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Kung Fu Hustle (Kung Fu) (Gong Fu) February 7, 2007

Posted by Sai in Cantonese, English, Mandarin, Movies, Reviews.
1 comment so far

Ever laughed till your stomach hurt? That was exactly what happened to me when I saw this satirical take on the martial arts genre that was co-written (with Xin Huo, Chan Man Keung and Kan-Cheung Tsang) and directed by Stephen Chow (Shaolin Soccer), who also stars in it (apart from co-producing and scoring part of the music).

The film tells you the story of Sing, who wants to be a gangster and a member of the dreaded Axe Gang. In one attempt to gain some credibility as a gangster, he pretends to be a member of the Axe Gang and tries to intimidate members of a colony called Pig Sty Alley (a poor colony that has been neglected by the gang). Unfortunately for him real members of the Axe Gang show up and in the melee that follows, they realise that the members of the colony have a past and they aren’t going to back away from a fight.

With this basic premise, Chow manages to dream up extremely imaginative and outrageously funny sequences that will have you laughing your guts out. He manages to spoof/reference a whole bunch of stuff including Hollywood movies like The Matrix and Spiderman and even the Road Runner cartoon. Though I probably didn’t get a large number of the references in this film, that still didn’t hamper the laughter. Though Chow parodies the genre, the audience can feel his reverence for the genre. In that sense, the film reminds you of Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill, which was also born out of his love for the same genre and has a ton of references.

This cartoonish fest features a mélange of kooky characters, each specializing in a preposterous martial arts technique. The funniest character is undoubtedly that of the landlady, played by Qiu Yuen, who stands out in the cast filled with martial arts veterans. The supporting cast does a good job of maintaining the exaggerated comic tone of the film. Yuen Woo-ping’s (The Matrix, Kill Bill) action choreography is another asset.

Despite all this, the movie might still work as a straight action comedy film for those who are used to campy, over the top fare. Others wouldn’t want to miss this exceedingly funny flick.

Ying Xiong (Hero) August 27, 2006

Posted by Sai in English, Mandarin, Movies, Reviews.

Visually, this is the most mesmerizing movie that I have ever seen (it was said to be the most expensive Chinese film at the time). The action sequences are breathtaking and are more like choreographed dance sequences. The action sequences (Siu-Tung Ching also known as Tony Ching Siu-Tung) combine together with the beautiful costumes (Emi Wada), colors, sets (Tingxiao Huo, Bin Zhao), special effects, cinematography (Christopher Doyle), framing and direction (Zhang Yimou, who later made the similarly stunning House of Flying Daggers in the same genre) to create what I would call visual poetry. The first time I caught this movie in Mandarin at the theatre, I was so stunned that I forgot to read the subtitles for a while. I can watch this movie multiple times even without any sound and still gape at every frame.

The story (supposedly inspired from history) is about a king in ancient China who is trying to unite the warring kingdoms into one and assasins who are after his life. This movie is not really about the story or plot but the Rashomon like narrative works as an excellent placeholder that allows for many things other than taking the story forward. Those who are looking primarily for a story might find this a slow moving film but will be excited by the multiple viewpoints (if they haven’t seen Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon yet). These viewers might find the story, emotions and depth in Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon more pleasing compared to this movie.

Zhang Yimou (who apparently started out as a cinematographer) makes use of different color schemes and choreographed action with different styles and settings for each retelling of the story. My favorite action scenes include the one between the men at the lake and the one between the women in the forest among the leaves. I could go on and on describing the beauty of each sequence but I won’t. Those looking for a story, conventional entertainment and fast paced action can avoid this movie but if you have the habit of enjoying the visual appeal of a movie, don’t miss this dazzling extravaganza.