Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Return Of The Dragon

Watch out! Hollywood, Hong Kong-made flicks are back to make big business. And leading the charge is Kung Fu Hustle’s lead actor and director Stephen Chow. Nearly 30 years after Golden Harvest Productions unleashed Big Boss Bruce Lee on Hollywood, Chow’s intelligently-made Hustle makes the audience sit up and take notice. Of course, in between there were the Crouching Tigers and Rumbles In The Bronx, but then you could hardly call them genre-defining. Chow, of Shaolin Soccer fame, not only succeeds in transforming a regular kung-fu caper into a highly stylized martial arts flick, but manages to raise some genuine laughs with his brand of risqué, sometimes slapstick, humour. But, what Chow particularly excels in is the art of spoofing: lampooning everything from Gangs of New York to Kill Bill, Matrix, even Spider-Man. He even gets a character to say, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Chow’s use of special effects is also artful, but not overwhelming. In fact, there is a brilliant slow motion sequence in which two assassins with the power of decapitating people with their music stalk their victim. You can hear the faint strains of the stringed instrument in the background as you see stuff falling apart, flower pots breaking and other scenes of mayhem. Then, a cat jumps off a roof. As it disappears out of the screen, you see its shadow being cut into two and blood spurting out. Chow doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to making fun of the entire martial-arts genre. So, you have one of the villains bloating up like a big, fat toad as it attempts to fight in the “frog” style. A real fun watch, made more enjoyable by the fact that the guy who’s calling the shots understands the grammar of filmmaking as much as he seems to know the art of kung-fu.

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