows the visual style of Who Framed Roger Rabbit, but done entirely with live actors. There is a good deal of Matrix-like martial arts kung-fu, which is no surprise since Yuen Woo-Ping was in charge of the action sequences. There are also some deliriously wacky supporting characters – my favorite being Yuen Qui as the landlady in nightgown and curlers. She can scream loud enough to destroy the entire Memorex Corporation, throw a punch that lands her victim through a brick wall and run faster than the Road Runner. Chow's use of music here is always right on the money – from the percussive title theme under the L.A. Confidential-like montage or the Vivace for violin from Sarasate's Zigeunerweisen for the Road Runner race.
Kung Fu Hustle
The Score Card
The Movie : 8.5
Two plot lines unfold at very different rates and meet just before the climax. The notorious Axe Gang has taken over the city – all but one square block, the appropriately named "Pig Sty Alley." When Chow and a buddy, hopelessly chronic wannabe gangsters, try to pass themselves off as members of the notorious Axe Gang in what they expect will be an extortion pushover, they are met with unexpected kung-fu. When the real Axe Gang shows up to reclaim their authority, they, too, are met with even more massive kung-fu resistance from three kung fu masters posing as local shopkeepers. Chow, who is a supreme jerk master, gets all wrapped up in this adventure, but eventually learns that his true destiny lies elsewhere, which comes as a surprise to all concerned, including himself.
Image : 8.5 (8/10)
The score in parentheses represents: first, a value for the image in absolute terms; and, second, how that image compares to what I believe is the current best we can expect in the theatre. The score of 8.5 indicates a relative level of excellence compared to other Blu-ray DVDs.
The image quality on the R3 KD Media was pretty darn good for an SD, and the Blu-ray appears to be struck from the same source and looks better in all the ways we have come to expect. Even so, there are numerous soft patches in the original film that will probably slip by unnoticed thanks to Chow's brilliant direction. No question about upgrade here.
Audio & Music : 9
Listening to the downconverted PCM track in the original language, all is well, though I've read elsewhere that there are sync problems in the 5.1 mix. The music score is generally realized with plenty of gusto in keeping with the comic book aspect of the film, rather than a true representation of orchestral timbres.
Empathy : 9
I was never able to take my eyes or ears off it.
Operations : 8
The menu is straightforward, simple, easy to understand. Everything works. The thumbnails expand into huge bits so there is no question of where you might want to go. The subtitles are in a small, clear white font, placed in the lower black frame if only one line.
Extras : 7A 45 minute "TV Special: Behind the Scenes of Kung Fu Hustle" is self-promoting, but effective at revealing Chow's inspiration through the writing, casting, and production of the movie. The commentary track with Chow and cast members Chan Kwok-kwan, Lam Tze Chung, and Tin Kai Man is in subtitled Cantonese. I'd recommend beginning with the half-hour interview with Ric Meyers and Chow: it's easily the least frivolous and most informative Extra Feature.