Kung Fu Hustle (Chinese: 功夫; pinyin: Gōngfu) is a 2004 martial arts film directed by Stephen Chow. It is a humorous parody and a special tribute to the wuxia genre, played and directed by Stephen Chow. It contains most of the characteristics of a typical wuxia movie, with a lot of exaggerations, serious situations and comic plots. This is Stephen Chow's only film where the mood turns darker and serious later on.

The use of visual effects have been widely acclaimed and the almost comic book style of the movie are its most striking features. It is in stark contrast to recent Kung Fu movies that have made an impact in the West, such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Hero. Despite the computer-generated imagery and cartoonish scenes in the second half of the movie, the movie pays tribute to many famous Kung Fu film veterans from the 1970s who were all real martial artists in their own right. Many early fight scenes were packed with real Chinese martial arts. In addition, the "Buddhist Palm" style of Kung Fu featured throughout the movie is a style of Kung Fu cited by Chinese people whenever a fighting style involving open fists is used.

The film was released on December 23 2004 and generally received positive reviews from critics. It grossed HK$4,999,000 in its opening week in Hong Kong, and went on to become the highest grossing film in the history of Hong Kong and the highest grossing foreign language film in America in 2005.

Cast[edit | edit source]

For detailed information about the characters, visit List of characters in Kung Fu Hustle.

  • Stephen Chow (周星馳) as Sing, a loser in life that wants to join the Axe Gang. He has attempted many misdeeds, but all of them have failed or backfired.
  • Yuen Wah (元華) as the promiscuous Landlord of the Pig Sty Alley. He likes to trick women into kissing him and spy on women while they bathe. He is a master of Tai Chi Chuan.
  • Yuen Qiu (元秋) as the selfish, domineering Landlady of the Pig Sty Alley. She smokes a lot and has a loud voice, a side in effect on her mastery of a Kung Fu technique known as the Lion's Roar.
  • Chan Kwok Kuen (陳國坤) as Brother Sum, the shady leader of the Axe Gang. The Axe Gang is the most feared gang in Shanghai, which controls many casinos, night clubs and restaurants. The gang is notorius for its axe wielding gangmen.
  • Leung Siu Lung (梁小龍) as the Beast, officially the number one killer in the world. He has killed many in his quest to find a worthy adversary. In the end, there is none. Therefore he had himself locked up in a mental asylum, until Sing freed him to deal with the Landlord and his wife.
  • Dong Zhi Hua (董志華) as Donut, a baker in the Pig Sty Alley that is a retired Kung Fu master, specializing in the Eight Trigram Staff.
  • Chiu Chi Ling (趙志淩) as the Tailor of the Pig Sty Alley. This retired Kung Fu master specializes in Hung family Iron Wire kung fu (洪家鐵線拳), and fights with iron bracers around his arms.
  • Xing Yu (行宇) as the Coolie, a Kung Fu master specializing in the 12 Kicks of the Tam School (十二路潭腿).
  • Lam Chi Chung (林子聰) as Bone, Sing's Sidekick.
  • Huang Sheng Yi as Fong, Sing's mute love interest. Back in her childhood, she was saved by Sing from a gang of bullies. Even since then, she had viewed Sing as her hero. In the present day, she works as an ice-cream vendor.
  • Tin Kai Man (田啟文) as the advisor to Brother Sum, the leader of the Axe Gang.
  • Gar Hong Hay (賈康熙) and Fung Hak On (馮克安) as the Harpists, two killers hired by the Axe Gang to wipe the Coolie, Tailor and Donut out. Their instruments are actually Guqin's.
  • Feng Xiaogang (馮小剛) as the boss of the Crocodile Gang, a rival gang to the Axe Gang.
  • Lam Suet (林雪) and Liang Hsiao as high-ranking members of the Axe Gang.

Plot[edit | edit source]

Spoiler warning: The following contains plot details about
the entire movie.

The Coolie fends off the Axe Gang with his Twelve Kicks from the Tam School.

The 1940s Shanghai is in a period of social turmoil. Various gangs have consolidated their power with the police powerless to stem the crime wave. The most feared of them all is the Axe Gang, who controls many casinos and clubs in the city. People can only live in peace in poor areas, which the gangs are not interested in. One area is the Pig Sty Alley, a simple apartment block home to people in various trades like tailoring and baking. The Alley is run by a promiscuous Landlord and his domineering wife.

One day, 2 aspiring gangsters Sing and Bone enter and draw the attention from the Axe Gang, who storm the alley. Thanks to the kung fu mastery of 3 tenants (the Coolie, Tailor and Donut the baker), the gangsters are defeated. Sing and Bone are taken to the Axe Gang hideout where Brother Sum accuses them of impersonating Axe Gangsters. 2 of his men threaten to kill them with axes, but Sing manages to free Bone and himself before they are hit. Impressed by Sing’s lockpicking skills, Brother Sum releases them, allowing them to join on the condition that they kill someone.

Back in the streets, Sing reveals his past. As a child, he spent his life savings to buy a Buddhist Palm manual from a beggar to “preserve world peace”. The young Sing practiced his skills, but failed to save a mute girl from bullies who want to snatch her lollipop. Having been beaten up and urinated on, he has sworn to be bad. The two later steal ice-creams from a mute female vendor, who is startled to see Sing. Sing and Bone escape on a tram before the woman can catch up with him.

Sing and Bone sneak back into the Pig Sty Alley, while the Landlady is rebuking the Coolie, Tailor and Donut for offending the mafia. Sing's plans backfire, causing him to be stabbed by 3 knives and bitten by 2 snakes. When the 2 are discovered, Sing escapes. The following day, Bone comes to see him, and is surprised that Sing has completely recovered from his wounds. Back in the Pig Sty Alley, the Landlady evicts the 3 Kung Fu masters.

The killers prepare an attack with their Guqin.

Meanwhile, Brother Sum has other plans. He hires the Harpists, who are officially the 2nd best killers. That night, they enter the Pig Sty Alley, when the Coolie, Tailor and Donut are about to leave. The killers play the Guqin with such impetus that the melodies decapitate the Coolie, killing him instantly. The Tailor and Donut are overwhelmed by the Harpists' attacks. However, they are saved when the Landlord and his wife intervene. The killers flee, along with the Axe Gang. The Tailor dies, and Donut is mortally wounded. Donut tells the Landlord that the more power one has, the greater his responsibility. His final words are “What are you… prepared… to do!”

The following day, Sing berates Bone and mugs the mute ice-cream vendor, who reveals herself as the girl Sing saved in his childhood. He then joins the Axe Gang. Sing is asked to sneak into a mental asylum and free the Beast, also known as the Ultimate King of Killers (終極殺人王). Once inside, Sing gets the job done with a piece of wire. At first, Brother Sum is sceptical of the Beast, but changes his mind after the Beast shows that he can stop bullets.

The Beast then fights the Landlord and Landlady, who are in the casino with a funeral bell. As the 3 enter a stalemate, Brother Sum orders Sing to use a table leg to smash the Landlady's head. Sing hits the Beast instead. As a result, the Beast gets enraged and critically injures Sing, who is carried off by the Landlord and his wife while the Beast's back is turned. Brother Sum is killed after he rebukes the Beast for letting the three escape. Back in the Alley, Sing quickly recovers, transforming into a kung fu master, much to the surprise of the couple. Shortly afterwards, the Axe Gang and the Beast raid the empty Pig Sty Alley.

Sing fights the Axe Gang.

Sing dispatches the gangsters and fights the Beast, who sends Sing flying with his Toad leap skill. In the air, Sing realizes his Buddhist Palm. He dives downwards, holding out his palm as his body begins to blaze from the force of the descent. He slams into the Beast, creating a big palm shaped crater in the ground. Sing lands on the ground and stops the Beast's desperation move with another Palm, which creates a big palm shaped hole in the building behind the Beast. The Beast is completely shocked. He tearfully bows down to Sing, conceding defeat.

Some time later, the mute ice-cream vendor sees a newly opened sweet shop in the street, specializing in lollipops. The shop is run by Sing and Bone. Bone shows Sing the young woman, and he walks out to meet her. The two revert to their childhood forms and run happily into the shop. The Landlord and Landlady are seen walking outside the street. The same beggar who sold Sing the Buddhist Palm manual offers another manual to a boy eating a lollipop, with a wide range of books to choose from.

Spoilers end here.

Score and soundtrack[edit | edit source]

The majority of the film's original score was composed by Raymond Wong and was performed by The Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra. Early on, Stephen Chow experimented with using hip hop and more modern sounds for the soundtrack, but eventually came to the decision of using authentic Chinese music, making it distinctly different from more Western-influenced scores.

Along with Raymond Wong's compositions and various traditional Chinese songs, classical compositions were also featured in the film, including excerpts of Zigeunerweisen by Sarasate and the popular "Sabre Dance" by Aram Khachaturian.

Asian and American versions of the soundtrack have been released, the Asian version featuring 33 tracks and the American version featuring 19.

Parodies and references[edit | edit source]

Spoiler warning: The following contains plot details about
the entire movie.

Throughout Kung Fu Hustle Chow refers to a wide range of films, cartoons and other sources drawing on traditional Chinese martial arts novels to enhance the comedic effect of the film. The housing arrangement of the Pig Sty Alley is similar to that in an old Hong Kong drama programme The House of 72 Tenants《七十二家房客》 (1973). During the altercation between Sing and the hairdresser, the hairdresser states, "Even if you kill me, there will be thousands more of me!". This is a parody of a famous quote of Lu Hao-tung, a famous Chinese revolutionary.[1] The scene where Sing is chased by the Landlady as he flees from the Alley is a homage to Road Runner, a Looney Tunes cartoon, down to the pursuer's (the Landlady's) ill fate.

A major element of the plot is based on the 1982 martial arts film Ru Lai Shen Zhang (如來神掌). The Buddhist Palm style is what Sing studied from young and eventually realized. However it should be noted that its usage in the film is a gross exaggeration: It does not leave palm-shaped craters and holes on impact. Instead, the user delivers powerful punches using his palm. The Chinese name of the Beast (火雲邪神) and the fight with the Landlady and her husband are also references to the film, where a mortally wounded master strikes the patterns of his art's final techniques into a bell so that his pupil can learn from it.[2] The Chinese names of some characters are identical and taken straight from Jinyong's wuxia novels. For example, the landlord and landlady are named after Yang Guo (楊過) and Xiao Long Nü (小龍女) from Jinyong's The Return of the Condor Heroes."[3]

An aerial shot of Sing fighting the Axe Gang. The fight is reminiscent of The Matrix Reloaded.

References to gangster films are also present. The boss of the Axe Gang, brother Sum (琛哥), is named after the triad boss in Infernal Affairs. The Harpists imitate The Blues Brothers, wearing similar hats and sunglasses at all times. When they are flattered by the Axe Gang advisor, one answers "Strictly speaking we're just musicians", similar to what Elwood Blues said.[4] When Donut dies, he says "with great power comes great responsibility", a clear reference to Spider-Man, when Uncle Ben dies.[1] Afterwards, with his dying breath, he leans up, grabs the Landlord by the shirt and utters in English, "What are you prepared to do?!", a nod to Sean Connery's character Malone in Brian De Palma's 1987 film The Untouchables.[5] Meanwhile, the final fight between Sing and the Axe Gang is a clear parody of the fight between Neo and hundreds of Agent Smiths in The Matrix Reloaded.[6]

Spoilers end here.

Releases[edit | edit source]

Kung Fu Hustle was first shown in the Toronto Film Festival in September 2004. It was then released in Hong Kong and other countries in Asia with significant Chinese populations in December 2004. It was released for general debut in the United States on April 222005 after showing in Los Angeles and New York for two weeks. The film was released to most of Europe in June 2005.[7] The film is rated IIB (not suitable for children and young persons) in Hong Kong, while it is rated to be viewed by people with a minimum age between 13 and 18 in other countries.[8]

The North American version of its DVD was released on August 8 2005.[9] A Blu-ray version of the DVD was released on 12 December 2006 by Sony Pictures. The Portuguese title of the movie is Kungfusão, which sounds like kung fu and Confusão (confusion).[10] In the same way Italian and Spanish titles were Kung-fusion[11] and Kung-fusión,[12] another pun on confusion.

Reception[edit | edit source]

The poster for the North American theatrical release.

The film was well received by critics, earning the high score of 90% on Rotten Tomatoes based on a total of 168 reviews. Positive reviews generally give credit to the elements of mo lei tau comedy present in the film. A number of reviewers has viewed it is a computer-enhanced Looney Tunes punch-up.[13]

Much of the criticism for the film is directed at its lack of character development and a coherent plot. Las Vegas Weekly, for instance criticized the film for the lack of a central protagonist and character depth.[14] Criticisms are also present for the film's cartoony and childish humor.[15]

Box office[edit | edit source]

Kung Fu Hustle opened in Hong Kong on December 23, 2004, and earned a massive HK$4,990,000 on its opening day. It stayed at the top of the box office for the rest of 2004 and for much of early 2005, eventually grossing HK$60 million. Its box office tally made it the highest grossing film in Hong Kong history, surpassing the previous record holder, Chow's Shaolin Soccer.[16]

The film began a limited two-week theatrical run in New York City and Los Angeles on April 8, 2005 before opening wide across North America on April 22. In its first week of limited release across 7 cinemas, it grossed $269,225 ($38,461 per screen).[17] When it was widely shown in 2503 cinemas, the largest number of cinemas ever for a foreign language film, it made a modest $6,749,572 ($2,696 per screen), eventually grossing a total of $17,108,591 in 129 days. In total, Kung Fu Hustle had a worldwide gross of $101,104,669.[18] While not a blockbuster, Kung Fu Hustle managed to be the highest-grossing foreign language film in North America in 2005, and it went on to find a cult following on DVD.[19]

Awards[edit | edit source]

Kung Fu Hustle received a large number of award nominations in the Hong Kong Film Awards and Golden Horse Awards of 2005. It was nominated for 16 Hong Kong Film Awards and won 6 of them, which are Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (Yuen Wah), Best Sound Effects, Best Visual Effects, Best Choreography and Best Film Editing. In the Golden Horse Awards, Kung Fu Hustle received 10 nominations and won 5 awards, for Best Picture, Best Director (Stephen Chow), Best Supporting Actress (Yuen Qiu), Best Visual Effects and Best make-up and costume design.[20]

The movie was also nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film, as well as a BAFTA award for Best Film not in the English language.[21]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 從金剛腿到如來神掌—論《功夫》(From the Steel Leg to Ru Lai Shen Zhang, Kung Fu Hustle) (in Chinese). Department of Chinese Literature, Sun-Yat-Sen university (2005-04-21). Archived from the original on May 29, 2007. Retrieved on 2007-05-04.Template:Zh icon
  2. Ru Lai Shen Zhang (1982). Internet Movie Database. Retrieved on 2007-05-04.Template:Zh icon
  3. 神鵰俠侶‧人物介紹 (Character introduction of The Return of the Condor Heroes) (in Chinese). TVB. Archived from the original on July 21, 2006. Retrieved on 2007-05-04.Template:Zh icon
  4. Dan Aykroyd. The Blues Brothers [DVD]. Chicago: Universal Pictures.
  5. Sean Connery. The Untouchables [DVD]. Chicago: Paramount Pictures.
  6. Szeto, Kin-Yan. The politics of historiography in Stephen Chow’s Kung Fu Hustle. Jump Cut. Archived from the original on October 20, 2002. Retrieved on 2007-05-05.
  7. Release information of Kung Fu Hustle. Internet Movie Database. Retrieved on 2007-05-05.
  8. General information of Kung Fu Hustle. Internet Movie Database. Retrieved on 2007-05-05.
  9. Release information of Kung Fu Hustle. Allmovie. Retrieved on 2007-05-05.
  10. Filme - Kung-fusão (Kung Fu Hustle) (in Portuguese). CinePop. Archived from the original on March 27, 2005. Retrieved on 2007-05-06.Template:Pt icon
  11. Official site of Kung-fusion. Sony Pictures Releasing International. Retrieved on 2007-05-06.Template:It icon
  12. Spanish review of Kung-fusión (in Spanish). Fotograma. Retrieved on 2007-05-06.Template:Es icon
  13. Kung Fu Hustle reviews. Rotten Tomatoes. Archived from the original on April 28, 2006. Retrieved on 2007-05-04.
  14. Bell, Josh (2005-04-21). Screen: Kung Fu Hustle. Las Vegas Weekly. Archived from the original on May 12, 2006. Retrieved on 2007-05-04.
  15. Kung Fu Hustle movie review. Threemoviebuffs (2005-04-24). Retrieved on 2007-05-04.
  16. "功夫45日收6080萬 創港產片開埠票房紀錄 (Kung Fu grosses HK$60.8 million in 45 days, creating a new box office record for Hong Kong)", Ming Pao, 2005-02-07. Retrieved on 2007-05-02. (in Chinese) 
  17. Strowbridge, C.S. (2005-04-12). Hustle and Bustle. The Numbers. Retrieved on 2007-05-03.
  18. Kung Fu Hustle Box Office Data. The Numbers. Retrieved on 2007-05-03.
  19. Scheidt, Jason. Do the Hustle. iMedia Connection. Retrieved on 2007-05-03.
  20. 周星驰横扫金马奖全靠"功夫" 舒淇喜极而泣 (Thanks to Kung Fu Hustle, Stephen Chow makes a clean sweep of the Golden Horse Awards. Shu qi cries in joy) (in Chinese). Sohu (2005-11-44). Retrieved on 2007-05-02.Template:Zh icon
  21. Awards for Kung Fu Hustle. Internet Movie Database. Retrieved on 2007-05-02.

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